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June 25, 2010 > The QUEST for experience

The QUEST for experience

By Simon Wong
Photos By courtesy of Nelson Kirk

Irvington High School 2010 graduates 17-year old Jason Nodora and 18-year old Wilson Chan volunteered in Union City's urban forest to complete their service-learning projects, a requirement for graduation. Each student volunteered for fifteen hours.

As QUEST students, Nodora focused on de-forestation in the United States and Chan, on air pollution.

The QUEST program enables seniors to undertake projects which require communication, critical thinking, personal and social responsibility. They set a long-term goal and learn that sustained effort, in the form of planning, practice and execution, toward it is good for them.

The program helps students gain practical insight into something intriguing or of personal interest, so they leave high school with more than a clutch of grades. Participants connect with businesses, see how they operate and can gain invaluable hands-on experience volunteering in the community.

Students acquire knowledge to complete their project, companies and other organizations benefit from students' involvement and the student develops new skills.

Union City Public Works benefited by imparting knowledge to young minds, cognizant of the importance of healthy trees. The latter are the environment's lungs. They clean the air (carbon sequestration), preserve waterways and soils (storm water management), provide cool and comfortable gathering places for our friends and families (temperature control) and provide employment in vegetation management, municipal planning and arboriculture.

Nodora and Chan planted salt-tolerant trees in Sea Breeze Park, Union City. Nodora and his father, Gaudencio, also planted 15 new trees in Dry Creek Park to replace others destroyed by vandals and 36 flowering trees along Railroad Avenue. Both students worked many hours in the city nursery re-potting trees in larger containers. Some were transferred to Fremont Adult School's greenhouse where the Special Ed class nurtured them for the Earth Day give-away in Central Park, Fremont.

Chan helped plant some of Naka Nursery's last remaining palms at Contempo Park, Union City, where the collection now exceeds 100 palms.

"The complexities of investigating depression, the initial idea for my QUEST project, persuaded me to examine something environmentally-related. I focused on trees because my father would compare the city environment with the provincial area where he used to live. As a child, I always enjoyed relaxing and sitting peacefully under a tree," said Nodora.

"To undertake this project, I needed a consultant. The Tri-City Ecology Center, Fremont, directed to me to Union City Public Works where Nelson Kirk became my mentor. I knew the project involved the state of our environment but felt I lacked the correct knowledge and skills. With Mr. Kirk's help, I completed a project to increase tree cover in the urban environment. This project was approved by Nelson Kirk and my teachers, Mr. Rodocker (English 12) and Mrs. Russell (Government/Economics).

"This project taught me much about the benefits of trees and what they really do for us. It's rewarding to know I did something for the community. I acquired knowledge and practical skills I might never have gained had I not pursued QUEST, from how to plant trees to how to use a shovel. The insight I've gained has given me a good idea of activities in which I might be involved. I plan to plant trees in the future, whenever I have the time," reflected Nodora.

"I wanted my QUEST project to examine and address my uncle's smoking problems but I didn't want to work with cigarettes so I considered air pollution," Chan explained.

"There was little time to prepare because of the last-minute change of subject matter. At the outset, I had no related skills but, under Nelson Kirks guidance, I became informed and acquired new, useful competencies. I consulted with Mr. Kirk, my teachers and my friend Jason Nodora. My English and History teachers approved my project.

"Now I know how to plant trees and understand their benefits and importance to our air quality, I shall plant more in the future. Completion of my project enabled me to graduate with research and service skills," concluded Chan.

Jason Nodora plans to attend San Joaquin Delta College to study nursing before transferring to the University of California. Wilson Chan plans to attend San Francisco State University but has not yet decided upon a career.

Both young men learned the value of hard work, how a city manages its urban forest, its importance and about relationships with other organizations such as Fremont Adult School and the community. Nodora and Chan will visit the trees they planted for years to come, having created a living legacy for future generations.

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