EdCC & Snohomish Tribe pay tribute to King

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Volunteer efforts at Gold Park shared native culture and grew community

Edmonds Community College students, staff and faculty met with Snohomish Tribe representatives at Gold Park on a frozen January morning, to honor the life and civic service of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Over 100 volunteers showed up on the National Day of Service in spite of the bitter cold – to pick up litter, remove invasive species and plant about 20 hemlocks.

Before work began, people enjoyed coffee donated by Caffe Ladro along with doughnuts and conversations around a modest campfire. Snohomish Tribe Chair dídahalqid (the Honorable Michael Evans) smiled and asked a student, “Wanna hear an Indian story?”

Soon cәlálakәm (Pamela Bond-Coello) told the crowd a fitting story of Rainbow Crow saving the other animals from a thick blanket of snow with the discovery of fire. Bond-Coello held the listeners in her hand, not letting go until well after the story ended.

Service Learning Coordinator Sam LeBrun then led volunteers to a staging area, giving them ground rules for conduct and a sharp warning.

“Prioritize safety over fun and getting work done,” LeBrun instructed.

Anthropology Department Head Dr. Thomas Murphy also demonstrated proper winter planting techniques, massaging the root systems of a hemlock sapling to loosen the frozen soil.

“Plants are people too,” Dr. Murphy quipped, “and these plants are cold.”

Volunteers then broke into five teams. Three removed invasive species like yellow archangel and himalayan blackberry, one focused on planting new foliage and the last cleaned up litter and sorted it into garbage, recycling and compost.

CWU Law and Justice student Jordan Rostelyk worked on weeding ivy with a friend. She lives close to campus and has gone hiking here before.

“I wanted to be more involved with service learning and the environment,” Rostelyk said. She also appreciated the educational opportunities presented by the park cleanup.

Notable EdCC staffers present included Executive Vice President for Instruction Dr. Charlie Crawford and the new Dean for Student Success Jorge de la Torre. They worked alongside students without a hint of privilege.

Americorps Student Engagement Specialist Ekaterina Rar co-led the event with LeBrun. Rar remarked in an interview that in her own experience, learning didn’t always stick until she put her hands to work.

“I did my undergraduate in science, and I actually only started learning when we went out into the fields and started doing things outside,” Rar said.

LeBrun backed up Rar’s anecdotal evidence, citing studies that have linked participation in service learning projects with academic success.

“There is a really strong correlation between when students start doing service projects and their grade point average [rising],” LeBrun concluded.

Gold Park, located about 700 feet east of the college, has been the site of student work parties since 2007. In 2009, EdCC’s Anthropology Department entered into an agreement with the City of Lynnwood to maintain Gold Park and construct an ethnobotanical garden within it.

Bond-Coello was a student of EdCC’s Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field (LEAF) School at that time, and worked with Chair Evans to properly translate and feature the signage that identifies local plants and their traditional uses.

The Snohomish Tribe officially joined the legal accord between EdCC and the City of Lynnwood in 2011, currently represented by Bond-Coello. Although the City of Lynnwood recognizes the tribe’s sovereign status, the Snohomish still strive to be federally recognized by the Board of Indian Affairs.

This partnership between the college and the community seems rather unique; Dr. Murphy could not think of another example in the area barring Adopt a Stream or Highway programs. Presently, there are no plans to replicate this model elsewhere.

As work wrapped up, the results of the day’s work were visibly evident. Mounds of weeds the size of four picnic tables dominated a small hillside, and five bags of trash had been filled.

Ivar’s donated clam chowder for lunch. After elders were served, volunteers lined up to eat. Warm, radiant conversations melted away the last of the morning’s chill.

Before cleaning up, the group paused to reflect on the meaning of their service.

“When we come together to do service as a community, it adds up,” started LeBrun. Others commented on the diversity of the crowd and the sense of accomplishment won from helping the community.

Those who have participated in service learning projects at EdCC know firsthand the key piece reflection plays in the process. “If you just come, and you just want to get your hours and get out, that’s what you got out of it, you got your hours,” LeBrun said.

“But if you reflect on it, that’s when you start to gain something.”