August 12, 2011

New law students to help with public service effort

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- When first-year students at the Southern Illinois University School of Law attend three days of orientation next week, they will have the chance to do more than meet instructors and gain insight into surviving the intensity that comes with starting law school.

There will also be time to cut back vegetation, clear downed tree limbs, and help establish a native prairie area.  The students will participate in a volunteer work day at Pyles Fork Preserve in Carbondale.  This is the first year the law school is including a community public service project with orientation exercises.

The work day along the preserve’s one-mile trail is entirely voluntary for students and will run from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., Friday, Aug. 19.   The event is in cooperation with Green Earth, Inc., which oversees six preserves totaling 220 acres in Carbondale.

The law school anticipates 122 first-year students will comprise the class of 2014.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend the event.  SIU law school students, instructors, along with Green Earth, Inc., officials will be available for interviews.  For more information contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach at 618/453-8700.  To get to the Pyles Fork Preserve, go to the intersection of North Wall and East Main streets in Carbondale, and proceed about four blocks north on North Wall Street, until you see Attucks Park on right. Walk across the parking lot toward a line of trees; the trailhead includes a large sign “Green Earth Pyles Fork Preserve.”

 Students will be able to participate in a project that helps introduce them to the community and allows them to begin developing “a greater appreciation for public service,” Cynthia L. Fountaine, law school dean, said.  Law school professors, upper-level students, and student leaders will also be there.  There will also be other projects at the site for students who don’t like to work in the dirt, Fountaine said.

“This will give them an opportunity to bond with each other and become integrated in the community,” she said.  “They will have a chance to get to know each other in a setting outside of the traditional, sometimes stressful, law school setting, while also giving back to their community.”The projects will include string trimming the entire length of the trail; re-marking the trail tree placards, clearing fallen trees, and hand cutting vegetation, sapling trees and shrubs for a new prairie area.  There will be a picnic lunch once work is complete.The students will also have two days of traditional orientation events, Aug. 17-18, prior to the Pyles Fork Preserve project.  The fall semester begins Monday, Aug. 22.

Stephanie Eichholz, executive director of Carbondale-based, non-profit land conservation group, said Green Earth holds volunteer work days the third Saturday of each month.  Between 10 and 20 people regularly volunteer; the highest number of volunteers to date was about 65 people from three organizations.

“We are very excited.  This is an amazing opportunity,” Eichholz said.

Created in 1974, the organization’s mission is to acquire, preserve and provide public access to natural areas in Carbondale, according to its website.  Hiram H. Lesar, founding dean of the law school, was one of the organization’s first board members.

Eichholz hopes participating students gain an appreciation of “green spaces that are readily accessible to people within the community.”

“I would really love to see the students feel some sense of accomplishment and ownership of the site.  We would love to have them come back and visit,” she said.

More information about Green Earth or volunteer opportunities with the organization is available at