This Sunday, and every other April 22nd since 1970 has been a worldwide celebration to demonstrate support for environmental protection, increased community awareness, and a stage for collaboration. Earth Day.
The poster to our left was the first published image for Earth Day back in 1970 and contains a comic book character named POGO, a politically charged Possum explaining the real problem at hand, “US”. On Earth Day 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by 120 countries around the world officially coming together on the plan to implement a change for environmental progress.
This week on campus I was constantly impressed by our students’ willingness to collaborate, compromise, create cohesiveness, and contribute to something bigger than their own day.
Here on campus, each of our students are delegated a variety of responsibilities. Some are designated to barn chores, others take lead on household responsibilities. One student manages the care of campus pets, and others prepare the meals for the day. All throughout the day there are students that are walking with a purpose to accomplish a task for the greater good of the community. It is a schedule so complex even the most comprehensive color coordinated excel document couldn’t come close to being complete. Students also had a chance to carve wood spoons, repair wheelbarrows, be trained in a new veterinarian skill (horse yoga), prep for the campus garden, and complete some post-winter clean-up. All things considered, a huge amount of effort all for the benefit of the community. (Don’t worry, they still made time for school as well).
This focus on community involvement is proven to have a positive impact on youth. Past research shows that empowering youth and allowing them the opportunity to participate in the community supports the development of skills needed to be an effective leader. Those that are engaged show better problem solving and decision-making skills compared to youth who are not engaged. (Brennan and Barnett 2009)
In addition to building leadership skills, engaging youth in a community also creates a sense of belonging and purpose. They will increasingly become more comfortable and confident in their ability to contribute. This allows them to internalize the idea that they are making a meaningful contribution and in turn, feel needed. (Pearrow, 2008)
Ironwood could be called an education center, residential program, rural farm, organization, and a multitude of other adjectives but we are so much more than any one of those terms independently. We are a community that works together, supports one another, challenges our peers to better themselves, and hold the person next to us accountable. Given the effort each of our students have made to make their community here at Ironwood, and their family at home a better place, I’d say Pogo would probably be quite proud.