By Canopy Team on March 2, 2021
When COVID hit in Spring 2020, Clint Smith found himself with more time at home than usual. He and his high school son CJ started looking for activities they could do during shelter-at-home, especially ones that might interest both of them. They came across Canopy’s Community Forestry School and decided to give it a try.
“COVID allowed many of us to be more thoughtful about how we spend our time and what matters to us in our community,” shares Clint. “Planting and maintaining trees seemed like a perfect match for having more free time, wanting to spend time together, and wanting to engage in an activity that had a positive impact locally.”
For 8 weeks in Fall 2020, the Palo Alto father-son duo joined a diverse cohort of students from 12 cities and many backgrounds, participating in weekly group classes via video and digging in for in-person field work in small socially distanced groups.
CJ says it was fun taking the course with his dad and gave him something positive to focus on while school extracurriculars were cancelled. “It was often a dinner table discussion talking about what we learned int he last CFS class, and about how we were going to apply it…I love the outdoors, I love trees, and I just think stuff like that is super interesting. It gives me something to do that’s not just school—a less pressurized environment to learn and grow.”
Clint and CJ’s first memorable moment in the course came when they met long-time Canopy volunteer Marty Deggeller in the first online class. CJ used to play basketball with Marty’s grandson, and recognized the name right away. “It was really fun getting to know him,” says CJ, “it was a funny little surprise.”
“It’s great having a project where we’re all digging the same basin or we’re all carrying the same water buckets. There aren’t many activities where three generations can participate together.”
“One of the best things about the project for me was the way that it brought people from different generations together,” adds Clint. “Seeing Mr. Deggeller senior—I know his son who teaches at Gunn, and my son CJ is friends with the grandson—It’s great having a project where we’re all digging the same basin or we’re all carrying the same water buckets. There aren’t many activities where three generations can participate together.”
Another benefit was getting to know students from other schools. “It was wonderful to have the diverse group of young people from many communities and many high schools and seeing the young people getting together and getting to know each other,” says Clint. “You don’t get too many opportunities to interact with people from different cities and different high schools. That was a real plus for our family.”
Clint and CJ both agree on another stand-out moment from the course: planting a backyard tree at the home of a neighbor in East Palo Alto. “Planting for a homeowner who talks with you and thanks you and has chosen exactly the tree that they think will be right for their home—that’s a very special experience in terms of connecting with someone else in the community.”
CJ concurs. “She was so excited,” he says. “In a year like this, it was so nice to see people so happy. Being able to bring people joy was definitely special.”
Thank you, Clint and CJ, for your volunteer work with Canopy, for sharing your story, and for contributing to greener, more connected communities!