Local Heroes 2017 - Alliance for Watershed Education of the Delaware River

Local Heroes 2017

For the River Days 2017 season, the Alliance for Watershed Education chose the theme, “Be A Local Hero.” The centers in the Alliance selected their own heroes, as well as the East Coast Greenway Alliance, with whom AWE partnered on the River Days kick-off event. Read the descriptions below to determine how you can become a local hero in your community!

Audubon Pennsylvania Discovery Center
Tonnetta Graham is the president of Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation, and sits on the board of the future Audubon Discovery Center. She has been instrumental in guiding the new center’s planning process, introducing Audubon to the neighborhood, and facilitating outreach to the neighbors. She supports and attends many Audubon programs and promotes events through the CDC.

Bartram’s Garden
Eric Nzeribe and his family were some of the first boaters when Bartram’s Garden started the Saturday Free Boating program in July of 2015. Eric returned almost every week to kayak with his family. In 2016 he signed up to join the team of volunteers. Eric puts in many more hours than required and always shows up with a smile on his face and his signature warm laugh. He is also the founder and publisher of FunTimes Magazine, which serves as a conduit of information among African, Caribbean and African American communities in the Mid-Atlantic.

Berks Nature
Karin Wulkowicz
has been a member of Berks Nature for many years.  In 2016, she strengthened her commitment to the organization by becoming a Berks Nature Ambassador volunteer.  Around that same time, she accepted the position as Director of the Berks County Master Watershed Steward Program at Penn State Cooperative Extension.  Karin is always willing to help and enjoys sharing her great knowledge of watersheds, and flora and fauna in our region.  She is active with many organizations and gives 110% of her time to educating others about the natural world.  The Greater Reading region is lucky to have Karin as our Watershed Hero!

Heritage Conservancy at Bristol Marsh
Ed Armstrong is the President of the Board of Directors of the Greenbelt Overhaul Alliance of Levittown (G.O.A.L.), which was established in 2009 with a mission to keep the Levittown, PA area clear of trash, improve waterway health and promote environmental education. They provide environmental seminars, help with community rain gardens, and conduct cleanups throughout the Levittown area. They have partnered with Heritage Conservancy on many projects at Bristol Marsh and are regular volunteers.

Camden Children’s Garden
Brian Burns
is a Great Friend of the Camden City Garden Club and the Camden Children’s Garden.  He is supportive of their youth employment program and recommends students for employment at the Garden.  He has been a guest speaker for educational programs, supports the mission and efforts to preserve and protect the Camden Children’s Garden. His book, “Saving Masons Run” discusses the efforts to save southern New Jersey’s last wild trout stream and the man-made impacts to the stream over the last 100 years.

Camden County Environmental Center
Jess Franzini currently works for the Camden Lutheran Housing Authority. In previous role at the NJ Tree Foundation, she coordinated the Camden Urban Airshed Reforestation Program, planting trees in the City of Camden. She worked to expand the program to include a Fruit Tree Farmer component, and a stormwater management focus. She also helped start the Camden SMART Initiative to address stormwater management in an innovative, collaborative way.

Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium
Andrew Kricun
is the Executive Director and Chief Engineer of the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, where he oversees an 80 million gallon per day wastewater treatment plant in Camden, NJ. He has over 30 years of wastewater management and biosolids management experience. He currently serves on the board of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), and is the chair of its Clean Water Industry of the Future committee and its Environmental Justice and Community Service committee. He also serves on the NJ Environmental Justice Advisory Council. He has a unique talent for enlisting the help of a wide array of environmental community groups to work toward goals that magnify impact for the good of residents. Andy’s exemplary work has led to a general improvement in the lives of people in the region and has created many very positive opportunities for the future.

Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center
Isa Shahid
is the President & Co-Founder of Muslims 4 Humanity, an organization whose mission includes uplifting and uniting humanity through education, political involvement, community development and social services, regardless of religious affiliation. Isa has organized stewardship & social activities for Cobbs Creek, brought new people to the Center, and sets a great example for the community surrounding cobbs Creek CEEC.

