By Michael Migotsky
I cannot believe it was just eight weeks ago that I first made the trek from Portland State to the Friends of Trees office, nervous as to what lay ahead. I couldn’t then have imagined how much I would learn and change in this very short time.
First of all, I would just like to thank everyone at Friends of Trees and DukeEngage for helping make this possible. Their clear vision and organization before I even arrived in Portland already set up this experience to be immensely worthwhile. Everyone I have ever interacted with at both of these organizations has been welcoming, kind, and helpful. I am so happy to have met everyone here at FOT and to have had the opportunity to work with them over the summer.
I loved being able to do so many different things around the organization, and I never did the same exact thing two days in a row, making whatever I did feel fresh and exciting. Being able to do so many different things allowed me to gain many new skills in a variety of areas. While I can identity native plants to weed around with GSI, I can also identify what is wrong with a street tree. Also, I got a pretty good lower arm tan out of the summer and a bit of a workout from working in the field. Buckets full of mulch or water are heavy.
It also gave me a really good look at how a nonprofit runs behind the scenes beyond its more public façade. Signing up to help at a planting might seem easy to you, but there are many steps that go on beyond that in the office to help make everything else run smoothly and keep things organized for the future. It helped me appreciate and understand nonprofits a little more, as well as instilled in me a desire to work closely with a nonprofit in the future. Hopefully, I will be able to come back to Friends of Trees at least once in my lifetime.
My work at Friends of Trees has definitely changed the way I think about and see the world. I have gained a new-found appreciation for plants and trees. I feel like I can’t stop telling people all the many benefits of trees, and everywhere I look, I notice things I never noticed before. For example, every time I see a poorly pruned tree (there are some weirdly pruned trees in Portland) or English Ivy or Himalayan blackberry, I get a little sad inside. At the same time, whenever I pass through a beautifully tree-lined street or see a Friends of Trees tree doing well, I can’t help but feel proud of all the work that we have done. I want to learn even more, and I am already looking into classes back at Duke about tree biology or urban forestry, and I want to look more into and explore the Duke Forest. I definitely want to plant some trees in our backyard when I get home and go chop up some ivy and blackberry.
And so I end my time with Friends of Trees for now, though I wouldn’t mind staying just a little bit longer. I leave having gained a great amount and a developed a burgeoning interest in trees that I hope I can cultivate throughout my life. After this, it’s back home to Seattle for me, and then to Paris where I will be studying abroad until December. I’m excited to see what kind of trees they have and how their urban canopy compares to Portland. I’m also excited to eat there.
Goodbye and thank you to everyone at Friends of Trees!
–Migotsy was a DukeEngage intern at Friends of Trees this summer. Friends of Trees is grateful for all of Michael’s contributions. Thank you, Michael, and thank you, DukeEngage!