Senior Dan Lazzaro stands next to a sign marking a walking trail behind the Yates County Community Center in Penn Yan. The environmental science major used a Field Period® opportunity to create a cross-country trail for the Penn Yan Academy cross-country team.
If you spend any time with Keuka College senior Dan Lazzaro, one thing will be immediately clear—he loves nature and being outdoors.
Growing up, Dan, an environmental science major, was always outside. He enjoyed camping, and became an Eagle Scout. For his Eagle Scout project, Dan helped maintain and beautify the walkway on a trail he often used in his hometown of Massapequa on Long Island.
Being an outdoors enthusiast and working on the trail served Dan well as he began a Field Period® at the Yates County Community Center during the spring semester. The Center has a series of walkable trails for members to use. Dan used his Field Period® opportunity to clear a trail, but then went that extra mile. Several, in fact. He created an entire course for the Penn Yan Academy cross-country team.
“The idea for creating a new course for the high school cross-country team was easy, as it fit both my desire to work outdoors, and help other cross-country runners gain a new home course they can be proud of,” says Dan, who was recruited for the College’s cross-country team. “The old course was just a one-mile loop, so the runners had to go around about three times.”
Creating the course involves clearing some small trees, brush, and other debris, removing stumps, and making sure that the trails are consistently safe. The new course will have two loops—one inner and one outer—that, combined, will be the required 3.1 miles.
“Coach [Rick Smith] was really excited about the concept and seeing it through,” says Dan, who has continued the work through the summer, getting the course ready for the Mustangs’ home opener in September. “I am happy help keep the interest [in cross-country] alive and have the high school students be proud to show off their home course.”
Coach Smith is not the only one excited about the new course. Katie Peterson, president of the Center, says Dan was very knowledgeable in creating the new cross-country course.
“Dan also used his wealth of environmental knowledge to provide the community center with a plan for future development along the trail, in regards to plant life, erosion control, and removal of invasive species,” says Katie, who also served as Dan’s Field Period® supervisor. “During his Field Period® with the Yates County Community Center, Dan has been professional, passionate, energetic, and motivated.”
Which is all in a day’s work for Dan.
“The best part of this Field Period® is being able to come into work and take charge of things,” he says. “They can see I am helping to improve the center and its trails, which will also be used for those interested in walking along them. I have been treated like a regular center employee, not an intern.”
Katie says Dan “is a wonderful example of how Keuka College students can impact our community.”
That impact on the community is something Dan is quite familiar with.
“Environmental science can change the world, and nature will always need human help,” he says. “So, if I can teach someone something about nature, I get excited. And to have the benefit of that knowledge, along with the practical experiences of Field Period®, I know I’ll have an advantage going into my future career.”
That future career could have been different if Dan had stayed on his initial educational path.
“I had enrolled as a pre-med student, but I called home and told my mom I wasn’t doing well in my classes,” Dan says. “I always liked the outdoors, so I changed my major to environmental science, which is a much better route for me.”
Once Dan had a few classes under his belt, he says, the actual science made sense, especially given his background.
“Since I was already interested in the outdoors, I’m already familiar with some of the things we are learning in class. I am the only senior environmental science major, so I feel like I am blazing my own trail,” says Dan. “Dr. Luciana Parent [assistant professor of biology] has been a great advisor, and helped me out a lot. Because of her, the transition to environmental science was less scary.”
Dan credits his Keuka College education for providing him with a lot of opportunities, especially Field Period®.
“You get to experience future professions early on in your College career,” he says.
And Dan appreciates that he is part of a community at Keuka College.
“Everyone really supports each other, and we truly take time to celebrate each other’s goals and successes,” he says. “Each of us is part of this community. I could not have asked for a better life here, and I am glad I picked Keuka College.”