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Nurturing Environmental Leaders: Meet the Spring Uplift Cohort of 2023

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

Entire Spring/ Summer 2023 group photo
Back: Evan, Markell, & Chris. Middle: Andrea, Xai, Matt, Owen. Front: Elura, Leo, Kate, Andrei


The Uplift Program at Howard Ecoworks stands as a beacon of opportunity, shaping dedicated individuals into eco-champions within the green infrastructure (GI) industry. This transformative workforce development initiative equips participants with the knowledge and hands-on experience needed to enter this vital field.

Uplift goes beyond traditional education and job training, offering clear pathways to permanent positions within the industry. The program imparts essential job readiness skills, provides certifications, and facilitates real-world experience in stormwater management, tree planting, and invasive species management, nurturing environmental stewards who are ready to make a lasting impact. Uplift last for 6 months, with the Spring cohort starting in March until September.


Welcome to the 2023 Spring Uplift Cohort at Howard EcoWorks, where action speaks louder than words. These dedicated eco-champions made a real impact during their time with us. From March to September, this is what they’ve accomplished:

  • Total: 179 project sites

  • Total: 1,987 native perennials planted

  • Total: 458 native shrubs and trees planted

  • Total: 2,600 sqft of conservation landscaping installed/ lawn conversion

  • Total: 650 sqft of rain gardens installed

  • 10,690 lbs of invasive species removed


  • Emerson: While the Fall of 2022 Uplift crew mostly accomplished removing 15,680lbs of invasives and debris from this site, the spring team came in to help finish in the month of March.

  • Howard Community College Projects: There are over 20 bioretention gardens at HCC and Uplift was involved in weeding and mulching them throughout the year. On top of planting flowers and juniper in the main entryway by Lot B.

  • Elkridge Middle School Tree Planting: Our crew led a volunteer class of students to plant dozens of trees on the school property. The tree planting event was funded & led by Howard County DRP's Students Branching Out Program.

  • Howard County Conservancy Vernal Pool: Uplift had the joy of planting around an existing vernal pool, which is a key environmental feature and habitat for many native animals and bugs. Our crews also routinely maintain tree plantings at the conservancy. Learn more about this project here.

  • Meadowbrook Stream Restoration Site: While our crew tree plant, maintain trees, and remove invasive species at many stream restoration sites, Meadowbrook has seen many visits from our crew throughout the summer with a primary focus of invasive species removal and tree health maintenance.

  • Baltimore Seed School conservation garden installation: We installed a dynamically designed conservation garden, replacing turf with a home for future pollinators.

  • Seeds of Change Nursery garden installation and maintenance: Our crew visited our nursery many times during their time to install pollinator gardens and remove stubborn phragmites.

  • Clocktower Community HOA: While this project was shared with the Ready Crew, Clocktower has been a journey. Between our crews, we've built natural stairs, 3 conservation gardens, 1 rain garden, and planted several trees.

  • Ellicott City Debris Removal: Our crew was called in to remove fallen trees in the hidden tunnels of Ellicott City. Some of the crew members remarked how it was a neat project where they got to explore an area they would've never gone on their own. This project is part of Ellicott City's Safe & Sound program.

  • Fairwood Forest Invasive Removal: Our Uplift and Ready crew participated in several days of invasive removal in Baltimore's latest urban forest. In one report, some 90% of the forest floor is just English Ivy, which was our main target. While we don't have the metrics, that forest has undergone some transformation that will be significant in it's long journey to rehabilitation.

  • Kittamaqundi Community Church: Bioswale landscaping installed.


Certificates Earned:
  • CBLP-A (Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional Certification)

  • Maryland Responsible Personnel (Green Card) for Sediment & Erosion Control

  • American Red Cross First Aid & CPR

  • OSHA (10)

Professional Development:
  • Maryland Native Plant & Invasive Identification

  • Resume building workshop

  • Jim Dukes Farmacy

  • Delegate Terri Hill

  • Rain Garden & Site evaluation with Lori Lilly

  • Storm Water Networking Event

  • BMP assessment

  • Climate Webinar

  • BioChar Demonstration

  • Pruning Instructions

  • Electrofishing

  • EC Case Study

  • Industry Exposure Arboriculture with Lou Meyer

  • Webinar - Introduced Plant Pathogens Threatening North American Forests

  • Howard County Initiative talk with Bill Mahoney

  • Team building day at Outward Bound

  • Shepard’s Mill Solar Farm Tour


Matt with 2 thumbs up in a truck with debris
Matt's seal of approval

In our journey towards building a more sustainable world, every crew member has played an indispensable role, contributing their unique strengths and skills to our collective mission. It's time to cast a well-deserved spotlight on these dedicated environmental champions and reflect on the extraordinary projects they've been instrumental in shaping.

