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Ronald Porter
Acting Director of Service Learning

Eckerd College
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711

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Service Learning

Service Learning

Megan Horst '02

Environmental Studies major

Megan Horst 

If I think long and hard about how I got to where I am now, and the things I value in life, I can trace the very unpredictable path back to the service learning experiences I had while at Eckerd College in 1998-2002. I had so many meaningful experiences that it would be impossible to highlight them all, but a few that really shaped me were my role in the development of the campus-wide recycling program and in two major restoration efforts on campus.

During my junior year at Eckerd College, I began to grow frustrated by the lack of simple recycling opportunities on campus. As an Environmental Studies major, I was learning every day about the causes and impacts of over-consumption and environmental degradation, and I became motivated to not just "talk the talk" about re-use and recycling but to "walk the walk." I began brining this concern up with others, and soon we had formed a small team that was committed to begin Eckerd's first comprehensive student-run recycling program. Working with Brian MacHarg, we were able to secure both cooperation from Facilities Management and some funding for the purchase of recycling bins and a few small trucks as well as for the regular payment of work-study eligible students to do regular recycling pick-up. We began the project in full swing my senior year. While I can't say I ever really enjoyed hauling bins full of crumpled beer cans from the dorms to the trucks and to the pick-up spot, I did gain a lot of camaraderie with my fellow recycling students and was pleased to be certain all students would be able to easily recycle. I hope the percentage of items sent off the landfill from Eckerd College continues to decrease every year.

My passion for environmental issues extended beyond this. As president of Earth Society my senior year, I worked closely with several professors and the club members to coordinate two restoration efforts on campus. With guidance from the professors, we selected the sites and the plants and organized major work parties to do the planting and to follow-up with regular maintenance and watering. The two sites were along the seawall on the western edge of campus, and south of the Palm Hammock, adjacent to the road. These projects helped me develop an appreciation for sense of place and for the importance of maintaining local diversity.

So what role did this play in the path to where I am now? Above all, I learned that service takes initiative and often, it takes a lot of hard work. I also discovered that a key component of the "success" of any service effort is collaboration with others- alone, I could have perhaps recycled a few bins of bottles over the course of a year or planted a few native trees. But with a group of students, we diverted thousands of pounds of recyclable items from the landfill and planted dozens of native species. These experiences led me to decide early on that I would commit my life to service, in collaboration with others, in some way or form. No working for the man or for the paycheck for me!

After graduating from Eckerd and spending some time traveling in Europe, I joined the Peace Corps and served as a Protected Areas Management volunteer in rural Honduras. I had the opportunity to live in the mountains among coffee-growers, and did my best to inspire the implementation of more sustainable agro-forestry techniques and environmental management practices there. From there, I returned to the US to work as a youth group leader in Washington, DC and as a National Park Service Ranger at Lava Beds National Monument in northern California.

Now I live in Seattle, Washington and I have just graduated with my master's degree in Urban Planning and Design. I chose the field because I believe that wise planning of the built environment and of how we humans live on the earth (and with each other) is essential to addressing the growing environmental crisis and to developing more sustainable and equitable ways of living together. My current job is as Action Agenda Coordinator for a partnership of two organizations, Communities Count and Sustainable Seattle. In this role, I collaborate with others in the Puget Sound Area to track our progress towards sustainability and an equitable quality of life for all (an alternative to the GDP). I also work to foster dialogue about our situation and create plans for thoughtful action to address downward-heading trends.

Be thoughtful about how you measure progress for your own self, your community, our country, and our world.


Notes from the Field

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The service-learning student interns are increasing service involvement at Eckerd, becoming successful service leaders and helping students create a community around the values and challenges of servant-leadership.

Service Learning Profiles

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Read individual profiles of how involvement with Eckerd Service Learning changed the lives of current students and alumni.  Learn more.