Student ready to fight fires

By Samuel Charles

The wildfires that spread throughout southern California last summer destroyed much of the area’s natural landscape, and now college students nationwide including one Columbia student, will help with the rebuilding and reconstruction effort.

Glenn Madigan, sophomore art and design major, will participate in the Liberty Mutual Responsible Community Scholars Project, an initiative aimed at helping to replenish the Angeles National Forest after wildfires burnt 120 acres of the federal-owned land.

“We know working in the [Angeles National] Forest is a sustainable project,” said Maura Quinn, the university relations program manager for Liberty Mutual Group. “We’ve discovered it could take more than 20 years to [replenish] what was devastated during the fires in 2009.”

The project was first implemented in January in response to the fires of the previous summer. The second incarnation of the project will be held from Jan. 2–8, 2011. The agenda has yet to be finalized between Liberty Mutual and the Angeles National Forest.

Students who participated in the initial project last January helped restore an unused ranger station, which is now used as a meeting site for United States Forest Service volunteers. They repotted more than 100 saplings, which will be used to repopulate the Southern California forest in January 2011.

Fire prevention is another idea planners want to focus on.

Along with planting the saplings, students will work to clear brush to prevent additional fires and speak to a local elementary school in an effort to raise fire

safety awareness.

Students selected to participate were judged on several loose criteria, Quinn said. However, all applicants had to submit a two minute (or shorter) video explaining what they would add to the project if chosen.

“Each video stood on its own merit,” Quinn said. “We judge each entry on how well the student conveys their commitment to community outreach and

extracurricular activities.”

Out of all the videos, Quinn said Madigan’s stood out from the rest.

“Glenn’s video in particular was one of the most well put together entries we received,” she said. “It clearly demonstrates how involved he was within his own community.”

Other students involved will be representing Bentley University, Bryant University, Flagler College, Indiana State University, Ithaca College, Morehouse College, University at Albany and University of Connecticut.

Ten students nationally were selected to participate in the project, however, there were more than 30 applicants.

“We didn’t anticipate more than 10 [applicants] because of the budget we have,” Quinn said.

This is his first encounter with safety awareness, but Madigan has had many experiences with community activism.

“I’ve done a lot of work with diversity programs,” Madigan said. “It’s a new idea to be working with a fire safety program.”

In Madigan’s video submission, he said he’s been an active member of more than 20 clubs and organizations by the time he was a senior in high school, including working on anti-bullying and harassment projects similar to the “It Gets Better” campaign. He also detailed how he’s learned to work in different capacities.

“I have the ability to problem solve, organize, lead, take direction and listen to those in need,” Madigan said in the video.

Currently, he is the executive vice president of Columbia’s branch of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Life, said he was impressed with Madigan’s submission video.

“I was blown away on a number of levels,” Kelly said. “Clearly this is a young, aspiring leader who is incredibly involved in the life of both Columbia and his previous high school.”