Many people talk about giving back to the community, but one Rye Brook resident, Jeff Sohn, actually took action. Sohn was part of a crew of student volunteers working to help restore parks that were severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The group was participating in the Student Conservation Association’s (SCA) Sandy Recovery Project, which was sponsored by American Eagle Outfitters.
After about 100 applications, 17 students were chosen based on submitted essays. Voters of an online contest decided to send the group to work in the National Parks of New York Harbor for a week.
I was able to speak with Sohn, who recently graduated from the University of Albany, about his experience.
Why did you decide to participate in this experience?
JS: It was an opportunity to meet like minded people who are environmentally conscious, have an appreciation for the outdoors, think the way that I do, and know the importance of preserving the natural world. The program sparked my attention so I decided to jump on it.
How did you hear about the program?
JS: I heard about it through the SCA list serve and since I “like” the SCA on Facebook I saw it there. And I actually expected there to be a lot people who were similar to me, but overall it was a pretty diverse group.
Looking back, how was your experience?
JS: It was great. Every day we had new tasks, ranging from cleaning up debris in a parking lot to cleaning up trails. We also built a boardwalk in a garden so it could be handicap accessible. So there were diverse outdoor project. Plus, one day were did not work and went into Manhattan, since not everyone was from here.
Would you do it again or recommend it to other students?
JS: Yeah. The SCA is awesome and they are doing a lot of good work all over the county. I would definitely recommend challenging yourself.
Did you meet a lot of new kids?
JS: Yes since I didn’t know anyone before the trip. I met 17 new awesome people who live throughout the county. And since we camped out for the whole week at Gateway National Park on Floyd Bennett Field, we spent a lot of time together.
Were you personally affected by Sandy?
JS: Not me directly. My family did lose power but my uncle was displaced for six months. So I certainly felt a personal effect.
How did you feel about helping a community close to yours?
JS: I think it is important to give back to the community, but I don’t always necessarily get to do it so it was great to have the opportunity to fully engage myself.