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The Story of My Life Through Trees by Regan Mangrum

Trees have been a constant motif in my life, although I’ve only just realized it while at college. I am currently a graduate student at Indiana University in the MPA-MSES dual degree program at O'Neill with a concentration in Ecology and Conservation. 

Personally, trees are places for community, friendship, growth, and learning.  Throughout elementary school, my friends and I would meet at a large tree (I’d need to go back to ID it, but I want to say it was some type of maple) by the playground every day during recess. Under our tree, we taught each other how to cartwheel and how to french braid. We played “house” and played with Littlest Pet Shop toys. When we got older, we talked about the 6th graduation and who we wanted to go to the dance with afterwards. When we were about to move schools, we talked about how excited we were to go to the high school and have our own lockers in 7th grade. That one singular tree brings back so many memories and shaped many of my friendships that I still have today.

Growing up, I remember going camping with my grandpa, Pappy. Almost every camping trip we went on, Pappy would find a persimmon and cut open the seeds to see what kind of weather it predicted. I’m not telling you that you should believe the myth yourself, but I will say that they were pretty accurate for those few following winters. Whenever I see a persimmon tree, I think back to those memories I made with my Pappy when I was younger.

Other than my grandpa telling me little facts about the trees around us, I have been fortunate to have such amazing teachers and professors that have shared their knowledge with me. In high school, my lovely teacher, Mrs. Meyer, taught my agriculture class how to ID the trees I walked past everyday in our courtyard and trees common in Indiana. Because of Mrs. Meyer, I’ll never forget to look for the “sandy trunk” of beech trees, to find the large leaves of sycamores by the water, to know that 5 needles means the tree is a white pine because “W-H-I-T-E” is 5 letters, and to discover the “helicopters” I had seen everywhere fall gracefully from silver maples. While at IU, Dr. Brian Forist, a lecturer with the Department of Health and Wellness Design in the School of Public Health, and Dr. Sarah Mincey, a Co-founder and the VP for CanopyBloomington, have further expanded my knowledge about tree identification, surveying, and tree care. Now, I know how to be a better tree steward and can share my knowledge to other people in the community.

Those are only a few examples of trees being a motif in my life, but I would consider them some of the most defining moments in my life. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the experiences I’ve had meeting at the tree everyday during recess or from learning about trees from outstanding teachers like Pappy, Mrs. Meyer, Dr. Forist, and Dr. Mincey. I joined Canopy so I could be a teacher figure for those around me and can share all the knowledge I’ve gained over the years!

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