Fordham Prep senior Preston Barker ‘24, a dedicated environmental enthusiast recently undertook an inspiring Eagle Scout project aimed to create a pollinator meadow along the Bronx River Parkway trail. The project, which took shape through collaboration with the Bronx River Parkway Reservation Conservancy (BRPRC), highlights Barker's commitment to addressing the decline in insect populations due to habitat loss, a critical issue exacerbated by global warming. Upon completion of the project, Barker was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout.
Barker's journey began with meticulous planning, as 90% of the project involved paperwork and coordination. Despite the roadblocks, he found support from many of his friends and family.
“It was so exciting to have all of the people that came to help me from my Boy Scout Troop 16 in New Rochelle and previous scout leaders from the troop I had transferred from. I also appreciated the support from my parents as well,” he said
The hands-on aspect of the project, coupled with the community's enthusiasm, made the endeavor truly rewarding for Barker.
The project's inspiration stemmed from Barker's lifelong connection with nature, fostered by frequent visits to the New York Botanical Garden, just across the street from Fordham Prep and the historic Rose Hill Campus. It was also amplified by his journey in 2022 to the Galapagos Islands as part of the Prep’s Global Education program as well as his involvement with the Boy Scouts of America. A key turning point was his engagement with Pollinator Pathways, an organization dedicated to creating and supporting pollinator gardens. Encouraged by President of the BRPRC Robert Deltorto, whom he had worked with in the past, Barker sought to make a positive impact on the environment by proposing the pollinator meadow.
Barker navigated numerous permit challenges with the Westchester Parks Department by adapting the project both in size and scope. The realization that the pollinator meadow would provide a habitat for crucial insects, bees, and birds fueled Barker's commitment to the cause. He juggled filing the necessary paperwork for the project with his high school coursework and successfully defended his Eagle Scout project in the fall of 2023.
Pollinator Pathways are corridors of natural plants free of pesticides that serve as a home and food source for pollinators such as birds and insects.
Reflecting on his high school journey at Fordham Prep, Barker emphasized the importance of service and justice in various contexts. He has actively participated in multiple Christian Service projects, including volunteering at Part of the Solution (POTS) and playing the clarinet with the Jazz Ensemble at Admissions Open House events. As a student at a Jesuit school, he has learned a lot about caring for the common home, as addressed by Pope Francis in the Laudato Siˊ. The 2015 encyclical speaks on environmental issues, calling for a renewed global commitment to caring for the planet and emphasizing the interconnectedness of ecological and social concerns.
“One of the points of the Grad at Grad is “committed to doing justice”,” Barker explained. The “Grad at Grad” is a set of characteristics or values emphasized by Jesuit schools, including being intellectually competent, open to growth, religious, loving, and committed to social justice.
“I found that justice has a lot of meanings. There is social justice, justice in terms of the law and rules, and then we also have the justice that our planet and the environment deserve. So making sure that you account for all these types of justice, and committing to your duty to make the world a better place is something I’ve learned through service in scouts and at the Prep,” he continued.
Barker hopes to attend Fordham University in the fall where he can have easy access to the New York Botanical Garden between classes. As he prepares to graduate from Fordham Prep, Barker's experience underscores the significance of commitment, prioritization, and an integrated approach to justice. His journey, marked by service and environmental stewardship, stands as a testament to the positive impact young men can have when dedicated to making the world a better place.