Garden Site Coordinators serve as liaisons, educators, and support staff to enhance participating community members’ ability to establish, tend, and reap their garden spoils. These students also provide on-site informal educational support to community team members on a consistent basis informed by participant interests and best practices of other successful programs. These best practices relate to the specific age/cultural contexts of a given garden site team.
Current CGC Coordinators
Marisa Conte, Environmental Education
Marisa was born and raised on the south shore of Long Island, New York. She received her BA in Environmental Humanities from Stony Brook University. A big part of Marisa’s life revolves around traveling and the ocean. Prior to AUNE, Marisa lived and worked on a farm on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii. This is where her love for farming and producing sustainable food was created. At AUNE, Marisa is working towards a M.S. in Environmental Education, and is overly excited to be a part of Community Garden Connections. In her spare time you can often find her writing environmental literature, doing yoga, cooking delicious vegan food, or dancing to some Rock ’n’ Roll on vinyl.
Andrew Graham, Environmental Education
“I went to a Waldorf school from pre-school through 12th grade, and had many wonderful opportunities. One of those was doing a foreign exchange to France during half of my junior year, after hosting a French student during my sophomore year.
After high school I took a gap year and worked at an outdoor education center before backpacking around Europe with my girlfriend. For the following three summers I worked at a Quaker camp in northern Virginia, and solidified my choice to be part of the Religious Society of Friends. My family moved to Vermont in 2004, and my father died of cancer that same year. I started college at the University of Vermont, and graduated in 2008 with a B.S. in Community & International Development.
The following two years I spent in AmeriCorps service: one year in the National Civilian Community Corps based out of Denver and one year with AmeriCorps VISTA based in Burlington, VT, respectively. I spent another year in Burlington before moving out to Portland, OR in 2011. I lived at an urban farm co-op there for almost three years, prior to moving to Keene to come to Antioch University, where I am concentrating in Environmental Education student and a Coordinator with Community Garden Connections.
I love cooking and all things to do with food, and I am a proponent of developing a culture of healthy masculinity in our society. I am an anti-capitalist, with localism and communal resource-sharing being two of my chief values. I currently live with two friends who are students in the Integrated Education program.”
Marie DiBenedetto, Environmental Education
Marie hails from Allentown, PA. She went to Pace University in NY, NY majoring in Environmental Studies and History. Since graduating in 2008, she has been fortunate to have many incredible experiences to share her passion for educating and growing food with children. Marie worked as an Outdoor Educator for middle school students in both New England & Colorado, gardened with elementary school students in California, worked at farm camps and led two trail crews with the Student Conservation Association. She is pumped to be an active part of the Keene community and is ready to get her hands dirty growing healthy, delicious food with folks around town.
Cynthia Espinosa, Environmental Education
Prior to enrolling in AUNE to study environmental education, Cynthia worked in an agricultural nonprofit in Holyoke, Massachusetts, as the farm program manager, where she discovered her passion for educating the community about food justice movements, gardening, and Latino connections to food. She designed her B.A. in Sustainable Food Management at University of Massachusetts Amherst and was highly involved in the empowerment of women in higher education through Greek life. She enjoys learning about the food systems and traditions of other cultures through cooking. She is very excited to become active in the Keene community by assisting in growing food and building community through CGC.
Peter Jenkins, Science Teacher Certification
Peter grew up in northern Vermont on a homestead with extensive vegetable gardens. We grew most of our produce for the year and stored crops through the winter in a rootcellar, he says. Peter received his BA in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic in 2009. Since graduating he has taught at outdoor education centers around New England and led wilderness expeditions for teens in the White Mountains. With CGC, Peter is eager to return to his gardening roots and share in the joy of bringing fresh veggies to the table.
Sara Powell, Environmental Education
Hailing originally from the Catskill Mountains of New York State, Sara received her B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Vermont in 2007. At Antioch she will be working towards a M.S. in Environmental Education, with a focus on community gardening/food systems. After UVM she went on to be an apprentice with the Education Staff at Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT. Shelburne is where her passion for all things farm-food related really took shape. Her professional experiences include: production vegetable farming, residential Outdoor Education, studying Native Bees and Ants, and cooking professionally. She is an avid home gardener, and is really excited for the opportunity to help others grow their own food through Community Garden Connections, and she can’t think of a better way to become part of the Keene community.
Past CGC Coordinators
Andrew Herrick, Science Teacher Certification
Originally from northern Vermont, Andrew received his BS while studying Plant and Soil Science at UVM and went on to manage a diverse vegetable farm for four years in Post Mills, VT. Besides farming, Andrew enjoys coaching soccer, teaching, learning, skiing, exploring, and promoting respect and kindness for all. As a new member of the Keene community, he is excited to share his passion for food and increase community resilience through equal access to healthy and local food.
Michael Hightower, Environmental Education
Prior to enrolling at Antioch University to study Environmental Education, Michael Hightower taught 8th grade U.S. History in Austin, TX, after graduating with a degree in Geography from the University of Texas at Austin (Hook ‘em!). Beyond being a devoted classroom teacher, Michael served as academic team leader, service learning committee chair, grade-level curriculum coordinator, and helped start a school garden. Above all else, Michael is an educator with an unflagging commitment to student and community empowerment, through place-based sustainability education. Michael’s work as a CGC co-coordinator has ignited a newfound, but impassioned dedication to fighting for food justice, increasing access to the local food system, and building self-efficacy in the garden, in the kitchen, in life. Michael is currently working as an intern for the Cheshire County Conservation District designing, implementing, and evaluation community-based cooking education.
Allan Pearce, MS Candidate, Environmental Studies
Allan Pearce is attending Antioch University to further his education in Environmental Studies concentrating in Sustainable Development and Climate Change. Allan also hails from Michigan and received his B.S.E. from the University of Michigan in Materials Science and Engineering. After a stint as an engineer, Allan has been working and traveling all over the West Coast and Rocky Mountain states. Allan has worked for many organizations with interests ranging from farmer’s markets to solar power development to National Park use. In his free time, Allan loves to be outdoors hiking, biking, skiing, and also eating. He is looking forward to sharing a passion for local food and the connections that gardens establish.
Karen Alsen, MS Candidate, Environmental Studies
Karen grew up on the south shore of Long Island, NY and has spent the last few years living in Brooklyn. Karen is passionate about environmental justice and has worked extensively in low-income NYC neighborhoods, gardening and educating along the Bronx River. In 2010, Karen travelled to South America with a project called Encouraging Arts, a series of art, music and empowerment workshops. Karen is interested in community building at the intersections of food security, environmental conservation and art. She is currently on a path to receiving an MS in Environmental Education from Antioch University and is thrilled to be part of the CGC family.
Caity Stuart, MS Candidate, Environmental Studies
Caity Stuart is a graduate student at Antioch University in the Environmental Studies department concentrating in Environmental Education. Graduating with a BA in History and a cognate (self-designed minor) in Environmental Justice from Anderson University in Indiana, Caity comes to Antioch with a passion to make healthy and sustainable food more accessible to all people. Before coming to Keene, Caity created a new environmental program at her former university, played Park Ranger for the National Park Service in Virginia, and most recently designed environmental education curriculum for religious groups. If not studying, you can find Caity at the local farmer’s markets, exploring New England’s historic gems, eating delicious food, or sampling maple syrup. And of course learning more how to create food security in her community.
Libby McCann, Core Faculty & Environmental Education Director, Antioch University New England
Jean Kayira, Core Faculty & Environmental Education, Antioch University New England