2017 Success Stories: BGSU graduate advocating for environmental education

Detroit native Tyeisha Hodges is ready to sprout a new generation of green leaders

By Julie Carle

Tyeisha Hodges grew up in Detroit, where the environment was not a frequent topic of conversation. Somewhere between Detroit and Bowling Green, she discovered a passion for environmental justice. Now she is ready to help make environmental issues part of the day-to-day dialogue for Detroit Public School students.

The May 2017 Bowling Green State University graduate will be a member of Ecoworks’ Youth Energy Squad, helping to cultivate the next generation of green leaders. Her BGSU education in environmental science as well as two internships have prepared her to be an advocate for change in the Detroit Public Schools. Working with youth from diverse backgrounds, she will facilitate hands-on service learning opportunities for the students that make their homes, schools and communities more sustainable.

After taking an environmental science class in high school, a seed was planted.

“All of my experiences at BGSU have empowered me to reach my full potential”

“I had never thought about the environment before that class,” Hodges recalled. “But then I realized, every day we can see the impact our environment has on our health, on ecology and a wide spectrum of issues.” At that point her future had a focus.

BGSU became the conduit for her future. The College of Arts and Sciences offered a degree in environmental science and she earned a scholarship as an accepted member of the Sidney A. Ribeau Presidents Leadership Academy (PLA).

In addition to the leadership building of PLA and academic rigors of the Department of Environment and Sustainability, Hodges’ BGSU experience included Chi Alpha Epsilon, the SMART (Students of Color Mentoring, Aiding, Retaining and Teaching) Program, the Office of Admissions Student Recruitment Team and two internships for her major.

Her work with SMART, Chi Alpha Epsilon National Honor Society and the Office of Admissions added to her leadership skills, Hodges said.

“We often talked about academics and campus life,” she said of her work with other students. She often shared her positive experiences as a group leader, and a service-oriented, dedicated student. “My goal was to help them be successful in college and adapt to BGSU.”

The time spent with five students involved with SMART paid off; all of her mentees returned to BGSU and are academically strong, she added.

While those opportunities provided leadership and organizational skills, the internships offered the additional benefit of real-world experiences dealing with environmental issues.

During the first internship with the Sierra Club of Detroit in 2015, she helped implement rain barrel or water-catching systems in three areas of Detroit.

“I organized site visits, learned about how to build a rain garden and coordinated workshops to teach the community how to create rain gardens,” she said.

“It was a good learning experience. My dad gardens, but I didn’t know much about it. I surprisingly enjoyed learning about gardening.”

The Ecoworks internship in 2016 was a completely different experience. She worked with three hired high school students to visit homes in metro Wayne County to talk about the importance of weatherizing homes.

“We tried to educate homeowners about how to save money and at the same time save the environment with things like sealing doors and windows,” she said.

At the end of the summer, she was offered full-time employment after graduation.

“After some self-reflection, I decided working with youth in education and environmental science is exactly where I wanted to be,” she said. “It felt like the right job for me - helping my community, empowering students and educating others who are not aware of environmental issues.”

“All of my experiences at BGSU have empowered me to reach my full potential,” Hodges said.

She looks forward to mentoring the next generation of recyclers, environmentalists and individuals who are aware of environmental issues and able to make a difference in their communities.