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Wildwood Students Connect with Nature

Friday, July 9, 2021


two students in the garden plot at STLCC.wildwoodWhile COVID-19 has disrupted college life in many ways, it has also brought some students closer to nature.

At St. Louis Community College at Wildwood, student leaders Gabrielle Paraino and RJ Weinman have led efforts to beautify the campus and community through their involvement with the Green 4 Life club.

In May, they volunteered alongside students Sean Walsh, Heather Cabeza and Austin Carbone to plant flower gardens near the main entrance of the campus. The flowers not only brighten up the entrance, but they help the campus’ honeybee hives thrive.

Club members also worked to restore STLCC-Wildwood’s plot in the community garden at the YMCA by clearing the soil and planting vegetables. They plan to harvest their plants in the coming months.

“COVID was definitely a curveball that changed how many campus clubs were able to run,” Paraino said. “Since Green 4 Life is an outside-based club, we have been able to stay connected to our friends and the College by channeling our energy into projects that support our campus and community in a safe and productive way.”

For Weinman, his involvement in the club has allowed him to share his passion for gardening with friends.

“A few years ago, I took an interest in growing peppers to make specialty hot sauces,” he explained. “Gardening is something that I really enjoy, so this club has been a great fit for me.”

Each week, students take turns watering the flower beds and tending to the vegetable garden.

“It’s definitely been a team effort to maintain these areas, especially during the summer months,” Paraino said.

Stephanie Church takes a selfie with Heather Cabeza, Gabby Paraino and RJ WeinmanStephanie Church, coordinator for campus life and college transition, praised the students for their efforts.

“I’m so proud of this group of students and what they have created together,” Church said. “In a time of much uncertainty, they have shown a deep commitment for each other and our campus community.”

In addition to these projects, the club is partnering with campus life on an initiative that has been years in the making -- a remembrance tree to honor lost loved ones. According to Church, the project was suggested by students who have since graduated. When the idea was shared with club leaders last fall, they set a goal to bring it to life.

In November, a red oak tree was planted in the prairie, adjacent to the basketball court. Come fall, the area will have several benches added around the tree.

The benches are the result of a multi-year recycling project in partnership with the Rotary Club of West St. Louis County.

“A few years ago, student leaders of Green 4 Life teamed up with the Rotary Club to bring the ‘caps to benches’ program to the Wildwood campus,” Church explained. “Since then, dozens of students and staff have helped us collect hundreds of pounds of plastic caps. These efforts will now allow us to have the caps recycled into benches we can all enjoy.”

The Wildwood campus community will be invited to attend a dedication ceremony for the remembrance tree in the fall.

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