Now that Block 1 is in full swing, it is easy to forget that, despite all the hustle and bustle, just weeks ago campus was quiet and relatively empty. It’s also easy to overlook the physical changes that have taken place over the course of summer (besides the crosswalks, of course). But for those who do choose to spend summer in the Springs, these changes, as well as the activity on campus, have always been evident: they’re driven by the Grounds crew.
Every summer, the Colorado College Landscape and Grounds Department hires 30 to 35 students to help maintain the aesthetic of the campus and assist the full-time staff on large projects. John Nichols, assistant manager, explained that there are three different field shops — Washburn Field shop, Central shop, and East shop — with seven groundskeepers split among them. During the summer, the students occupy “a support role to help [the groundskeepers] with mowing, trimming, edging — the basics. Trash in the morning. Weeding during the growing season.” Without the work of the students, the groundskeepers would not have sufficient time to address larger landscaping concerns that develop over the academic year.
Though it may seem that the groundskeepers are the ones who benefit from the student work, the students themselves also enjoy some rewards for working for Grounds. As a worker for the East shop, I loved having the opportunity to get outside daily and get some exercise while working. Sophomore Sam Vang concurred: “I love working for Grounds because I feel like I’m getting paid to work out, getting paid to get my vitamin D.” In addition, by working directly with the flora and fauna on campus, students learn the reasoning behind landscaping practices and how to identify plants. For instance, student workers regularly battle bindweed, an invasive plant that wraps itself around other plants and strangles them to death if not removed.
Beyond the personal benefits received by working for Grounds, the job also gives students a greater connection to the CC community. They gain an appreciation for the work the groundskeepers do throughout the year to keep our campus beautiful — not just planting and mowing, but also less glamorous tasks like building the Winter Ball “corral” in Worner. John Gonzalez ’20 noted that by working for Grounds, he enjoyed “getting to see a different side of CC. Things you normally wouldn’t even think about … it’s interesting to see how much work goes into it, like even the clean-up process after parties.”
Finally, there’s a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with working for Grounds. Though some tasks may seem tedious — such as weeding, sweeping, or building tree rings — spaces appear significantly better upon their completion. Students build friendships through working with the peers and groundskeepers on their crew and take pride in their crew’s work. Jeff Watters, groundskeeper for the East shop, constantly expresses his gratitude for the students’ help: “I’m really grateful for all the detail stuff [the students] can accomplish for us,” he said. “I tell you thank you all the time and I truly mean it.” In fact, Watters estimates that without student assistance in the summer, the groundskeepers would have to work 10- to 12-hour days to get everything done.
Though working for Grounds can be tiring and does not necessarily provide the professional development students may seek during their summers, it fosters a deeper connection to Colorado College and offers a behind-the-scenes look at the stunning campus we often take for granted. If you get the chance to live in the Springs during summer, give Grounds a try and give back to the community; and thank the groundskeepers for all their hard work the next time you see them.