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
Olivia Chitayat, Sustainable Development and Climate Change
Olivia Chitayat originally hails from Long Island but has spent time all along the eastern coast of the US. She studied Chemistry and Environmental Studies at Georgetown University where she also became actively involved in student coalition organizing on issues such as climate change and an LGBTQ resource center. After finishing undergrad in 2010 she spent time at Occupy Wall Street where she ultimately got connected to farm projects in upstate NY, then later in Tennessee at The Farm (an intentional community). She has focused her studies at AUNE on bioremediation, the use of bacteria, fungi and plants to clean up pollution. She hopes to use this technique to create more green space for/with communities.
Ben Curroto, Environmental Education
Ben Currotto is a Baltimore native who grew up camping in the woods of central Maryland. He studied English at Skidmore College, where he explored the intersections of poetry and and environmental thought. His summers were spent at a nature-based summer camp, facilitating wonderment in nature with children and leading biking, farming and camping trips with teens. He moved back to Baltimore following graduation to grow as an outdoor educator and participate in the local arts and music community. He worked for two years as an educator, farmer and beekeeper at an urban farm working to address food access disparities in the city. He comes to AUNE to explore place-based youth education and resilient agriculture systems.
Tori Dahl, Environmental Education
Tori Dahl hails from Minnesota where, from an early age, she fell in love with playing in dirt and getting her hands muddy. She attended California Lutheran University (CLU) in Thousand Oaks, CA where she majored in Biology and English with a minor in Environmental Studies. After graduation in 2014, Tori spent a year in the Episcopal Service Corps serving the city of St. Louis, MO and working at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and EarthDance Organic Farm School, both located in Ferguson, MO. in Saint Louis, MO. Among other things, Tori’s responsibilities at EarthDance included coordinating a six month apprenticeship program for 33 apprentices, affectionately known as (future) “farmies.” She is proud to have coined the term “farmily” for the EarthDance crew. EarthDance is where Tori’s interest in community-based sustainable agriculture and agricultural education transformed into an understanding of the ways agriculture combines all of her passions: community, food, sustainability/environment, justice, and deep love and compassion for all.
Besides actively participating in growing, cooking, and eating delicious foods, Tori loves to play music, create poetry, spend time with friends and family, wait around for her dog to play with her, and stay active through running, swimming, biking, skiing, and more.
Jennifer Trapani, Environmental Education
Jennifer is a local of upstate New York where she spent her formative years captivated by science. She attended the University at Buffalo where she developed her passion through their Biological Sciences program. She took a semester off from pursuing her degree to participate in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Fellowship at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. After her undergraduate experiences, Jennifer spent the next two years as a Docent at the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park. Through her educational interactions with the public, her desire to pursue a Master’s degree for environmental education became clear.
Cooking and Italian food traditions are an integral part of Jennifer’s life. She is excited to share her passion for cooking fresh food with local community members. Additionally, she is excited to foster a stronger sense of community through hands-on educational workshops centered on addressing food insecurity.
Past CGC Coordinators
Marisa Conte, Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability
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 MS in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability, and is overly excited to be a part of Community Garden Connections.
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 BA 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.
Andrew Graham, Environmental Education
Andrew attended a Waldorf school from pre-school through 12th grade, and had many wonderful opportunities. One of those opportunities was a foreign exchange to France during half of his junior year, after hosting a French student during his sophomore year.
After high school he took a gap year and worked at an outdoor education center before backpacking around Europe with his girlfriend. For the following three summers he worked at a Quaker camp in northern Virginia. That experience solidified his choice to be part of the Religious Society of Friends. His family moved to Vermont in 2004, and his father died of cancer that same year. He started college at the University of Vermont, and graduated in 2008 with a BS in Community & International Development.
The following two years he 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, Vermont, respectively. He spent another year in Burlington before moving to Portland, Oregon, in 2011. He lived at an urban farm co-op there for almost three years, prior to moving to Keene to come to Antioch University, where he is pursuing an MS in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Education.
Andrew loves to cook and all things related to food. He’s a proponent of developing a culture of healthy masculinity in our society. He is anti-capitalist, with localism and communal resource-sharing being two of his chief values. He currently lives with two friends who are students in the Integrated Education program.
Marie DiBenedetto, Environmental Education
Marie hails from Allentown, Pennsylvania. She went to Pace University in New York City, 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 and 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.
Peter Jenkins, Science Teacher Certification
Peter grew up in northern Vermont on a homestead with extensive vegetable gardens where they grew most of our produce for the year and stored crops through the winter in a rootcellar. 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 BS in Environmental Science from the University of Vermont (UVM) in 2007. After UVM she went on to be an apprentice with the Education Staff at Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont 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.
At Antioch she will be working towards an MS in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Education, with a focus on community gardening/food systems.
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