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Roots Down program teaches interns to grow beyond borders
group photo roots down

Participating in the Roots Down GreenHive Leadership Program impacted how students view advocacy and sustainability. Shown are Emory students Alonzo Hernandez (left) and Raven Crosby (center) with Roots Down staff members Tres Crow, Miranda Rupkey and Jamie Rosenthal.

— Kendra Price

Every year, Emory students participate in thousands of internships in Atlanta and beyond to get a taste of being a working professional and try different paths before graduation.

One of the university’s many internship partners is Roots Down, an organization whose approach to landscaping emphasizes native gardening, sustainable maintenance practices and cooperation with local government to create environmentally friendly outdoor spaces. Since 2018, Roots Down has consulted with homeowners’ associations, developers and local governments to change the way people do landscaping. They even trained landscapers to transform the grounds around DeKalb County’s libraries.

Tres Crow, the president of Roots Down, says education is central to their mission.

For example, they offer professional landscapers eco-friendly landscaping certifications through their Growers Program. Their signature GreenHive Leadership Program allows college-aged DeKalb County residents to participate in a 10-week internship where they learn about environmental activism, city planning, lobbying, ecology and more.

The Roots Down internship culminates with young people across metro Atlanta working on a legacy project where they propose recommendations to improve landscaping practices on their campuses and/or in their communities.

“We’re doing it for the future, so we have to consult those who will inhabit the future,” Crow says.

The Emory connection

Emory student participation in the GreenHive Leadership Program is facilitated by the Office of Government and Community Affairs (OGCA); students can also find internships through their schools and colleges, mentors, the Pathways Center and other campus departments.

Kendra Price, associate director of community programs in OGCA, believes it is important for Emory to connect students with opportunities such as GreenHive because it provides them with a chance to “grow their leadership and advocacy skills.”

“The work that Roots Down is doing to encourage more sustainable landscaping is important to Emory because these practices help protect the environment and strengthen the health of the local ecosystems,” Price says.

Internship takeaways

Gaining hands-on learning experience is one of the biggest benefits of an internship. Here’s what three Emory students have to say about their time as a GreenHive intern.

Raven Crosby, Stone Mountain, Georgia

Raven Crosby

Degrees: Bachelor’s degree in environmental science with a minor in dance and movement studies; master of public health with a concentration in environmental health

GreenHive internship: Fall 2022

Key takeaway: “A lot of people can have the same fight but go about it in different ways. We heard from plant store owners, activists, politicians and landscapers who want to fight climate change.”

Since GreenHive: “I volunteered for the Academy of the Arts in Lithonia as well as Divine Dance Studio in Marietta. I also work for Dance Canvas as an administrative assistant. Dance can be used as a medium to communicate and engage with communities about environmental science. My dance professor, Lori Teague, encouraged me to get involved with National Water Dance, which is an organization that looks at how we can communicate about water quality through dance. I participated in their yearly performance in 2020 virtually as a member of the Emory Dance Company and attended some of their talks. I know the power of dance.”

Alonzo Hernandez, Rogers, Arkansas

Alonzo Hernandez

Majors: Environmental science and Latin American and Caribbean studies

GreenHive internship: Fall 2022

Key takeaway: “I learned a lot about the importance of working with local government to get the ball rolling on environmental initiatives. I don't want to be a politician, but I do want to work in the public sector to help make sure our environment remains hospitable.”

Since GreenHive: “I completed an internship in Singapore with Gretchen Coffman [an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore who is from Atlanta], who lectures at the National University of Singapore. We worked on a wildlife research project. It is a longitudinal study to monitor the effects of Singapore’s wetland restoration projects by collecting data such as soil moisture and pH as well as herbaceous and canopy coverage within the Singapore Botanic Gardens at eight different sites.

“I have since finished that internship and am focusing on my schoolwork and my work-study position with Dr. Vazquez-Prokopec. I also continue to be involved with the Emory Ecological Society as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) chair.”

Paige Scanlon, Clarendon Hills, Illinois

Paige Scanlon

Major: Religion and interdisciplinary studies

GreenHive internship: Spring 2022

Key takeaway: “I became a lot more invested in personal sustainability, such as composting. I’m thrifting more and being more mindful about waste production and my personal impact.”

Since GreenHive: “I studied in India in the Tibetan Mind and Body Sciences program, which partially took place at the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Mundgod. Here, we learned about Tibetan culture, Buddhist philosophy and monastic life. We lived among the Buddhist monks and nuns who are pursuing a STEM education [through the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative]. At the monastery, we taught the young monks ages 12-18 English.

“Much of what I’ve processed about the GreenHive program occurred in India. Recognizing the reality of climate change and also how we can create a powerful narrative to grow in community with people and inspire others to do the same ... It’s shown me that change really can happen.”

For more information about the GreenHive Leadership Program, visit the Roots Down website.

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