Growing and Giving Roots
Lubin graduate student Oluwabukola Oyalabu ’16 revisits her childhood roots while helping build playgrounds and teaching children the value of sustainability through her 2014 Wilson Center Summer Funded Internship at the Trust for Public Land.
When Lubin School of Business graduate student Oluwabukola Oyalabu ’16 attended P.S. 203 for elementary school, she couldn’t have imagined that her career would come full circle and reconnect her to her childhood roots. But thanks to the Helene and Grant Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship, which has served Pace and the non-profit and social enterprise community since 2005, and its Summer Funded Internship program that places up to 15 Pace students in full-time summer internships with New York social enterprises and human service non-profit organizations each year, Oyalabu had the chance to intern at the very organization that modernized and rebuilt her elementary school’s playground.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a non-profit organization that creates parks and helps protect land across the country to provide current and future generations with healthy, sustainable communities for years to come. Some of the organization’s projects in New York City include salvaging 69 community gardens, helping design and build nearly 200 playgrounds in public schools (including Oyalabu’s), and acquiring six acres of Williamsburg waterfront property to recreate the East River State Park.
Oyalabu, a dual-degree international business and marketing management student, spent her summer with TPL’s NYC Playgrounds Program, which strives to ensure that children in New York City have a public park to play in within a five-minute walk of their homes. She helped the department evaluate and identify new sites for future land conservation projects and community playground programs, assisted with design and construction plans, taught school children about gardening, and planned and developed marketing and PR collateral for the organization.
“It was really interesting and different because [the experience] was hands-on throughout the entire process,” she says. “We would go to different schools and we would teach [students] different aspects like, ‘This is what a weed is, this is why you can’t have a weed in the garden.’ We taught them those different aspects and a lot of them went home and implemented those designs in their own households.”
Oyalabu stresses that the projects TPL and the NYC Playgrounds Program work on are more than just building playgrounds for children—a strong emphasis is placed on sustainability and education when the organization transforms a blacktop into a playground. For Oyalabu, who studied computer science during her undergrad years and now business at Pace, teaching children about their relationship to the environment offered her a chance to not only educate others, but also to learn a few things herself. “It was kind of cool to be learning at the same time and have the same questions that they would have, and be able to relate to the children,” she says.
Her experience at TPL contributes to her reason for attending graduate school specifically at Pace University. After working with computers most of her life and earning a BA in Computer Science, Oyalabu wanted to give herself the opportunity to do more with her career and branch out while also giving back to her community. Pace’s location and ability to provide her with real-world experiences as a student made it the ideal place for her. When she discovered the TPL internship through the Wilson Center and learned that the organization had worked in her own community by redoing her childhood playground, Oyalabu knew she had found a special experience.
“I knew what [the playground] was like before it got redone and I saw that it got redone, but I never knew who did it. To come years down the line and find out, yes, this is the organization that did it; yes, these are the exact people who did it, who still remember your principal, who still remember your teachers; and then have the opportunity to work with them and further this, was really amazing for me.”
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