Sustaining the Great Outdoors

Bethany Ayers-Fisher's second wind.

By Susan Shelly

Growing up in a Cleveland suburb located along Lake Erie and spending vacations at her grandparents’ lake house in Western New York, Bethany Ayers-Fisher developed a great appreciation for the outdoors. But as a working mother raising three children, it was something she didn’t often have time to think about. 

Now that her children are grown, that fresh air appreciation has come back into focus, leading to a feeling of responsibility for protecting and preserving the environment.

“Our air, our water and our land are shared resources that need to be protected and cared for,” said Ayers-Fisher. “We have creative minds and spirits, and I think we should use them to make the world better for everyone.”

It was concern for the environment and desire to work for good that prompted Ayers-Fisher, 44, to return to college and major in science. She expects that in 2018 she will be the first graduate of Alvernia’s new environmental science major. In addition, she’s minoring in the university’s community and environmental sustainability program.

A Work Study environmental educator for the Holleran Center for Community and Global Engagement’s South Reading Youth Initiative, Ayers-Fisher is designing curriculum and teaching environmental science to third, fourth and fifth graders in the Reading School District. She also directs a weekly after-school environmental club for fourth and fifth graders, leading them in projects and teaching about issues that affect the environment.

This year, she hopes to plan some field trips for students — perhaps taking them to a recycling plant or for stream exploration in Angelica Park, adjacent to Alvernia’s campus. She will also partner with Berks Nature, located within the park, for a required field experience class.

Before returning to college, Ayers-Fisher juggled family duties with work in the restaurant and catering business. But she discovered that the science courses at Reading Area Community College piqued her interest and made her want to learn more.

So when she learned about the new environmental biochemistry program being offered at Alvernia, Ayers-Fisher decided to apply and found that she was eligible for a transfer scholarship. Studying at Alvernia, she said, has been a special experience.

“I really like the Franciscan traditions of service and care for the environment,” explained Ayers-Fisher. “And the belief that we need to be good stewards is kind of built right into the curriculum.”

After graduation, Ayers-Fisher hopes to work in the areas of brownfield remediation and environmental disaster — transforming contaminated sites into rehabilitated ecosystems. Restoring and protecting the environment is a huge challenge, she said, but she is confident she can help.

“I can apply the knowledge and experience I’ve gained to a wide range of applications,” said Ayers-Fisher. “I think sometimes it can be overwhelming when you think about what the needs are, but even if I can just do a little, it’s doing something.”