TUF Perspective: Fighting for Our Environment

By Canopy Team on May 21, 2018

So, you said you’re a…TUFF? Like the TUFF Puppy Cartoon?

Written by Rayshaun Jordan

Haha while I might spend my time day-dreaming of another life where I’d be a cartoon character, fortunately that is not the case here! Working for Canopy, I am in their T.U.F. Program which stands for Teen Urban Foresteran internship opportunity for high-schoolers to learn all about the environment and make changes in their community by planting trees.

So if you think about it, just like the cartoon character, Dudley Puppy, I am also fighting crime by fighting for our environment!

Why did you want to join the Teen Urban Forester team?

Dudley Puppy

When I first started volunteering with Canopy I initially wanted to improve my community of East Palo Alto by planting trees. This was greatly impacted by my experience with NOLS, The National Outdoor Leadership School, where I got to camp and be up close and personal with nature for one whole month!  When I got back home I had a true passion to get back to the nature of my own community and make it better.

However, throughout my time working with Canopy I realized that what I wanted to focus on was not just planting trees, but educating residents of East Palo Alto about the environment, because I realized that many people in East Palo Alto would like their community to be beautiful and well-taken care of, but they didn’t know how they could do that.

As Dudley Puppyerm I mean as a TUF internI am now taking it upon myself to educate adults who come to plantings about the benefits of trees, because I have personally seen the benefits they can have on small communities of color that often do not have the resources to beautify their cities.

As a busy high-school student, what motivates you to be involved in the Teen Urban Forester program?

According to a study done by the Yale School of Forestry, “nearly 4 out of 10 Americans (39%) say they follow news about the environment” and “9 out of 102 people said that planting trees would reduce global warming the most.”

Like Oprah, I was so shocked that so little people follow news about the environment, and that so little people recognize the value of having trees planted in our environment. These statistics encourage me to go out every Wednesday and Saturday in an effort to better inform my community of the state of our environment. That is why I decided to participate in Canopy’s education program on Wednesdays so that I could have a wider audience and reach kids younger than me.

Canopy’s education program involves working with 4th and 5th graders at Willow Oaks in East Palo Alto where we educate them about the different parts of a tree, the steps to planting a tree, and the impacts of trees. This is where I played my role as teacher and taught them about the impact of trees which I love so much. What has kept me so in love with this job is that I genuinely love going out and meeting new people each week and talking with them about my job as a Teen Urban Forester.

Rayshaun teaching a volunteer how to prepare the tree’s root ball for planting.

What challenges do you face as a Teen Urban Forester?

Learning how to get adults to listen to a teenager telling them how to do something is one of the most challenging things I have encountered. Young kids under age 10 can be just as difficult. There were many times when I would lead a planting and have an adult tell me that I was doing something wrong—but of course I politely told them about my experience and usually that solved the problem. For the kids, I came up with crossword puzzles to keep them engaged throughout my lesson and it worked.

I definitely learned throughout my time working with Canopy a lot about leadership, specifically how to assert yourself when needed, which is also a very important life skill as well. I never thought coming on to a job planting trees, I would ever be able to learn teaching and leadership skills, but Canopy offers those skills because as a leader you need to know how to confidently manage large groups of people and lead them in the right direction.

Moving forward, I definitely feel as strong as Dudley Puppy, but not in the fictional sense. Let’s be realistic I’m not going to fight crime—unless I become a criminal lawyer—but as a leader at Canopy, I am fighting environmental apathy every day to ensure that those people who said that they believe trees would not reduce global warming will be proven wrong.

Rayshaun Jordan is a passionate writer and student journalist at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto. He aspired to join the Teen Urban Forester (TUF) program after attending the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) where he backpacked and camped for a month in the Absaroka Mountains of Wyoming. As a TUF, his goals are to increase his knowledge about various tree types and to teach others about the importance of climate change. Rayshaun hopes to work in law and make change within his community and the world.




Sign up for local tree news, events, volunteer opportunities, and more.

Sign Up

Recent Posts