2018 Branching Out Program Reunion

The Branching Out program has a growing network of alumni. Past and current participants have utilized their experience and network established from the program to pursue educational or career pathways that lead to meaningful opportunities in landscape stewardship. Our alumni are currently:

Diego Rojas
Field Team Member/School Year Ambassador/Park-based Internship
As a graduate of Madison Park Vocational-Technical High School in Boston, MA majoring in carpentry. Diego is currently completing an apprenticeship with Historic Architecture Conservation and Engineering (HACE) center with the NPS while completing his 2-year degree at the North Bennett Street School in Historic Preservation Carpentry.

Ashley Backunas
Field Team Leader
Ashley recently began working as a Developmental Specialist at the Thom Worcester Area Early Intervention Program (Thom WAEI) servicing children ages birth up to 3 years and their families. At Thom WAEI, Ashley utilizes her degree in Art Therapy from Lesley University and various other strategies, including play, to assist children and families in fostering healthy development.  She frequently helps to educate parents on ways they can be involved in their child’s development and resources within their communities that can help their child grow and thrive in all aspects of life.

Zachary Wolff
Field Team Member/Park-based Internship/Field Team Leader
Zachary graduated from Lyndon State University in Vermont with a degree in Recreation Management. After identifying his interest in pairing his educational interest in outdoor recreation and landscaping Zachary became a park-based intern at Minute Man National Historical Park located in Concord, MA. Zachary has also explored career paths in education completing a year in the Americorps program, City Year, with a placement in the South End neighborhood of Boston. He returned to the Branching Out program and field team leader to continue to refine his skills in landscape maintenance and leadership. Zachary currently is working on the preservation maintenance team at Olmsted, Kennedy, and Longfellow National Historic Sites in Brookline and Cambridge.

Andreas Aluia
Field Team Member/School Year Ambassador/Park-based Intern
Since 2014, Andreas had identified a strong interest in arboriculture. He attended Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School studying horticulture. His career interests aligned with a position as a Branching Out Park-based Intern with a placement on the tree crew at National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington D.C.  Working alongside park arborists, he became an integrated member of the tree crew assisting with tree care projects throughout the park. He advanced his skills in identifying Dutch elm disease, conducting tree assessments, and monitoring conditions to determine proper care. His internship experience satisfied a requirement for his degree at the University of Massachusetts’ Stockbridge School of Agriculture where he studied Arboriculture and Community Forestry.

Laxmi Spearing
Park-based Intern
Prior to joining Branching Out Laxmi gained experience in urban agriculture as a Green Team Member at Groundwork USA/Somerville. She entered the Branching Out program to continue to develop her horticulture based skills during two experiences as a Park-based Intern at Adams National Historical Park and Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites. She assisted the park with routine landscape maintenance learning how to use a variety of equipment including mowers and strong line trimmers. In addition to the overall care of the gardens at park sites, planting, pruning, weeding and watering. She helped the park to advance efforts documenting oral histories from volunteers at the Beaurix Farrand garden to develop a garden history tour training script. Laxmi studies Environmental Sciences at University of Massachusetts Boston.

Reika Hiroi
Park-based Intern
Reika sought an internship with Branching Out that would allow her to explore her interests and career opportunities in biology. After completing coursework in biology during her freshman year of college at Brown University. She wanted her Branching Out experience to build plant identification knowledge and formal garden maintenance skills. While working at Adams National Historical Park, Reika learned about diseases that affect plants in the garden. Her independent project focused on researching methods for developing a plant health care program for the park that includes a monitoring schedule and treatment plan.