Students, faculty and staff members rolled up their sleeves on Thursday and planted 100 trees on Valencia’s West Campus, as the college celebrated being named a Tree Campus USA.
The trees, which are all native to Florida and packed in 15- and 30-gallon pots, were donated by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota to celebrate the college’s commitment to tree care and sustainability.
About 100 Valencia students and staffers volunteered to help plant the trees, along with help from the college’s grounds crews.
The teams planted winged elm trees and Walter viburnum near Building 11 to provide shade on the southern and west sides of the building, and reduce cooling costs. Long-leaf pines were planted in the open fields near Kirkman Road to restore the area to the sandhill environment that it had once been. Southern slash pines were planted near the southern entry road to the college and a wide variety of native trees, including sweet gum, pignut hickory and persimmon trees, were planted along the shores of Lake Pamela.
Valencia College is one of seven Tree Campus USA participants hosting a tree-planting this year. The Tree Campus USA program honors colleges and universities promoting healthy urban forest management and engaging the campus community in environmental stewardship.
“We at Valencia are deeply honored to have been named a Tree Campus USA and to have been chosen to receive such a generous donation from the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota,” said Dr. Sanford Shugart, Valencia College president. “We take seriously our goal of educating the whole student and we believe that includes teaching our students to be stewards of the environment.”
The tree-planting event was coordinated with help from the Arbor Day Foundation, Toyota, the Florida Forest Service, Orlando Utilities Commission and the city of Orlando.
“For students, this is a great way to leave a lasting impression,” said Arbor Day spokeswoman Jennifer Boettcher. “These trees will live on long after they’ve graduated.”
And the students who volunteered to plant the trees seemed to grasp that.
“I believe in giving back to the community,” said Valencia student Luis Molina, 20. “I’m not doing this for extra credit or for volunteer hours. I’m here because I believe in doing this.”
Jennifer Muhvich, 21, spent her first year at Valencia studying hard in the radiology program. Now in her second year, she is trying to volunteer more, so she signed up to plant trees on Thursday, even if it meant getting hot and sweaty and dirty. “It was really interesting,” Muhvich said. “I thought I knew all about planting trees, but I didn’t.”
Valencia College achieved the Tree Campus USA designation by meeting the required five core standards for sustainable campus forestry: a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and the sponsorship of student service-learning projects. At the event, Jennifer Boettcher of the Arbor Day Foundation and Marcus, of the Florida Forest Service, presented Valencia with its Tree Campus USA plaque and flag.
Valencia is the only two-year college to receive a tree-planting grant this year – and it’s just the second community college to receive the grant since the Tree Campus program began in 2008. The other colleges receiving grants this year are Purdue University, University of Colorado, Colorado State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and University of Illinois, Chicago.
The tree-planting is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in conjunction with the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, with support from Toyota.
During 2011, the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota helped campuses throughout the country plant 30,000 trees, and Tree Campus USA colleges and universities have invested more than $22 million in campus forest management. More information about the Tree Campus USA program is available at www.arborday.org/TreeCampusUSA.