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Left to right: Associate Extension Professor Thomas Worthley, City of Hartford Fire Chief Reginald Freeman, Naieem Kelly, City of Hartford Arborist Heather Dionne.

Now in its sixth year, UConn’s Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA) has worked with more than 115 teens throughout Connecticut on ten-month individual conservation projects that have directly benefited their local community and environment. NRCA students present their conservation work to more than 300 environmental professionals at the Connecticut Conference on Natural Resources and graduate from the program as Connecticut Conservation Ambassadors.

On Monday, April 3, the City of Hartford Public Works Department and the Tree Advisory Commission presented a certificate of excellence to Naieem Kelly, a sophomore at Watkinson School and NRCA student, for his commitment to natural resource conservation and the sustainable use of the environment. Kelly partnered with Heather Dionne, City of Hartford arborist; Herb Virgo of Keney Park Sustainability; and Tom Worthley of UConn Extension and the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment to quantify the monetary value of urban trees and develop a plan to re-purpose wood from diseased or dying trees. He put his plan into action by constructing a reclaimed wood bench from a dead ash tree in Hartford’s Bushnell Park.

Kelly’s bench is on display at Hartford City Hall through April, after which it will be relocated to Bushnell Park with a plaque describing the importance of urban trees. Kelly plans to expand on his urban forestry project through his participation in UConn’s NRCA Conservation Training Partnerships program this upcoming summer.