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On April 2, over 70 Hillman Entrepreneur students from Montgomery College, Prince George’s Community College, and the University of Maryland planted 2,700 chestnut seeds on the WSSC Orchard in Brookeville, Maryland. The orchard is part of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF)’s mission “to restore the American chestnut tree to our eastern woodlands to benefit our environment, our wildlife, and our society.”

The students were joined by prominent members of the Maryland Chapter of TACF as well as Nicole Horvath, environmental outreach coordinator for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), who organized this event. These representatives explained the importance of this project and to guide the students in the proper processes for planting and mulching.

Students took up shovels and wheelbarrows and with their own hands carefully planted and mulched the fragile but blight-resistant seeds, working in teams side by side with researchers, environmentalists, and other TACF volunteers. Karl Mech, a Foundation volunteer, stated, “This is marvelous. It is an investment in the next several hundred years.” Jeff Bell, a member of WSSC’s watershed management team agreed, explaining that the students were part of a historical event. He also noted that this is the biggest turnout for a chestnut planting since the project started and commented on the incredible level of motivation and determination of our students. Bruce Levine, vice president of the Maryland Chapter of the TACF, noted that without the efforts of the Hillman students this day, the planting of this many trees would take them several years!

Reports from the students were equally enthusiastic. Alumna Erika Lopez commented that events like this promote bonding among students and Amanda Oakes agreed, stating that she “loved meeting the PG and MC students” this way.

Current students agreed. Micaela Quiroga shared that “This experience fostered an opportunity for the Hillman Entrepreneurs to engage in a team building activities, and make a difference.”

Theresa Pasag added, “It was great being surrounded by people who love their jobs and want to share their passion and knowledge with others. It was great being part of such a big impact by doing something as simple as planting trees. . . . I really did have fun that day, and the employees I worked with were so patient, great, and nice, and I loved meeting other Hillman students. What a great use of a Saturday morning. I definitely would do this again.”

Samih Karama agreed. “It was wonderful seeing all chapters of the Hillman program bonding as one family while giving back to the environment. Ron, the Orchard manager, provided my team with great advice for our future endeavors and gave us such positive feedback. I cannot wait to go back and volunteer again.”

We can all be proud of our students for giving their all to this worthwhile project–and know that our futures and the future of our natural environment are in good hands.

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