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RIT professor Josh Goldowitz speaks to a group of Marion Junior-Senior High School students on Earth Day.

Each year on April 22, millions of people celebrate Earth Day to recognize the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

Jennifer Short made sure that Marion Junior-Senior High School did its part this year.

Mrs. Short, who works in the main office, organized MJSHS’ first Earth Day contest and also helped arrange a visit from members of Rochester Institute of Technology’s Environmental Sustainability, Health and Safety program.

As part of the contest, Mrs. Short asked all students and staff to participate by either teaching members of the school community about an environmental organization or sharing ideas on how they can reduce their environmental footprint.

She received 50 submissions, including many that she shared on the daily announcements. She also received prize donations from several organizations, including Lollypops & Polkadots consignment shop in Marion, laundry strips from TruEarth, bracelets from 4ocean, bamboo toilet paper from Cloud Paper and a backpack from Patagonia.

Two new recycling programs - one  for pens, pencils and markers and the other for PPE masks - were also started.

Professor Josh Goldowitz and lecturer Grant Esler (aka “Profesler”) made four presentations to students and staff that highlighted RIT’s Environmental Sustainability, Health and Safety program. They were joined by 2020 Marion graduate McKenna Short, who is a first-year student in the program.

“In a broader sense, I want the students to know that they are interested in something, then they can pursue it,” said Goldowitz, who teaches environmental geology, hydrology and environmental monitoring and measurement. “If they are interested in the environment, they can pursue that and get a great job.” 

Marion sophomore Jacob Couperus demonstrates wearing a Level A Haz-Mat suit.

Goldowitz shared several highlights of RIT’s program, including its small class sizes, co-op opportunities and job placement percentage of 100.

Esler, a lecturer in occupational health and safety, worked at Kodak for 29 years at Kodak before coming to RIT in 2011. He is certified in occupational safety, industrial hygiene and ergonomics.

His message to Marion students:

“That this is interesting, applicable, purposeful and fun,” Esler said.

He then recalled the words of his Ralph Smith, his professor in graduate school at the University of Michigan.

“If it’s not fun, it’s not industrial hygiene.”

One of the highlights of the presentation was having students try on a Level A Haz-Mat suit.

“It was kind of hard to move your head,” eighth-grader Caleb Spaulding said.

“It was cool, I felt like I was on a spaceship,”said sophomore Jacob Couperus. “My legs got real hot, too.”

McKenna Short, who is Jennifer’s daughter, assisted her professors and is enjoying her experience in the program.

“I like the hands-on part of it,” she said.

She also has fond memories of planting trees for Earth Day while in elementary school and learning about recycling at a young age.

Which makes sense as all of this is personal for her mother.

“I hope to have grandchildren someday and I want them to experience this planet,” Jennifer Short said. The Earth is something that we all share and need to take care of. If I have grandchildren, I want them to be able to see dolphins some day and not have to ask ‘what did a dolphin look like?’ because they are extinct.”