Meet SCA Community Engagement Fellow Kevin Borja


New York City is so much more than bright lights and busy streets. Hidden behind the glitz and glamor is a series of environmental challenges. Some like mitigating the urban heat island effect, a phenomenon where urban centers are significantly warmer than the surrounding suburban or rural area due to increased human activity, are unique to densely populated metropolitan areas. But many are surprised to learn that New York also has challenges similar to that of a national park, such as the conservation of freshwater wetlands that act as the habitat for local wildlife.

Thankfully, the Big Apple is also home to a number of intelligent and innovative folks who want to tackle each of those challenges head-on. I had the pleasure of working with such a team at New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation under the Sustainable Facilities Division based out of Randall’s Island. Nestled at the meeting point of the East and Harlem Rivers, the island was an often-overlooked, but important recreational space and nature preserve — the perfect urban laboratory. Our team, under the leadership of SCA alumnus Max Lerner, explored emerging green technologies like experimental green roofs and new composting techniques, all with the goal to reduce the carbon footprint of this grand city create a more sustainable NYC.

My expertise on the sustainability team was a little bit different than others; my background is firmly rooted in the non-natural. I am a recent graduate of New York University, where I studied urban design. Within my education, I learned about city government and community reactions to infrastructural proposals, ecologically-friendly design and the impact of buildings on the environment, as well as the basic mechanics behind the engineering involved.

With NYC Parks and Recreation, I took what I learned at NYU and applied to our projects across the city. I’ve helped to design and implement a green roof that worked in tandem with a thermal heating system, integrated planer ballasts onto solar panels to reduce the ambient temperature of the air to strengthen the solar panels’ efficiency, and spearheaded redesigns of underserved parks in the outer boroughs. All that environmental work radiated out from Randall’s Island spreading to the far reaches of New York City. I will always hold that island and my time there near and dear to my heart.

With that in mind, I’m happy to announce that I’ll be heading back to my old stomping grounds to help Nestlé and SCA host #NestléCares, a national day of volunteering across Nestlé’s 120 U.S. hometowns. Nestlé and SCA have teamed up to host conservation events in ten different cities on August 10th. With their help, the SCA will be able to continue its work building conservation leaders and engaging local New Yorkers with hands-on projects like restoring wetlands and removing invasive plant species. Our collaboration with NYC Parks and Recreation, and the Randall’s Island Park Alliance, will help educate Nestlé and local volunteers about sustainable practices while letting them explore the murky depths of this urban oasis.

Now #NestléCares isn’t just happening in New York; there will be service events happening simultaneously around the U.S., including parks across ten different cities. I don’t want to divulge too much information, but I can say that there’s a lot of exciting stuff in the works. Do keep an eye out for event updates and blog posts from my colleagues and me but until then, this is your SCA Community Engagement Fellow from San Diego, CA.

Click here to learn more about the #NestléCares events

Student Conservation Association
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