Student activist spearheads tree-planting project in Barrington

Kelly Gorman hopes to expand the effort

By Josh Bickford
Posted 12/1/21

On a beautiful fall morning, Kelly Gorman and a group of other residents did their part to help the planet.

Gorma, a freshman at Northeastern University in Boston and the founder of the …

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Student activist spearheads tree-planting project in Barrington

Kelly Gorman hopes to expand the effort

Posted

On a beautiful fall morning, Kelly Gorman and a group of other residents did their part to help the planet.

Gorma, a freshman at Northeastern University in Boston and the founder of the organization Change for the Better, helped plant about a half-dozen trees in Barrington as part of a service project. 

“Trees are extremely important, especially in cleaning the air and combatting climate change,” Gorman said. “Although (it) may not seem like a lot… it’s important to start somewhere and to start local.”

Gorman has been focused on environmental causes for years. As a sophomore at Barrington High School, she started the organization Change for the Better, which provided her an opportunity to help the environment on a local level. She recruited help from friends, classmates and neighbors, as the group completed cleanups and other events. 

In early 2020, Change for the Better (changeftbetter on Instagram) won a grant from the Rhode Island Environmental Council. The grant was intended to help the group plant trees in Barrington. Originally, Gorman and her group planned to purchase about 50 small saplings, but they later settled on buying fewer larger trees. 

“We went with the larger trees because it’s more likely they will survive,” she said. 

The pandemic put the brakes on the project, but recently Gorman was able to rekindle the initiative. Change for the Better purchased the trees and then decided to solicit tree sponsorships from businesses and other organizations. Confetti Kids of New England was one of the first groups to sign up. Confetti Kids, an organization of young people who complete service projects in the area, was founded by Barrington resident Justine Chonoles-Currie. She said she has been very impressed with Gorman.

“Even when she is taking a full course load at school she is still thinking about her community back home,” Chonoles-Currie said.

Among the other businesses and organizations to sponsor trees was the Barrington Department of Public Works, Jaffe Orthodontics, and the Plant City restaurant owners.

Earlier this fall, Gorman, with help from some volunteers and workers from the Barrington Department of Public Works, planted the trees. The selected maple trees and Bradford pear trees, and planted them in locations where the town had lost trees to storms or disease.

“We’re thinking of having another round of tree-plantings in the spring,” Gorman said, adding that her group aims to find sponsorship for 10 trees. She might try to schedule the event to coincide with Earth Day, combining it with a litter pickup. 

“I think there’s a lot of things people can do in their day-to-day lives,” she said. 

Gorman said people can compost their food scraps, reduce their daily consumption of meat, and they can volunteer with local and national environmental groups.

Gorman is studying environmental science at Northeastern University. She is also a member of the Sunrise Movement, which is focused on ending climate change and creating millions of “green jobs” in the process.

“I like being an environmental activist,” she said.

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