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Alternative Graduation Idea: Class Trees

Metropolitan Business Academy senior Adrian Huq came up with an alternative idea for marking graduation in lieu of in-person commencement or good-byes: a parting gift in the form of a class tree.

Huq, who cofounded New Haven Climate Movement, is a school outreach intern at Urban Resources Initiative, which provided the gift as part of its free tree-planting program. The tree will be planted at some point this summer on the Metro school grounds. URI and Yale Forestry School are offering to do the same for schools and students system-wide.

“We went from asking schools to promote it to using the free tree to honor graduates from the class of 2020, who wouldn’t have a traditional graduation,” Huq said. (Read about NHPS’ graduation ideas here.)

Huq has reached out to New Haven high schools and middle schools. So far, their own school, Metropolitan, as well as the Sound School, Amistad High School and New Haven Academy have expressed interest, according to Huq.

Graduates and their families can request a tree to be planted near their homes, too.

“This is something folks can do from home to make an impact,” Huq said. “Unlike some of the big initiatives we’re pushing, this can be implemented in a few months.”

Trees are a key way cities and individuals can reduce carbon emissions, Huq noted. The program is especially important for low-income neighborhoods that have far less tree canopy than wealthy neighborhoods nationwide. Huq pointed to the lush vegetation on Hillhouse Avenue as an example of this.

“It creates a more attractive environment and people want to go outside more. Tress can provide not only climate resilience but also shade and comfort,” Huq said.

URI’s goal is to plant 1,000 trees a year, well over the 500 trees cut down annually in the city through new construction and telephone line maintenance.

Reaching out to King Robinson, where Huq started kindergarten, has helped them feel that they are making an impact on their school system, despite the fact that many goals remain unfinished.

Huq wanted to help NHPS set up a recycling route for school recycling bins. School budgets and other issues facing the school board have kept Huq from completing that goal.

Huq was working on a school compost program and other ways of dealing with waste from cafeterias too. Covid-19 school closures and the urgency of distributing food to families interrupted that rollout.

“I will still keep New Haven schools in mind during my career. I will keep thinking of them and helping if I can,” Huq said.

Huq plans to attend Tufts University in the fall and start a major in environmental studies. They envision a career as a sustainability specialist for organizations and corporations, while continuing environmental activism on the side.

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