DuPont Environmental Education Center
George Fox
has been tireless volunteer for the Delaware Nature Society for over 15 years. George was a pivotal volunteer leader from the beginning of the Stream Watch program, providing time and talent to collecting important baseline data chemical and biological data to the state of Delaware.  George also serves on the Delaware Nature Society’s Conservancy Committee providing insights and advice on conservation and watershed stewardship matters. Additionally, he teaches the public about the basics of water quality and the types of macroinvertebrate insects that can be found in local waterways.

East Coast Greenway Alliance
Andy Hamilton recently retired from his position as Mid-Atlantic Coordinator for the East Coast Greenway. Andy drove much of the East Coast Greenway’s progress in the region, including the Circuit Trails project, Schuylkill Banks, and Bartram’s Mile projects in Greater Philadelphia. As one advisory board member put it, “No one is better at harnessing the power of coalitions than Andy, and the rise of Philadelphia from one of the worst places to bike to one of the best is testament to his skills.”

Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center
Ellen Freedman Schultz, Associate Director for Education at Fairmount Water Works and William Penn Foundation Teacher Fellowship Program Manager, has had an extensive career in historic preservation and education. She taught at Bucks County Community College as an adjunct professor in the Historic Preservation Program, and was associate producer of a documentary about Italian Americans in World War II, which aired on PBS. She says “I love making connections for people related to history and the things that make us all connected as human beings – like water.”

Independence Seaport Museum
Jayla Washington, Dante Diggs, Kayla Callender, Shakeema Gaines, Jordan Edwards, Amia Joseph-Drew, Kawthar Aguibi, Andy Chen, Romeo Eddington, Victoria Oliveras-Rosas, Shannel Harley and Aretha Chin are the Seaport Museum’s 12 River Ambassadors who have done daily lab programs, water testing, and monitoring the wetlands throughout the summer. They catch and dissect fish for the public on Fridays, and have visited partner sites through Boating Consortium grants. River Ambassadors rowed, kayaked, and conducted water testing, monitoring, and cleanups at Glen Foerd, Bartram’s Gardens, Cooper River Lake with Urban Promise, and on the Delaware at Pennsauken with Wooden Boat Factory. They have also lead three workshops: storm drain labeling in Headhouse Square area, Rain Barrel construction, and a Basin clean up.

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
Dr. Jaclyn Rhoads currently serves as President of the Friends of the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge and Darby Creek Valley Association, both non-profit organizations that promote watershed education and community outreach in Pennsylvania. She also serves as the Assistant Executive Director of Pinelands Preservation Alliance. She received her doctorate degree in environmental policy from Drexel University and currently teaches environmental policy for Drexel University. As the founder of a citizens group in Delaware County, Delco’s Concerned Citizens for Environmental Change, Jaclyn has organized community programming geared toward watershed and environmental stewardship including planning the annual environmental summit at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. Under her leadership as President of the Board at John Heinz, the Friends have recruited new board members and independently tackled projects that have helped to foster the next generation of land and water stewards in the Delaware Watershed.

John James Audubon at Mill Grove
Swati Kumar
and Rupal Sharma are star volunteers with Mill Grove’s GLOBE training program. Together, then have organized volunteers to monitor both the Perkiomen Creek and Schuylkill River using the hydrology model of GLOBE.

Lehigh Gap Nature Center
Gerry Madden is a retired Fish and Boat Commission Deputy Waterways Conservation Officer from Philadlephia ana a Penn State Master Watershed Steward who volunteers with Lehigh Gap Nature Center. He also volunteers with the Acquashicola Pohopoco Watershed Conservancy and Pennsylvania Amphibian and Reptile Survey (PARS). He is being recognized for his passion for learning and teaching others about the natural world.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation at Gateway Park
Jim Cummings, as director of experiential learning at UrbanPromise, leads all activities of New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s UrbanTrekkers program, which engages middle and high school youth in hands-on, outdoor learning experiences. In 2006, at the age of 53, Jim sold his small business and began working at UrbanPromise full time. Each year since, UrbanTrekkers has expanded to offer additional experiential opportunities, including hiking, kayaking, camping, and their Urban BoatWorks program, which educates Camden youth in the craft of wooden boat-building. Jim believes the best way for young people to discover purpose and meaning is through education and strives to motivate his “Trekkers” to engage deeper in learning in all aspects of their lives.

