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Planting trees for community, especially those at risk

High school students learn about environmental disasters

Godfrey-Lee — On a sunny morning at Godfrey-Lee’s Early Childhood Center, Lee High School students and community volunteers planted 20 trees around the perimeter of the parking lot. 

ReLeaf Michigan, a nonprofit organization that partners with communities statewide to replenish community tree canopies, received a $350,000 grant from the DTE Foundation to host volunteer tree planting events, including the one at the ECC. 

The event was also in collaboration with The City of Wyoming Tree Commission, The Tree Amigos

Prior to a tree planting tutorial from ReLeaf Michigan Project Forester Bob Hunt, junior Dedi Tyler kicked off the event with a speech.

“We’re planting these trees to help the community, especially those in poverty and at risk during heat waves, who can’t leave their homes to escape disasters,” she said. 

Dedi also explained how trees help lower the temperature of their environment through evaporation of water from their leaves, like how humans sweat to cool down.

‘Students will be able to come back in a few years or with their kids and see the trees they planted.’

— Deborah Truszkowski, Lee High School teacher

Lee High School students, including Dedi, from teacher Deborah Truszkowski’s World Disasters class volunteered to leave an environmental legacy in their community, help improve air quality and cool their neighborhoods.

Truszkowski said her students learned that extreme heat causes more deaths each year in the U.S. than any other weather event, according to the National Weather Service.

“Heat waves are the most deadly disaster because they can affect anyone in any place,” she said. “There has been an increase in the frequency of heat waves in recent years, especially in low-income areas, due to lack of tree coverage, which raises CO2 levels and raises the overall temperature.”

Truszkowski’s students also learn how to prepare, predict and respond to disaster situations, like heat waves, earthquakes and hurricanes. 

District officials say they hope to apply for funds again after the construction and renovation of Lee Middle and High School is completed. 

“Students will be able to come back in a few years or with their kids and see the trees they planted,” Truszkowski said. “We learned about our community, but I want them to get out and do things to help give back to their community.”

Sophomores Troy Fox, left, and Fletcher Dean plant a tree outside of Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center

Read more from Godfrey-Lee: 
Coding their way to world competition 
He’s the teacher’s pet – really – and students’ furry friend

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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