During an intimate meeting with Malloy, six current staff members shared their personal experiences and described how they have benefited from the GreenSkills program.
“It changed my life, Mr. Governor,” said Donald Williams
, a 38-year-old California native who works on the crew, according to the Connecticut Mirror
. “I decided I wanted to make a change in my life. I decided I wanted to give back to a community I took so much from.”
Labor for the urban forestry project is provided by Emerge, a nonprofit that arranges work and counseling for ex-offenders after they are released from prison. Emerge partners with Urban Resources Initiative, which since 2007 promotes community-based land stewardship and environmental education and advances the practice of urban forestry.
Its GreenSkills program allows ex-offenders to work with Yale graduate students to plant and maintain trees across the city. In addition to improving the New Haven’s street tree canopy, workers learn the value of leadership, develop marketable job and mentoring skills, foster a sense of environmental stewardship, and make meaningful positive change in the community.
, director of URI, said it is the collaboration with Emerge and the city that has made the program such a success.
And for six current crewmembers asked to share their stories with the governor, the program provided another powerful opportunity.
“I really think the Governor was here to listen and learn,” said Murphy-Dunning. “And to think what these guys have been through in their lives... it was an amazing opportunity for them to share their story with the governor.”