There are days when Jane Goodall speaks to audiences of thousands. Then there are days when Goodall gets an up-close meet-and-greet with a small group of University of Redlands students, alumni, and staff, with Addie, the University of Redlands bulldog mascot, in tow.
The group, which met with Goodall on July 9 while attending the Esri User Conference in San Diego, shared the work members had been doing with Roots & Shoots, Goodall’s youth conservation organization.
“I gather you have some exciting things to tell me,” said Goodall, before she sat down to chat with the Redlands contingent for nearly two hours.
They discussed the impact of Roots & Shoots and the huge changes that passionate individuals can make in their communities.
Hannah Henry ’19, a former student director in the U of R Roots & Shoots program, came away from the discussion feeling inspired. “Jane has been a role model for me for so much of my life, and getting to hear her passion for storytelling in person really impacted my motivation for environmental education,” Henry said.
“This meeting really pushed me to begin thinking outside the box and create new ideas we could possibly implement for the Roots & Shoots program this upcoming year,” added Brianna Hernandez ’22, student co-director of the U of R Roots & Shoots program.
U of R’s ties to conservation and Goodall’s mission go deep. The university has an environmental studies program, which includes fieldwork in countries around the world. Students in the U of R Master of Geographic Information Systems (MS GIS) program have also led research into environmental health, from the grasslands of the Falkland Islands to the glaciers of the Sierra Nevada.
But Goodall also emphasizes the importance of learning about nature and sustainability in our own backyards. That’s the focus of Roots & Shoots, a youth group founded by Goodall in 1991, which now includes hundreds of thousands of members around the world. Roots & Shoots is aimed at inspiring school-age children to volunteer to increase conservation efforts and improve their communities. At U of R, this has become the mission of a team of students and staff.
Alison Roedl ’10 founded the U of R Roots & Shoots program in 2007. When Goodall visited the Redlands campus in 2011 and 2016 (at which time she gave a commencement address and received an honorary degree from the College of Arts and Sciences), the program was well-established, and she met with Roots & Shoots organizers. Today, the group leads programs in three local schools: Franklin Elementary School, Lugonia Elementary School and Barbara Phelps Community Day School.
“Roots & Shoots provides a chance to expose young minds to global compassion and local impact, starting with actions inside their own homes,” says Roedl, who serves as associate director of annual giving in the U of R Development Office.
Nick Bruzzo ’19, former student director of the U of R Roots & Shoots program, was part of the July 9 meeting with Goodall. He said the group was excited to share what they had accomplished in local schools. "If I can be a positive role model for the students, that's awesome,” said Bruzzo.
Among the programs that the U of R students discussed with Goodall was the thriving school garden program at Barbara Phelps Community Day School, a campus in Redlands that serves many students who have faced challenges in a public school setting.
Barbara Phelps Community Day School Principal Lisa Garcia said the Roots & Shoots program has given her students hope that they can follow in U of R students’ footsteps. “It’s a really beautiful thing that this team brings to the table,” said Garcia, who attended the meeting with Goodall.
On harvest days, Garcia said the school community is thrilled to see what its garden has produced. In fact, this year Garcia used tomatillos from the garden to make salsa for a special chips and salsa party on campus.
The group shared stories about the garden project in their meeting with Goodall. Shelli Stockton, director of Alumni and Community Relations, said the meeting was a chance to update Goodall on the progress they’d made since Goodall visited the U of R campus three years ago.
“Dr. Goodall and her team really like our model of a college program taking Roots & Shoots programming to schools in our community,” said Stockton. “I was really touched by the fact that the principal and a teacher from one of the schools, Barbara Phelps High School, feel so strongly about the impact of the program that they drove down to San Diego to be a part of the meeting.”
Katelyn Argumosa '16, coordinator of Children’s Programs in the U of R Office of Community Service Learning, was also part of the meeting. She enjoyed hearing Goodall’s stories of how Roots & Shoots started. She has seen how hard the Roots & Shoots volunteers work, so she was glad to hear that the U of R program is on the right track.
“It was an amazing experience, and I think our students got a lot out of it,” said Argumosa. “I’m really happy that we’re meeting the mission that Dr. Jane Goodall has for the program.”