Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schenectady County is seeking younger retirees who care about the environment to participate in a new volunteer program.
Called Retirees In Service to the Environment, the program was developed by a team of gerontologists at Cornell University and Ithaca College. Gerontologists specialize in the study of old age and aging.
Denise Kolankowski, senior resource educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension, said one of the RISE’s goals is to get participants to consider volunteering with environmental groups and programs.
“A lot of the folks retiring now are baby boomers,” Kolankowski said. “Environmental topics are relevant and of interest.”
The deadline for signing up for the program is Friday.
Volunteers will undergo a multiweek training program that will involve learning about topics such as climate change, water quality and waste management. There will be presentations by representatives of agencies and organizations that are concerned about the environment, such as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Office of Climate Change and the New York State Water Resources Institute at Cornell University.
The training will begin on March 20 and run until April 17.
Nancy Wells, an associate professor in design and environmental analysis at Cornell University, said that “environmental and ecological crises are on the radar and agenda these days.”
Wells said Cornell has been working on the RISE program for a few years, and that it’s currently offered in about six sites. There is a research component to the project, and Wells said that participants are asked to answer questions before the program starts, and after it’s done. “We want to see whether people have attitude changes, whether they have a greater sense of being able to make a difference in environmental matters.”
RISE is geared toward retirees 55 years and older. The program will have two rounds of training, and is seeking 15 volunteers for each.
At the completion of their training, the retirees will be tapped to volunteer at gardens located at four Schenectady Elementary schools — William C. Keane, Dr. Martin Luther King Magnet, Yates Magnet School and Jesse T. Zoller Elementary.
These gardens are part of a research project sponsored by Cornell University and Washington State University called “Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth.” Goals include increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and helping create a local food system. The funding for the program ends this year, and the volunteers would help sustain the gardens, Kolankowski said.
Wells said that RISE gives retirees a chance to meet other interesting adults, and that working in the gardens will allow them to interact with children as well.
“The school garden project adds an intergenerational piece,” she said.
At the completion of the training the retirees are asked to give back to the community as environmental stewards by assisting with the sustainablilty of school gardens located at four inner city elementary schools. The school gardens are part of a research project through Cornell University and Washington State University call, “Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth” part of the People’s Garden initiative through USDA. I am looking for more exposure for the RISE program so I am reaching out to you for a possible story
To register for RISE, call 372-1622 ext. 269.