Matt headshot
Matt Hemler

Starting as an Assistant Crew Lead, he navigated through the challenges and opportunities that came his way and ultimately graduated from the Uplift program as a Crew Leader. His background in geology provides him with a unique perspective, which he hopes to apply to his future career endeavors, focusing on environmental solutions. Matt was marked by his encouraging leadership style, characterized by unwavering energy and boundless enthusiasm.

Andrei headshot
Andrei Shiller

Andrei's Ecoworks began as an Assistant Crew Lead, and now he is our crew’s Foreman! Originally from Almaty, Kazakhstan, he swiftly adapted to life in the U.S., displaying remarkable flexibility. Andrei's military background have honed his leadership skills, making him a valuable leader, dedicated to empowering his crew and guiding them towards collective success. Read more about him here.

Elura headshot
Elura Morris

Elura began as an Assistant Crew Lead and later transitioned into her role as our Marketing, Communications, and Outreach Coordinator. Her diverse background, which includes seven years of marketing experience and over 14 years of expertise in graphic design and art, equips her to effectively convey our mission and passionately advocate for environmental causes through her creative talents. Read more here.

Leo headshot
Leo Sparks

Leo started their journey at Howard EcoWorks as a dedicated Crew Member, gradually advancing to the role of Assistant Crew Lead. This job marked their initial foray into the professional world, offering invaluable personal growth and extensive training. Their deep passion for environmental restoration is complemented by their exceptional skills as a multimedia artist with a particular talent for woodworking.

Chris headshot
Chris Wagner

Chris began his journey as a crew member in the Spring 2023 cohort, ultimately advancing to a permanent crew role. Through his experiences, he acquired valuable hands-on skills and knowledge relevant to his environmental studies major. As a Howard County native, Chris actively contributes to his local community while pursuing his degree at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Read more about him here.

Andrea headshot
Andrea-Lee Cipollone

Andrea started her journey with us as a crew member and is now an intern at Seeds of Change nursery. Her expertise spans environmental gardening, plant genetics, foraging, watershed management, canning, and she's dedicated to sharing her knowledge and inspiring others to care for the environment.

Evan headshot
Evan Hunter

Evan discovered us through the Autism Society and soon became a dedicated crew member. His journey at Ecoworks has expanded his understanding of environmentalism, and the camaraderie within our team has significantly contributed to his personal growth and confidence. Evan's dedication to Earth restoration is both inspiring and unwavering.

Owen headshot
Owen Jowanowitch

Owen was a crew member who brought a light-hearted and easygoing demeanor to our team. He maintained a positive and enjoyable atmosphere while on the job and contributed to the positive atmosphere during his time with us. We hope he uses the skills and knowledge he gained at Ecoworks in his future career path.

Honorable Mentions

VInce and kate in truck
Vince & Kate
Vince De Zaeytyolt

Vincent was a dedicated Crew Leader who joined Howard EcoWorks in the winter of 2021. His contributions and commitment to our environmental projects have been invaluable. Although he is no longer part of our team, we appreciate his hard work and hope for his continued success in his future endeavors. Read more about him here.

Kate headshot
Kate Kyle

Kate Kyle began her journey with Howard EcoWorks in March 2022, achieving Permanent Crew status in the summer of 2023. As an environmental engineering major at Howard Community College, she showcases her dedication to environmental conservation and restoration. Outside of her academic pursuits, Kate thrives in the great outdoors through camping and indulges in the realms of literature and travel during her free moments. Read More about her here.

Xai headshot
Xai Smith

Xai started as a crew member in the fall of 2022, worked her way up to an assistant crew lead in the summer of 2023, and is now a dedicated permanent crew member at Howard EcoWorks. Her deep commitment to environmental preservation has fueled her passion for climate change and plant identification. Read more about her here.

Markell headshot

Markell Graham

Markell, a devoted crew member who joined us in the fall of 2022, was an essential part of Howard EcoWorks for a considerable time. His unwavering dedication greatly contributed to our environmental projects. While he has moved on from our team, we're grateful for his significant contributions and wish him success in all his future pursuits. Read more about him here.

Luciano Lacarra

Luciano briefly joined our crew during the spring months, acquiring valuable experiences in environmental restoration. With a keen interest in this field, he uses his knowledge to stay connected with the local environment. He currently pursues a career as a sound engineer in Washington, D.C.


This Spring and Summer was incredible and we were lucky to have such an enthusiastic, dedicated team! As they venture into the future, we hope they carry the skills and spirit they developed with us, spreading their positive impact wherever they go.

If the Uplift Program sounds like a right fit for you, we hope you sign up for Spring and Summer of 2024! From the testimony of our crew, it's a great way to break into the green industry, receive training, and even make new friends.

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