Students Take Action

 

Cypress planting

Wetlands Restoration in Coastal Louisiana

In April 2011, 50 students from Chalmette High School and St. Bernard Middle School in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana teamed up with National Wildlife Federation and Nickelodeon for "The Big Help." They planted 300 cypress trees along the Mississippi River in honor of Earth Day. Planting trees is a vital part of restoring the coastal wetlands, which makes the Gulf Coast less vulnerable to extreme weather events. It was a fun day - including a chance to meet and work alongside the stars of the television show Victorious. But for these students, who were all greatly impacted by Hurricane Katrina, the importance of their task could not be overstated.  

 

interviewees

 

Three teens, (above, from left) Tyler Acosta, Rusty Alfonso, and Ashley Retif, shared their perspectives on the day's activities. 

 

Ashley Retif (18)

How did you get involved in the cypress tree-planting?
I’ve been in 4-H since I was in 4th grade. A friend of mine did a fundraiser last year, “Pennies for Plants,” which raised money for the cypress trees we plant. Now I’m the heading the fundraiser. Because of my involvement with 4-H, I was asked to help today.

Why is doing this important to you?
It’s important because it’s where I grew up. I don’t want to lose my home. It’s important for me to save my home.

How did Hurricane Katrina affect you and your family?
After Katrina, we lived in Houston for 9 months. We had to tear down our home and start a new one. It was hard because my dad had to be in Louisiana for work while the rest of our family was in Houston. It was hard on my younger siblings.

What was your favorite part of the “Big Help” day?

Chalmette High School students

My favorite part of the day was partying with the cast of Victorious. We danced and took pictures and they signed autographs.

What did you think of the Victorious stars? 
They were cool and interested in the things we do here in St. Bernard. They loved our accent!

What else would you like to do to help the environment around New Orleans?
Pick up trash. I really don’t like litter.

 

Rusty Alfonso (16)

How did you get involved in the cypress tree-planting?
I got involved with plantings when I did an invasive species project last year. I’m an outdoorsman, so I was invited to help today. I know about the marsh and how the marsh gets eaten away every day. 

I Recycle T-shirt

Why is doing this important to you?

It’s important because I’ll protect my families’ wetlands and hunting lands that my grandpa and great-grandpa trapped on. It’s our home.

How did Hurricane Katrina affect you and your family?
Hurricane Katrina really affected us. My great-grandma had to be evacuated. Many of my family members’ homes were wiped out. There was nothing left. My house was 17 feet off the ground so we were lucky. My brother lost his senior year of high school and playing football. I couldn’t understand that I couldn’t go back.

What was your favorite part of the “Big Help” day?
Planting trees, hanging out with friends, and knowing that I’m helping the environment.

What else would you like to do to help the environment around New Orleans?
I’d like to start trapping nutria (invasive species that eats up the marsh).

 

Cypress planting

 Tyler Acosta (16)

How did you get involved in the cypress tree-planting?
I got involved through 4-H. I went on a field trip last year and planted and then I did more work in school in my biology class. 

Why is doing this important to you?
It’s important to me because I want to show future generations how to protect the land and understand how important it is. When we lose marsh, we lose habitat for animals.

How did Hurricane Katrina affect you and your family?
We evacuated and expected it to be 3 days. Then we learned that our house was completely gone.  We actually lost our house from a tornado that spawned from the hurricane.

Coastal restoration banner

What was your favorite part of the “Big Help” day?
Planting trees! It is very important because we need to save our coast. When I grow up, I want to do wildlife and fisheries enforcement because I’ll get to stop poachers and protect wildlife.

Did you meet any of the Victorious stars?  How were they?
Yes, I met Leon. He was cool. He was chill. He was happy to help us plant trees.

What else would you like to do to help the environment around New Orleans?
I’d like to get more people active. If we got 1,000 people to plant together, we could plant 10,000 trees at one time!

 

 

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