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A collaboration between the Daniel Hand High School Eco Club and the Madison Conservation Commission culminated at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Aug. 26, when two students presented a summer’s worth of work and learning for members of the board as well as the public.
Rising juniors and current Eco Club members Marina Dixson and Elizabeth Ozimek and recent Hand graduate Sarah Caso had served as paid interns for the commission, doing everything from designing informational signs to adding to the commission’s website over the summer.
At the meeting, Dixon and Ozimek cited overall concern for the environment as their motivation to get involved with environmental and conservation causes.
“Personally, I really care about single-use plastics, and how they’re polluting bodies of water,” said Ozimek.
“I kind of find it frightening to think about what the world could look like in 50 years, with the climate change that is accelerating,” said Dixon.
Commission Chair Fran Brady said the intern program, originally intended for college students, was lucky to find passionate local youth who wanted to contribute to their community.
“They listen, they ask good questions,” said Brady. “And then they get to it. They do a fantastic job, and deliver[ed] more than I expected.”
One large task Brady gave to the interns was to document and provide educational materials on invasive species in Madison. The interns described and identified 32 insects and plants common in town. That information is now a resource on the commission’s website.
The interns also created a pamphlet and designed a warning side that describes ways to protect Madison’s watersheds.
Brady said while the program is an educational opportunity for the students, the benefit was clear for the commission and the town.
“They’re helping the Conservation Commission complete their mission,” said Brady.
Brady said he met with the three students once a week for an hour, and after that, they found their own ways to accomplish goals. The students used all their own resources and set their own schedules, he said.
“A lot of this was self-directed work,” said Brady.
Though he said the students had plenty of opportunities to increase their own knowledge, he hopes more than anything that the research they did is spread to other residents of the town. As the commission goes to events like Earth Day celebrations or farmers markets, a lot of the most recent information on watersheds and invasive species offered to the public is information gathered by Dixon, Caso, and Ozimek.
“We will have the products of their efforts there at our tables,” said Brady.
Brady requested at the Board of Selectmen meeting that the intern program be continued next year. The interns’ salaries—the only real expense of the program—was part of the commission’s budget, he said.
For more information on the commission, as well as invasive species and Madison watersheds, visit www.madisonct.org/174/Conservation-Commission.
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