Leon M. Goldstein High School
Brooklyn, NY

Valerie Voytsekhovskaya, the leader of Leon M. Goldstein High School’s Environmental Club, is excited to lead her second Tree-Plenish event this year. Valerie lives in the Brighton Beach/Sheepshead area of South Brooklyn, New York, a community “composed of many Slavic and Central Asian immigrants - [herself] included - blending a diversity of cultures and languages that give this South Brooklyn area its distinct characteristics.”

In reflection on her Tree-Plenish event last year, having “people unite over this one mission and goal” was really special, especially while being located in an urban community where people tend to live a bit more independently. In last year’s event, she also invested a lot of her energy trying to make all of the trees free to increase accessibility to her event. To do this, Valerie poured a lot of time into fundraising because she “really wanted to give people the opportunity to take home a tree that was cost-free.”

With the help of the Environmental Equity Fund, $500 was donated to her school’s event, making 100 trees free. Valerie says that it has helped to ease stress and she has “been able to allocate more time towards actually getting more people involved and advertise the actual event.” Valerie finds that removing the barrier of even just a small cost, such as $5 for a tree, has made a great difference in the success of her event. With some citizens of her community being lower income or being less invested in environmentalism, a free sapling goes a long way in getting people started in taking their part in environmental efforts.

Valerie believes that green spaces “provide a place for communities to get together that is not dependent on anyone’s socioeconomic status,” especially since traveling places every day in New York City is expensive. This has strengthened her desire to create more of those spaces by providing free trees to her community.

When reflecting on what sustainability means to her in the broad sense, Valerie believes that it means that “you can depend on these resources being there for yourself, for your kids, for your grandkids and that certain populations aren’t living in this anxiety-induced state of what’s going to happen ten years from now because of the way things are looking right now.”

Although Valerie is going to be leaving for college next year, she hopes to pass on her role as an Environmental Club leader and to have a Tree-Plenish event become an annual tradition for her school. This highlights not only Valerie’s passion for environmentalism as a whole, but her continued desire to better the community that has given her so much.

If you are interested in supporting Valerie and Leon M. Goldstein High School’s Tree-Plenish event, please check out their event webpage here.

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