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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

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East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
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Registered: December 2017
City/Town/Province: Chapel Hill
Posts: 1
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When I think of leadership, I think of getting tackled to the ground by little kids and grass sprinkled in my hair. Two summers ago, and again this past summer, I led a camp called NatureWay, run by the Student Environmental Education Coalition (SEEC), a student-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes environmental literacy for K-12 students across North Carolina. As I became more and more involved, I found that SEEC was an avenue for me to express myself as an environmentalist, educator, activist, and leader. It quickly became my largest priority as I came up with countless projects and initiatives to expand our organization. My efforts first earned me the title of secretary, and later, I succeeded the previous Executive Director. Now, I lead SEEC, connecting and inspiring thousands across North Carolina.

I. Inspiration to NatureWay

In the summer of my freshman year, I visited Tianjin, the 4th largest city in China. I still remember the layer of perpetual smog that smothered the city, blocking out the sun and reducing visibility. I remember how my own asthma was aggravated and how hazardous air conditions were. As people around me donned masks, I realized that I needed to do something about it. That's why I became a counselor and leader for SEEC's weeklong summer camp for elementary schoolers, NatureWay, as a way to bring environmental science to underrepresented minorities.

I hosted the camp this past year at the local East Chapel Hill High School and featured water filtration activities, EPA speakers, aquatic ecology lessons, and environmental engineering drawing activities. The image I've attached is a photo of me teaching a water filtration activity to our campers this past summer, where students had to use coffee filters, gauze, mesh, and more to produce the cleanest possible water. Additionally, we took students on field trips to the school's pollinator garden and conducted trash cleanup activities to tidy the high school's campus. At the end, we gave the students the opportunity to engage in their own independent projects and apply what they knew. For example, one group designed and built an energy-friendly house out of popsicle sticks, cotton balls, and other materials. Another group decided to take action by writing a letter to Governor Cooper asking him to revoke the permit for a harmful pellet mill being built in North Carolina. By educating elementary schoolers on environmental issues and teaching them to apply what they knew, we were able to show them how, even at their young age, they could pitch in and make a difference. Down the line, they would be both knowledgeable and capable of saving our planet.

My original experience in NatureWay showed me how I could inspire the next generation to take action since, ultimately, they'll have the responsibility of saving the planet also. Throughout the course of the week, I watched as Madison, David, and Riza became absorbed by fields like marine sciences, ecology, and conservation biology. But as I continued with SEEC, I found that the simple act of turning off the lights meant more to me than anything else before, and it meant more to me that the next generation would now do the same. SEEC is important because protecting our planet isn't a job for one person -- it'll require all of us to make the change. I knew that we could make a difference, so I came up with ideas to engage SEEC in activities like activism, colloquium guest speakers, river cleanups and elementary school tutoring for members to apply what they know.

II. Personal Growth

In order to accomplish so many projects of this caliber, I must rely on the dedication of the hundreds of SEEC members across our branches. Coordinating branches, delegating tasks, setting up meetings, reaching out to individuals, ensuring satisfaction for members, and managing our funding is no small feat. That's why the support of my board of directors has been crucial towards our success. For me, the most difficult part has been trusting my teammates, but I've learned that through trust, delegation, teamwork, and cooperation, we can accomplish so much more than any individual can.

In addition to learning teamwork, SEEC and NatureWay have changed me personally in a good way. While our work seems glamorous on the surface, as Executive Director, much of my own time is spent behind-the-scenes, organizing and planning so that our members can continue to lead meaningful projects. From the little things like email signatures and writing professionally, to things like communicating with experts from other fields or nonprofits, every meeting, agenda, or phone call I've had has taught me something. I'm not lying when I say that SEEC has been the most rewarding experience of my life. It's ignited my love for environmentalism, and I'm ready to pursue the rest of my life with the same vigor, dedication, organization, timeliness, and professionalism that I bring to SEEC.

III. Future

Yes, we've got quite of few programs, but that's what enables us to reach so many youth. Yes, we're always expanding, but I know that we'll continue long into the future because environmental literacy matters, and together we can make a difference. The most memorable moments for me are those feelings of pure joy and relief after you complete a project. Those moments where, after you've given out superlatives, your favorite camper hugs you one last time before they leave. Those moments where you know the Governor heard your voice. Those moments where you're not just a teacher, but a student also. I came into NatureWay with a strong passion for environmentalism, but now, I've got a blazing fire to continue STEM, social work, and environmentalism alike in my future. I can spend hours a day working on SEEC, feeling not burdened by the task, but satisfied by a job well done. It's my hobby, excitement, job, and source of inspiration all at the same time. To others, I say, find something you love doing because it's true, you'll never work a single day. Although I've dedicated over 350 hours of my time towards making SEEC grow as an organization, I won't rest until everyone knows the consequences of their actions. I'll continue NatureWay next year so that down the line, our mission will still continue. Seeing children's faces light up in joy and watching curious hands shoot into the air brings joy to what I do, so I'll continue to save the planet one piggyback ride at a time.
Date: December 31, 2017 Views: 3375 File size: 16.1kb, 263.1kb : 1334 x 890
Hours Volunteered: 312
Volunteers: 6
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 16 to 18
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 17.75
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 10
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