Kiasha Huling graduated from CPI in the Fall of 2019, where she learned how planning can help her achieve her goal of a greener and fairer Philadelphia. Trees and green spaces are central to Kiasha’s sense of community. As the Executive Director of UC Green, Kiasha’s number one goal is to plant trees in low canopy communities. Over the last 22 years, UC Green has planted more than 4,000 trees in West and Southwest Philadelphia. CPI has helped Kiasha connect her passion for greenery with city planning.
There are ranges of blocks that are hard-pressed to plant another tree… and other blocks that have none.
Kiasha views green spaces and tree canopy as equity issues. Some neighborhoods have none at all, while others have plenty. Trees and greenery improve air quality. Thus, neighborhoods that have less greenery have more polluted air. Kiasha works to distribute trees fairly across the University City area. By adding trees to areas in need, Kiasha is improving the air quality across the city.
Kiasha has hosted events that honor fair greenery and promote sustainability. UC Green held a day of service where the group recycled holiday trees to mulch Clark and Malcolm X Parks. UC Green also held a teach-in to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day. At the teach-in, they discussed the different roles of trees in the civil rights movement. This aimed to highlight the connection between green space and social justice.
Recently, green spaces and trees have become important for mental and physical health. People have headed outdoors to appreciate nature and cope with the pandemic. Parks and open spaces have proven to be invaluable community assets.
Due to COVID-19, UC Green has not been able to hold events such as the day of service and teach in. But not even a pandemic can stop Kiasha from championing for a greener Philadelphia! She spearheaded a virtual outreach campaign. UC Green held an open call to request free street trees. They received 78 tree requests from homes and businesses in the area. There are now over 100 trees that will be planted in the 19139, 19143, and 19104 zip codes.
UC Green is also responsible for community gardens. This year, the Holly Street Neighbor’s Community Garden is full for the first time in four years. Kiasha has noticed that more people have been finding comfort in community gardens.
People are finding peace of mind and respite in the garden.
Kiasha has also been developing small pruning events for the UC Green Pruning Club. This ensures that community members can safely tend to neighborhood trees. The Pruning Club aims to prune trees so they are not obstructing signs, streets, or sidewalks.
CPI helped Kiasha develop a deeper connection to West Philadelphia. The most important lesson she learned was the value of giving others the tools of advocacy and amplifying opportunities for change.
UC Green’s mission is to empower volunteers to improve their communities. CPI reinforced this mission. It also connected Kiasha with dedicated alumni throughout the entire city. She keeps in regular contact with other citizen planners through community engagement work. CPI’s large alumni network allows citizen planners to empower each other. Through networking and establishing long-lasting relationships, CPI has helped Kiasha make Philadelphia greener.