When the Father Gabriel Richard Ecology Club meets every other Thursday, it calls on a strong tradition dating to 2013 when the club actually initiated the recycling program at FGR.
The school also has won a Michigan Green Schools Award – given to state schools that fulfill environmentally friendly activities. The award was largely due to the efforts of the Ecology Club and the leadership of FGR staffer Jaclyn Manor, who was co-moderator of the club from 2013-16.
Emily Norris, who teaches Environmental Science, Advanced Placement Environmental Science and Biology at FGR, has taken over the Ecology Club this year.
“The club is full of kids who are passionate about the environment,” said Norris. “They have a lot of ideas about the direction they want the club to go.”
There wasn’t a recycling program at FGR before 2013, when – thanks to Manor’s push and the Ecology Club’s work – the school signed an agreement with Recycle Ann Arbor to pick up the school’s recyclable trash.
Manor founded the club five years ago, and she was club moderator for three years – along with the now-retired Kristy Norton – until increased responsibility as Director of FGR’s Learning Resource Center and as Junior Class Advisor left her no time for the Ecology Club.
“I really miss it,” Manor said. “I’m still just as concerned about the environment as I’ve always been, but the time just isn’t there anymore. I miss working with the students and educating them about the environment. It’s so important.”
Manor may miss teaching the students lessons on the environment, but the education she did give them – and the activities they are currently pursuing with Norris as moderator – shows that they still are environmentally conscious.
At every meeting, recycling continues to be a major thrust of the 20-30 students who are part of the organization. Members make sure recycling bins throughout the school are filled with only recyclable materials, that the bins are all in their proper stations, and that recycling signage is posted throughout the school.
“We now have multiple clean-up projects, and we have fund-raisers to purchase the recycling bins,” said Ecology Club Vice President Veronica Sovel, a senior who was in her first year with the club when the recycling agreement was signed. “It’s very important to do what you can to help protect the environment. That’s why I’m part of the club.
“I love nature, and people need to know that we all live on the same planet and if you don’t care about the planet you are hurting everyone. Everything we do to harm the environment has an impact, just like everything we do to help the environment has an impact.”
The Ecology Club has made multiple trips to the Recycle Ann Arbor facility to watch the recycling process.
“It helped us to see it on that end,” said Sovel, 17. “Because we saw that process, we have a better idea of what we need to do on our end before they pick up the trash from school.”
Two years ago, the club took a kayaking trip on the Huron River and a planned camping excursion last year was cancelled because of poor weather. There are tentative plans to take another kayaking trip this year.
“We learned about different water systems while we were kayaking,” Sovel said. “It was a lot of fun and we learned a lot, too. We’d like to go again this April when it starts warming up. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it because it was really worthwhile.”
On past field trips, the club has driven past an area dump to give students an idea just how much trash and garbage a community creates.
“It was eye-opening for some of them,” Manor said.
Sovel says FGR Ecology Club members, along with the rest of the student body, don’t have to go far to express environmental awareness.
“We can start on our own campus,” she said. “We have a large campus; that’s why we have the clean-up projects. We can set a good example for the rest of the community if we keep our campus clean.”
When Manor was club moderator, she made a speech at a mass during which she quoted Pope Benedict XVI and referred to him as the “Green Pope” for his dedication to the environment. She quoted him as saying “The environment must be seen as God’s gift to all people, and the use we make of it entails a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations.”
For her part, Norris has become increasingly impressed with her Ecology Club members in her first year as moderator.
“The students in the club take their mission seriously,” she said. “They want to be as environmentally conscious as they can be.”