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Richland Landscaper Helps Student Build Monarch Butterfly Observation

Last updated on April 26, 2023

Landscape services technician John T. Racek liked seeing a student willing to do the dirty work.

In an age where most students prefer to be on their computers, Racek was more than happy to help Richland Collegiate High School student Seff Islam Al-Ghafry on his senior capstone project. Islam Al-Ghafry wanted to create an area on the Richland Campus where he could grow wildflowers to attract monarch butterflies as they migrate north from Mexico.

“I was asked if I could help and, of course, we’re here for the students,” Racek said. “I met with Seff, and he described in more detail what he wanted to do, a butterfly-type observation project. After doing some research, we decided a little plot of land close to our demonstration gardens was the best spot for it.”

Racek and Islam Al-Ghafry spent about 30 minutes plowing the plot of land that is roughly 6 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet. Racek used the college’s Bobcat machine to break up the hard soil and dig about 3 inches deep (Islam Al-Ghafry took pictures in the Bobcat but did not operate it).

Then, Islam Al-Ghafry poured topsoil on it and tilled the area.

“He had a lot of fun,” Racek said. “He used a tiller, which I told him was going to kick like a mule, and it did. He amended the soil, planted the seeds, and watered it.”

The duo is still in the two-week timeline of watering the seeds but, once that is done, it should be a self-sustaining area with monarch butterflies stopping by as they make the trek north.

For Racek, it was a pleasure working with a student who wanted to dig some holes rather than play video games.

“A lot of kids nowadays don’t want to get their hands dirty and don’t want to go digging around,” Racek said. “I speak from experience (as a father). It was refreshing to see Seff’s eagerness. He was a pleasure to work with.”

Day In The Life

Racek is going on 14 years as a landscape services technician at the Richland Campus. He and his colleagues arrive on campus every day at 7 a.m. and prepare the grounds.

“We go around campus, change out any trash cans, pick up any trash,” he said. “We try to make the campus look presentable and clear out any hazards — broken tree limbs, a broken water main that’s causing a washout, whatever it may be — before students come on campus.”

Most of the work done by the grounds crews across Dallas College locations is in the background. However, their work is always appreciated, and Racek is a good reminder of just how dedicated every employee is to the students.

As Richland Campus senior director Janet James said in an email to Racek, “Thank you for your willingness to meet with Seff to advise him about your suggestions and guide him in the execution of his project.

“Your interaction with Seff is just another example of the dedication you and our exceptional groundskeeping crew continuously model in helping our students feel welcomed and succeed in their learning at Dallas College Richland Campus.”

Seff Islam Al-Ghafry

This story and others like it can be found in the Student Newsletter. Check your Dallas College email to see the latest edition.

Published inStudent Support