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Lewis University Receives Forest Preserve Partnership Award



Photo for: Lewis University Receives Forest Preserve Partnership Award

Photo Caption: Lewis University receives the Forest Preserve's Appreciation of Partners Award on February 13. Pictured from left to right are: Lewis University representatives John Lerczak and Laura Wilmarth Tyna and Forest Preserve Board President Kenneth Harris and Chief Operating Officer Ralph Schultz. (Photo by Cindy Cain)

Lewis University received the Appreciation of Partners award for 2019 during the Forest Preserve’s Board of Commissioners’ meeting in February 2020. 

Each year, the District selects its award honorees from dozens of partnering organizations, and recipients are recognized and awarded a plaque by the Forest Preserve’s Board.

The Romeoville university earned its award for the university’s ongoing assistance with preserve restoration including brush control and seed collection, preserve shoreline cleanup, District programming and more. In fact, Lewis students have volunteered for several Forest Preserve departments, from police to operations to visitor services. 

“Their work and their commitment are valuable, and they help us achieve our goals,” said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve’s chief operating officer. 

The partnership with Lewis began with Lee Witkowski, the District’s longtime volunteer interpreter at Lake Renwick Preserve in Plainfield and steward at Keepataw Preserve in Lemont. Witkowski, who teaches environmental biology at Lewis, wanted to give his students real-life experiences in the field. More recently, other professors at Lewis also have become involved, and are using volunteer opportunities with the District as teachable moments for their students. Those professors are James Burke, Steven D'Aquila, Laurette Lieson and Steven Nawara. 

Laura Wilmarth Tyna, director of community engaged learning at Lewis, and John Lerczak, the university’s director of sustainability and facilities administration, accepted the partnership award. 

“I just want to thank you all so much for this honor,” Tyna said during the Board meeting. 

Tyna said it's rewarding to see how the students use what they've learned in the classroom on Forest Preserve projects and activities.

“It makes it hands on, it makes it real,” she said. “ … we really value (this partnership) and we’re very much looking forward to continuing our collaboration into the future.”

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