COLTS NECK, NJ: In the afternoon of Wednesday, June 9, students from Colts Neck High School met with the committee members from Colts Neck Township’s Shade Tree Commission at 5 Point Park to give back to their community. The 2020-2021 school year has been a rocky uphill battle as students had the difficult task of learning while simultaneously staying safe from COVID-19. During the beginning of the school year, students from Colts Neck High School’s Law and Public Service Program were tasked with solving a problem in their community. 

    “We knew we wanted to do something with the parks in Colts Neck just because of how Covid has been getting everybody outside more. We’re at these parks all the time and thought it might be nice to do something for them,” student Cassidy Friend said. “We ultimately decided to talk to the Shade Tree Commission about planting a tree here because we just got the new turf field.” 

    The Shade Tree Commission’s reaction to the proposal could not be more positive. “It was rewarding to work with the local youth who are our future. If they know we are committed to helping the community then that just pays it forward and then other people will want to do the same thing,” Sue Fitzpatrick, Township Committee Woman said. The students were thrilled to see that the Shade Tree Commission members were so enthusiastic to help them. 
    The process of making this day possible took a lot of planning. This collaboration has taken around four months. Shade Tree Commission Chair, Vito Viola, explained, “The students came to multiple meetings and we worked together to figure out the best type of tree to plant here.” 

    The students raised funds for the tree themselves with the help of small businesses in their community. “We took our donations mainly from a tip jar system, but we had big help from Orlando’s Italian Restaurant in Colts Neck and the Colts Neck General Store & Deli. They know the town really well and were super eager to help us,” student Tyler Garfield explained. 

    The students spent a lot of time researching and saving up to buy the perfect tree to protect the sun from fans. “The Shade Tree Commission provided us with the resources to help us research trees that were native to this area, deer resistant, and high enough that you could still see the field.” student Morgan Leung said. Together, the students and committee members decided to purchase a Thundercloud Plum Tree from Brock Farms in Freehold. They planted the tree right behind the bleachers overlooking the turf field at 5 Point Park, right across the street from Colts Neck High School. It’s a perfect spot for fans to watch a soccer game without having to worry about the heat. 

“I’m super excited that we were finally able to plant this tree after so long!” Morgan Leung exclaimed and students Angela Maggiore and Brandon Popescu agreed. Leung explained that they were able to raise $450 in total and with the remaining funds they plan to purchase and plant another shade tree in the area or at another local park. They are also considering donating the money to another organization that works to improve parks. 

Although the day the tree was planted was a significantly hot one, the future shade and protection from the heat will be worth it. The students at Colts Neck High School, along with the Township officials, did an efficient and organized job working to help their community and environment. Their contributions to their town will not go unnoticed, and The Shade Tree Commission hopes that future students and youth will put in the same work that these students did. If you find yourself on the bleachers overlooking the turf field at Five Point Park, one day you’ll be protected from the sun by a beautiful tree. Remember the story of how that tree was once just an idea created by a group of high school students, and how that tree took a hardworking and collaborative journey to get to where it is.