Saturday mornings come early for college students, but with the support of the LEAP Center, Trees for Houston, and landscape architect Falon Mihalic, more than 20 SHSU students had a productive Saturday morning–planting, and planning, for the beautification of the Boys & Girls Club of Walker County.

The project involved planning flowers, shrubs, and trees around the new Boys and Girls Club playground - which was itself a community-led project this past summer.  The landscaping, done under the guidance of Mihalic, was designed to beautify the grounds, improve the environment, and enhance the educational experiences for the boys and girls of Walker County.

The project was spearheaded by the LEAP Center, which offers students more than 100 civic engagement opportunities annually. “This was a project we wanted to assist with,” noted Mike Yawn, the LEAP Center’s Director. “It has a real and meaningful benefit to the community. There was a clear role for students, and it helps us strengthen our relationship with one of the community’s most impactful non-profit organizations.”

The morning kicked off with the students touring the organization’s facilities, led by Boys & Girls Club CEO Michelle Spencer. From arts and crafts to board games to yoga to homework time, the Boys & Girls Club offers students the chance to engage in various activities that help them mature physically, intellectually, and emotionally.  Such programs are funded with a one-million-dollar budget – much of which comes from grants and donors – and directed by dedicated staff.

After learning more about the Boys and Girls Club and its wonderful programs, students transitioned to learning about the planting of trees from Travis Weddle, Program Coordinator for Trees for Houston. The process involved several steps: (1) staking, (2) digging, (3) prepping, (4) planting, and (5) berming and mulching.  Mr. Weddle’s skill was on display as he trained the students, broke them into teams, and offered occasional reminders of the steps and their importance.  What followed was much digging, bending, planting, rearranging dirt, watering – and a lot of teamwork.

“It was a great experience,” observed President of the LEAP Ambassadors, Jessica Cuevas. “Learning, contributing to the community, and working with other students all came together into a magical mix.”

The chance to work with other students - who ranged in age from 18-51 - also provided an opportunity to make new friends.  It was a new learning experience in every sense of the word: from learning about the environment and biology, to learning about the community, to learning about each other. Although the planted trees are far from maturity, they have a pleasant effect on the landscape.  The students’ new friendships, too, formed a foundation for future endeavors. And, taken together, these experiences have allowed attractive and environmentally pleasing flora—and a sense of community collaboration—to take root.

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