Green Team turns class project into blueberry planting event on UPJ campus


Students plant blueberry bushes outside of UPJ’s Nursing and Health Sciences building.

Josalyn McMillan, Editor-in-Chief

On Apr. 7, Pitt-Johnstown students gathered outside of the campus’s Nursing and Health Sciences building to take part in the planting of blueberry bushes, an idea that was originally conceived as a class project.

UPJ chemistry faculty member Dr. Manisha Nigam teaches the school’s green chemistry and sustainability course.

As a part of the class requirements, the students propose a sustainability project on campus. Last year, Nigam’s students proposed the idea to plant blueberries.

The idea was just meant to be a class project and never supposed to be put into action. That is until Nigam heard that the campus’s Green Team was restarting.

Nigam reached out to president of the UPJ Green Team and senior biology major Lexi Augustine about the proposal that her students had.

Augustine jumped in to help when the project needed a leader. She gathered information about pricing, organized the planting event, and worked with some of the original proposal writers to revise the proposal.

Nigam wrote and sent her own mentorship proposal to the school requesting funding, for which the group was rewarded with a grant through the Alice Water Fund. They were able to secure just over $900 to purchase 30 blueberry plants from Stuver’s Riverside Nursery in Johnstown.

Nigam told the students they are “leaving behind a legacy.” Years down the road, the students will be able to revisit campus, see the plants in full bloom and remember their contribution to the school.

“This is such a wonderful initiative, and I really appreciate the administration’s support in terms of funding,” she said.

The group reached out to other student volunteers from the Green Team, National Biological Honor Society Beta Beta Beta, and the UPJ chapter of the American Chemical Society for help planting.

The students even got the opportunity to present their plan for the blueberry project at Pitt-Johnstown’s annual undergraduate research conference, SPACE, The Symposium for the Promotion of Academic and Creative Enquiry, on Wednesday, Apr. 6.

Augustine talked about the legacy of the project and where she hopes to go from here. “I’m hoping that this will kind of snowball into more events like this,” she said, “It’s really about getting students together on campus and doing something that’s gonna have an impact for their community and their environment.”