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What is environmental justice? Leadership Development at SMSJ.

Fifteen students from the University of Rochester gathered at SMSJ yesterday to explore environmental justice. They are enrolled in a class entitled:The politics of Nature: Race, Gender and the Environment. The University is partnering with St. Mark's and St. John's to get a first hand look at how a Christian community is confronting poverty and creating safe places through gardening.

The Rev. Dr. Cindy Rasmussen led the students in a discussion about Christianity and the environment. At SMSJ, the gardens are an expression of God's love and generosity. We experience the gardens as a safe and healing place. The class went further and talked about gardens as a moral space.

Our Americorp Member, Leslie Knox, led the group on a tour which included sampling the vegetables.

But this isn't just a class that reads and talks, this is a class of action. The students have an opportunity to contribute by choosing their own adventure. For their final project in this class, they get to create change through a community oriented action project like write a grant, host a fund raiser, or help develop local urban gardening school curriculum.

As we walked back to the church from the garden tour, a young boy on his bike rode up to Cindy and asked "Who are these people?" She replied, "They're students from the University of Rochester and they're touring the gardens." What a sight for him to see fifteen college students from all over the world in his neighborhood. Just their presence created some change.

St. Mark's and St. John's has created a venue for learning, for leadership development, for healing, and for bringing fresh vegetables to a challenged neighborhood in the city.