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May 30, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – Eight students from Barry University in Miami and one from Siena Heights University in Adrian began their summer with an intense week of learning outside of the classroom: as participants of the Environmental Leadership Experience. (ELE).
“It’s a new experience,” said Barry University sophomore Sierra Johnson, a marketing and graphic design major. “Being born in Miami and being the youngest of three, I never really had a chance to go out or experience the world.” She and her colleagues explored this new world together during the week of May 7-13, 2023, accompanied by two faculty members from Barry University.
Participants came together to “learn about sustainable agricultural ecosystems,” explained Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, General Councilor and former Director of the Office of Sustainability. “Through the lens of environmental stewardship, the program [offers] hands-on activities on the Adrian Campus and Permaculture Gardens.”
Begun in 2017, ELE made a comeback this summer after years of absence enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic. ELE is a collaborative effort of the universities and the Motherhouse Office of Sustainability.
Activities included a tour of the Motherhouse grounds and the Permaculture Garden and work in the Reflective Garden at the Dominican Life Center. But the students spent a major portion of their time building a two-basin rain garden next to the parking lot of Weber Retreat and Conference Center. Along with serving as a pathway to the labyrinth and Cosmic Walk behind Weber Center, the garden was built “as a means of mitigating the degradation caused by rainwater and snow melt coming from the higher ground,” Sister Corinne explained.
The students rounded out their experience with a tour of the Detroit River, a visit to nearby Hidden Lake Gardens, dinner at a nearby restaurant, and a presentation to the Sisters of their experience at the Motherhouse.
For Anita Zavodska, Professor of Biology at Barry University, the experience in Adrian was a renewal of an enjoyable time in 2019. This year’s experience is “just as wonderful” as in 2019, she said. “We have another wonderful group of students who are really willing to get their hands dirty and work and make a difference,” she said. “It’s like coming home.”
For the students, ELE was not only a new experience of planting seeds in the Motherhouse grounds, but of planting them in their own hearts as well.
“I’ve always wanted to work for the environment,” said Lily Hernandez, a Barry student majoring in biology. As a member of Barry’s Green Team, she hopes to incorporate what she learned through ELE into work at Barry. Yet, as she considers a career as a doctor, she hopes to go beyond her time in college. “Everybody could use [this experience] and be a little more sustainable, whatever you’re going into – being more sustainable, loving Earth,” she said.
Benny Rubinsztejn, a history major at Barry University and a native of Brazil, hopes to begin a second career after 25 years as a stockbroker.
ELE “is like a highway that works both ways, because students learn something new and bring it home,” Benny said. He sees ELE as important not only because of the environmental impact but also because of the impact on human society, at a time of great division and polarity. When people work together on a project such as the rain garden, he said, “you can build some bridges to [other] people so they respect each other. That’s the most important thing right now.”
Both Lily and Sierra were inspired not only by their work through ELE but also by the different vegetation and wildlife they experienced in Michigan. “This week in Michigan continuously reminds us of how important it is to take a moment to appreciate all that we have and all that God has given us,” Sierra wrote in a blog organized by the ELE students.
Read the students’ entries in the blog, and watch a video of the experience below.
Please note this event has been canceled as of 6/8/23
May 22, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – “Do something beautiful for God.”
Those words by St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta present both a challenge and an invitation to each of us. Sister Joy Barker, OSF, offers an in-person day of prayer, reflection, and sharing on Mother Teresa’s life from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, June 14, 2023, at Weber Retreat and Conference Center.
A Sister of St. Francis from Sylvania, Ohio, Sister Joy offers retreats, spiritual direction, and days of reflection.
The cost for the day is $30, including lunch. Registration is required and is available at www.webercenter.org; click on “programs.” Registrations may also be made by calling 517-266-4000 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Limited scholarships are available.
Weber Center is on the campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse, Adrian, Michigan. Traveling east on Siena Heights Drive, pass the Adrian Rea Literacy Center and turn left just before the solar panel-covered parking lot. Follow the signs to Weber Center. For information, call the Weber Center at 517-266-4000.