Santa Clara University welcomes Carly Zipper ‘13 and Ruth Pimentel as the newest Silicon Valley HealthCorps members of the Bronco Urban Gardens (BUG) program! The Center for Sustainability asked them to share a little about themselves:
Tell us a little bit about where you're coming from.
Carly: I'm from the Seattle area and when I was growing up I spent a lot of time at my family's cabin in the Cascade Mountains. I was happiest when I was swimming, hiking, and boating. I came to SCU as a student and studied Anthropology and Environmental Science.
Ruth: I'm a nomad! I grew up following my parents to each of their latest international aid projects and trying to learn local languages quickly before we moved again. I studied archaeology and Arabic in college. I'm also a huge bookworm and I bike everywhere.
What experiences have you had that led you to an interest in environmental education?
Carly: As a student at SCU, I was really pushed to go out and engage with the community. As a freshman and sophomore, I learned about food systems in my Environmental Science classes and began to make changes in my own diet towards local and sustainably produced foods. As a junior, I became frustrated by the inequality in healthy food access. During my senior year, as I thought about what to do after graduation, working in the community to enhance knowledge and access to healthy foods seemed a natural choice.
Ruth: I love outdoor and hands-on education: in the past, I've helped direct college students on an archaeological excavation, run art classes for kids at the de Young Museum, and led ecological restoration programs with park rangers at the Presidio of San Francisco.
What attracted you to serving with Bronco Urban Gardens (BUG)?
Carly: I was attracted to BUG's mission to work toward food justice and sustainability. I love working outside every day and getting my hands dirty, but even the work I do in the office feels important because it's related to something so close to my heart.
Ruth: BUG caught my attention because it works with such a huge, diverse community. I have lots to learn from our many partner organizations, and it's really rewarding to reach not just kids, but teachers, parents, college students, and neighbors.
What prominent issues do you see trending in the local community/area regarding sustainability and justice?
Carly: At Washington Elementary, I see parents taking ownership of the school and the neighborhood because they know they deserve a beautiful, safe and clean place to raise their children. They take matters into their own hands a lot, and seem to have an endless supply of energy for taking care of their community. Issues they're working on currently are cleaning up litter in the streets, discouraging gang activity around the school, promoting exercise for kids and adults, and getting kids thinking about college from a young age.
Ruth: Silicon Valley HealthCorps is a great indicator of local interest in equal access to food. I'm excited there are so many different groups around San José working on providing fresh, healthy food to neighborhoods that don't currently have a source for it.
What's your favorite thing about working out in the (schools) gardens?
Carly: My favorite thing so far has been watching kids indulge their curiosity in the garden. During unstructured activities such as weeding, I've seen kids dissecting weeds and learning the parts of the plant. This natural curiosity is something that sometimes gets lost in the current education system, and it feels good to provide the opportunity for kids to learn spontaneously.
Ruth: I love working in the school gardens because I get to hear all the crazy things kids say. They tell me facts about bugs and make plans about what they're going to cook with the vegetables we grow.
What are your hopes for this year?
Carly: My hopes are to build personal relationships with students, parents and teachers. I know I have a lot to learn from them and I hope that I can bring something to the table as well.
Ruth: This year, I hope to establish a group of adults who will take responsibility for the school garden at Gardner and start using the food it produces! It belongs to them, not to me -- I want them to feel that way.
Why do you think it's important for a university (SCU) to have a sustainability outreach program such as BUG?
Carly: In general, universities are resource-rich places where people work together and learn from each other, but a university that doesn't reach out to the community becomes limited only to the perspectives represented on campus. The culture at SCU is one of thoughtful engagement with the community, and BUG is just one example of SCU's reaching out to promote social justice. The program improves access to fresh fruits and vegetables in areas lacking in grocery stores, known as food deserts. For kids that live in food deserts, the opportunity to grow food is a unique experience that hopefully can help them to connect with their community and environment. Many children that we work with come from families where no-one has graduated from college, and our outreach can hopefully reinforce the idea that college is an option for them.
Ruth: I love that SCU has a sustainability outreach program because it forces the university to put its theoretical teachings into practice. SCU classes are talking the talk, BUG is walking the walk. I also think it's really important that a university be as closely tied to its neighbors as possible -- it's so easy to form an exclusive, campus bubble, and BUG helps create links instead.
Thanks Carly and Ruth! SCU is excited to have you as a part of the community and the Center for Sustainability this year. If you see them around, please welcome them (back) to campus!