Sustainable Jersey: Getting college students involved in community service 

August 29, 2018


Most people who are lifelong volunteers are active because they feel strongly about a cause or want to connect with their community. Helping busy college students find community service opportunities while in school is a great way to inspire a lifetime of civic participation. This is especially important for students who are living in a place other than their home town for four years while earning their degree.

As early as 1855, the founders of the New Jersey Normal School, now called The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), understood the importance of this mission. TCNJ insisted on a commitment to provide relevant education to students that will prepare them to be activity engaged in their communities. This focus has continued through the years and TCNJ’s Center for Community Engaged Learning and Research (CELR Center) presents students with community engagement activities that integrate educational experiences with community service, student development and civic participation. SJ1

Located within the CELR Center, the Bonner Institute houses the Bonner Community Scholars and First-year Community Engaged Learning programs. For the past three years, Sustainable Jersey has partnered with CELR Center to connect TCNJ students with green teams for Community Engaged Learning Days. Through a simple application process, Sustainable Jersey links green teams and their partners with TCNJ students to make progress toward a specific Sustainable Jersey action while providing the students with an opportunity to serve and engage with New Jersey residents and communities.

Applications Due September 2, 2018: TCNJ Students Available to Work with Sustainable Jersey Green Teams

We’re currently seeking municipalities that are interested in having TCNJ students volunteer their services for one-day projects. For the 2018 program details and the application, visit:  Online applications are due September 2, 2018. Almost any service project that relates to a Sustainable Jersey action is eligible for this opportunity.  To help with project ideas, we have provided a few examples of past efforts.

Hamilton Township Stream Clean-Up (Mercer County)

At the 2017 Hamilton Township Annual Stream Clean-Up, volunteers collected bags of trash, a six-foot plastic sliding board, pallets, a bed frame, a hose reel with 50 feet of hose, 27 tires, 66 bags of recyclables and a cast iron stove. “Volunteering opened my eyes to pollution and how directly it affects our communities,” said one of the twenty Bonner Scholars who worked on this project. “Being there in person, to see all of the trash ruining nature’s beauty, inspired me to be active in taking care of our planet.” This group was led by Rodney Richards of the Hamilton Environmental Commission, who explained that, “Stream clean-ups are critical to keeping our streams clean and pristine, as wildlife, flora and fauna are negatively affected from poor quality streams.”  A TCNJ student noted, “I talked to a retired professor at the clean-up about the harmful effects of pollution to the environment. Her passion and love for the environment, inspired me.”

Ewing Community Garden Planting (Mercer County)

SJ3In preparation for the spring planting, twenty energetic Bonner Scholars and TCNJ students worked with the Ewing Community Garden coordinators to transplant foliage and weed, shovel, mulch, and clear the garden. Ewing Community Garden Coordinator Karen Serach thanked the students who volunteered saying, “It was a successful effort because of the energy and spirit of the students. The member gardeners were so appreciative.” The students felt the same way about the experience. One student said, “I enjoyed contributing in a group effort to help others. I felt like I made an impact and it feels good.”

Madison Borough Wetlands and Forest Restoration (Morris County)

SJ4Twenty Bonner Scholars and TCNJ students worked with Stephan Stocker of the Madison Environmental Commission on a wetlands and forest restoration project. The group worked to remove invasive species, re-plant with native species and improve the Chatham Valley aquifer recharge. This assistance helped support the work that Madison is doing to restore 20-acres of land in the borough to its natural state. It is one of the few remaining freshwater wetlands in the state. Madison Borough received a $20,000 Sustainable Jersey grant funded by the PSEG Foundation in 2015 to restore the understory by replanting trees and shrubs. A bulletin board containing a trail map and information on things to do and see while visiting the park was installed in addition to signage designed to identify tree and plant species and aquifer benefits.

Sustainable Jersey depends on committed green team leaders and sustainability professionals that work toward the collective good. Inspiring the next generation of social activists is very important because they are the backbone of our program and the sustainability movement around the world. We look forward to supporting more opportunities to link green teams with students.


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