I’ve truly enjoyed participating in GBA’s Green & Healthy Schools Academy (GHSA) as a school sustainability adviser.  As I approach retirement from my day job at the Pennsylvania DEP – and as the GHSA approaches the graduation of its first cohort – I find myself reflecting on the many gifts I’ve received throughout this process….. 

My life has been a series of unrecognized and undeserved gifts, combined with dumb luck, and the GHSA is simply the latest example. My wife is the best.  I could connect all these into a complicated and likely boring “charmed” bracelet, but I will fast-forward to when I met Doreen Petri from the Erie School District.  This meeting came during a difficult time in my life: my sister had recently died, my son was struggling with significant health problems, and I’d had a major recycling program fail.  Working with Doreen and her students, unbeknownst to me at the time, revived my spirit and even helped me deal with personal life.  This might seem backwards, but there are times that work is salve for the soul.

I also met Jenna Cramer (GBA’s VP of the Green & Healthy Schools Academy) shortly thereafter and it was obvious that we both shared a passion for the “people” part of buildings, versus bricks and metrics.  Her gift to me, and I think the green building world in general, was to truly focus on the human aspect of structures, particularly schools and children.  Her development of GHSA could have not have been a better final gift for me, as an exciting “capstone” project at the end of my career.  My Erie colleagues are likely weary of me trying to impart my tired wisdom, but, seriously, it has been a joy to be able to share some of my experiences.

My granddaughter, Georgie.

My granddaughter, Georgie.

I can also say that I learned much from each of the Inspire Speakers Series lecturers and maybe just as much from our fellow Academy members.  The long-term, intimate approach has given all of us participants, I believe, a better understanding of the educational process and  its problems, but also its potential.  However, after being in the presence of so many brilliant and inspiring educators, including Academy members and staff, I am more hopeful not only about green schools but education in general.  I think the GHSA has provided us all with great gifts related to the special skills needed to improve our schools.  I believe – and think it is proven – that one person can make a tremendous difference and the GHSA will graduate a group of tremendous difference-makers.

Although I personally will no longer work directly with schools, I have already applied GHSA lessons in my personal and community life and know I will in my next career, while my two-year-old granddaughter has made me redefine the meaning of “energy conservation.”  Finally, seriously, if there is ever an appropriate form of “re-gifting,” it will be using the inspiration and hope I have gained form Doreen, Jenna, the speakers, and my GHSA friends and sharing them with my future colleagues.


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