For Chad Honl MEd '07 there may never be enough trees in Portland.
A longtime Portland native, Honl received the Bill Naito Community Trees Award this past October after he and his class of seventh-graders from Vestal Elementary transformed 15,000 square feet of asphalt at the school into a grass playing field bordered by 20 trees and more than 500 shrubs.
A certified arborist, Honl has always had a passion for bringing trees to urban areas. While spending time in Bolivia, he was inspired by the abundance of public fruit trees in poorer neighborhoods. The idea stuck in his head and upon return he founded the Portland Fruit Tree Giveaway—an annual event held in Portland that partners with tree nurseries around the city to distribute free fruit trees to needy communities. "My goal was to create a fruitful city," says Honl. Now in its 12th year, the Fruit Tree Giveaway has planted over 25,000 fruit and native trees in Portland neighborhoods.
For Honl, mixing his arborist skills with the classroom was a clear path. "I've always known I wanted to be a teacher," he says, adding in reference to the middle schoolers, "I just love the energy. They want to learn, want to be hands on." Honl sees middle school as a time when students can start to see community needs and take on projects that make a difference.
Looking back, Honl points out that the real success at Vestal Elementary was not just a field of new grass and growing trees, but the fact that the students "were involved in the entire process, from grant writing to then going out and planting the trees. It was a dream for them as much as a dream for me. That's the biggest thing I want to leave with them—that they can dream it and then create it."
By Tyler Brain