Pocono Environmental Education Center
John P. Casey is the Trails Supervisor at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, National Park Service.  Not only does he organize work projects that help PEEC’s watershed, he was instrumental in helping organize its Earth Day “Watershed Awareness Day.” He is the person responsible for the DEWA Trail Stewards – a group of volunteers who come to the park (and specifically PEEC) to do work on the trails.  These volunteers have done a tremendous job of fixing the stairs/boardwalks that lead to the waterfall on the Tumbling Waters Trail, keeping the area trails and walking bridges open so that visitors can enjoy the local waterways, and they recently replaced a bog bridge on PEEC’s Scenic Gorge/Ridgeline Trail.

Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education
Bill Wankoff
is a Senior Environmental Corps volunteer who helps the Schuylkill Center monitor local stream quality; he is the data keeper and recorder for the group of 10 stream monitors.  He’s also a retired Philadelphia Water Department employee, so water runs through his blood!

Schuylkill River Heritage Area
Rob Kuhlman
is a long-time member of SRHA’s board of directors and former president of the board. He contributes a great deal of time, energy, and dedication to events, and is always the first person to volunteers for events, especially the annual Schuylkill River Sojourn and the Ride for the River. He is thoughtful, well-spoken and environmentally conscientious, and SRHA is very grateful to have him as part of the organization.

The Watershed Center (Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association)
Sonja Michaluk, 14, is a tenth-grader at Hopewell Valley Central High School. In addition to being a Watershed volunteer since 2011, she has received multiple national recognitions for her research, and presented at national and international conferences including National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., and the New York Academy of Sciences Bicentennial celebration in front of Dr. James Watson.  MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) named a minor planet for her. Encyclopedia Britannica reached out to her to write a definition of “Macroinvertebrate” and published it in 2016. Sonja has been the youngest member of the Society for Freshwater Science since 2014. She presented at the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Chapter meeting at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and the 2017 Annual Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. Despite her young age, Sonja has been a strong proponent for watershed protection and conservation for years. She has been an active member of the StreamWatch volunteer water quality monitoring program since 2011. Additionally, she has volunteered since 2014 with the Watershed Association Science Department to sort and identify macroinvertebrates collected from the Millstone River. Sonja has developed a curriculum called ” The Salamanders’ Dilemma, Stream assessment as an important tool to inform decisions” which has been asked to present at many venues. This past Spring, she was invited by the Delaware River Basin Commission to come and share her independent research on environmental modeling. Sonja is a true asset to the environmental community and has a very bright future ahead of her.

First State National Historical Park and The Nature Conservancy of Delaware
Under the guidance of its former director, Kathleen Craven, The Pilot School, which is committed to uncovering the unique educational challenges of each student, successfully achieved the vision of a new 50-acre campus that offers many opportunities for learning about the intricacies and stewardship of the natural world while providing boundless options for inventive play and outdoor learning in nearby fields and streams.

As a Principal Engineer with ForeSite Associates, Andrew Hayes led the design and planning of the new campus for The Pilot School which showcases the highest standards and innovation in stormwater management.  The designed stormwater system is integrated into every aspect of the built landscape so that the campus comes alive with rain.  The playground, outdoor classroom, and visitor experiences foster stewardship of the surrounding ecosystems through a deep love of everything water brings to our lives.

Tacony Creek Park
James Negron has been a young friend of TTF for several years now. He first became involved at TTF’s Summer Block Parties in 2014. He was eager to volunteer and helped out serving pretzels and water ice for the Tacony Creek Park community as part of the event. He’s since come to every block party and has invited friends and family members to join him. He has been an enthusiastic friend of the park and Tacony Creek; if only there were a hundred neighbors like James!

Tulpehaking Nature Center at the Abbott Marshlands
Lisa Fritzinger, with the Mercer County Division of Planning, has been an active supporter of the Abbott Marshlands for more than a decade. She was instrumental in making a nature center at the Marsh a reality, shepherding the project through years of planning, design, and the permitting process. She continues her participation as a member of the Friends for the Abbott Marshlands Executive Committee.