Students put down roots during agriculture-focused alternative fall break program


Early College students Gregory Foreman, Jr. and Melissa Nance volunteer at the Guilford garden. They were among the many students to participate in Rooting Ourselves in Greensboro. (Colleen Gonzalez/Guilfordian)

Fall break is a chance for students to unwind from school chaos and forget all the stress the semester has brought. Some decide to travel home while others go to foreign places. However, there are the select few who decide to stay behind.

“Rooting Ourselves in Greensboro is a week-long program that not only involves volunteering at various places throughout Greensboro, but also having fun doing activities,” said co-coordinator and Early College student Patrice Brown in an email interview.

“We wanted students to be able to become more active members in their community by getting to know new people as well as learning about some volunteer locations in Greensboro,” said student coordinator Carla Restina in an email interview.

The program was started last year by two Principled Problem Solving scholars and a Guilford alum as a Principled Problem Solving project supervised by Project and Communication Manager Kim Yarbray. It also gives Guilford students a chance to give back to the community that has become a second home to them.

“I did ROIG last year as a freshman,” said sophomore student coordinator Mandy Lu in an email interview. “I’ve always enjoyed doing service and that’s why I decided to do it last year.”

While some students decided to participate for fun, others did it as part of a community service requirement.

“I needed 40 hours this semester to fulfill Early College community service requirements,” said Brown. “I participated in it last year and had a blast, so I knew it was worth doing again, especially since I was asked to be a co-coordinator.”

The week consisted of six-hour volunteer jobs done at various places near Guilford and in the Greensboro area. Such sites include the Guilford farm, Timberlake Farm, the Edible Schoolyard at the Greensboro Children’s Museum and the Kathleen Clay Edwards Library.

“We did many activities, but they were mostly centered on sustainable agriculture or food justice,” said junior Taylor Seitz in an email interview.

Activities consisted of building a fence around a new plot of land for the Guilford farm and pulling weeds and gardening at the library and Timberlake Farm. Despite being on break from classes, the participants learned more about nature and how important of a role our surroundings play here in Greensboro.

“Students staying in Greensboro got to learn about their surrounding environment and what kinds of resources are available to them,” said Restina. “A lot of our work was centered on bonding with nature as well as creating a sense of community through connecting with other students.”

Despite the volunteer work that is done throughout the week, those who decide to participate in ROIG were treated to some good old-fashioned fun.

“We do a lot of community building activities like game night, bowling night, movie night and the general get-together at dinner time,” said Lu.

Another added bonus to participating was that all meals, transportation, activities and water bottles were free.

Rooting Ourselves in Greensboro was not only an active way to spend your break at Guilford, but it offered students an opportunity to learn new skills, develop an understanding of their surroundings and communicate with both students and staff alike.

“I gained a greater appreciation for sustainable agriculture and food justice,” said Seitz. “I learned to think about where food comes from and why … and I honed my field and garden skills.”

“I had a great time having new experiences and learning about the city I live in now,” said Lu. “It also enabled me to get to know quite a few people on campus.”

There are still places in Greensboro that have yet to be explored, and these places may very well be the next stops ROIG makes. Even in its infancy, ROIG is an opportunity worth taking. Community is a core value at Guilford, and a program such as ROIG emphasizes community between students and Guilford as well as the connection between Guilford and Greensboro.

“I was very excited to be a part of this, and I’m so glad that I got the opportunity to enhance my leadership skills and provide a service-learning opportunity for my peers,” said Restina. “I feel like I learned a lot about the environment and history of Greensboro. In a sense, ‘Rooting Ourselves’ is a great pun.”