Nicodemus Wilderness Project
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Nicodemus Wilderness Project


NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Carlsbad, California, USA

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Carlsbad, California, USA
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Registered: December 2018
City/Town/Province: Carlsbad
Posts: -1
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All my life, I have been on a treasure hunt— a quest for the best experiences for the best prices. My parents’ search for treasure led to the National Park System of the United States of America. Why go to the zoo or get a car wash when the buffalo in Yellowstone will lick your car windows? It's much more up-close and personal. Why pay hundreds of dollars for just a day at Disneyland for your family when it is less than $100 for a vehicle to visit all the national parks for a year? Yellowstone became my “happiest place on earth”, and the anticipation for Old Faithful’s eruption gave me more of an adrenaline rush than a roller coaster could hope to provide me. Campgrounds were my 5-star hotels and “Are we there yet?” was my mantra on the road. I have photos with park rangers instead of Disney characters. I was constantly getting pulled out of school to go on these impromptu road trips under the premise that certain times of the year were better for travel, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

I grew up with my fondest memories huffing and puffing on hiking trails. I loved being surrounded by dense forests, crunching gravel and sand underneath my hiking boots. Towering trees made me feel so small, but to see something so old and still thriving reminded me of the brevity of my own life. I'm a flicker in an eternal flame of time, but I'm determined to make my fleeting moment matter.

On January 20, 2018, I attended my first trail clean-up ever. The event was put on by the City of Carlsbad Parks and Recreation Department and I was a highschool sophomore with a passion for the environment trying to get some much-needed volunteer hours. I ended sweating in my navy blue junior lifeguard jacket and planting over 50 pots of native plant species. I also carried gallons of water back and forth for half a mile to water said plants. Needless to say, I had engaged in physical labor that rivaled my track and field training. But I had also engaged in a boatload of fun. I made new friends, many of whom had volunteered for the trails program for decades, and became enlightened with their stories. People from many walks of life came together to maintain a trail for more people to enjoy. At this very trail, the story of a stranger and my own story intersect; I am blessed with the opportunity to learn another person's favorite song, most fulfilling moment, or deepest fear. Who am I not to appreciate this subtlety of the human experience? Dog-walkers, cat-walkers (yes, people walk their cats in Carlsbad), and runners took their time to stop and thank me for volunteering— I realized I was making a difference, making my fleeting moment matter. My heart felt lighter as I carried new knowledge that I was appreciated, that I was doing something good.

The event was beautifully organized; there was enough shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows, jugs, and snacks to fulfill your heart’s desires. But while there was an entire trash can full of gloves, there was not nearly enough hands to wear them. The event was supposed to go for 3 hours, but I ended up staying longer because there was just so much more to do and not enough people to help.

At the time, I was already the president of and a founder of the my high school's environmental club. My club was only 2 months old and had about 20 members on roster. We spent our Tuesday lunches sitting on top of the desks of a biology lab discussing climate change and its effects. We talked about what we could do, but we did not take any physical action... yet.

After volunteering for the Coastal Rail Trail clean up, I knew my treasure was right in front of me: city trail clean-ups. Why make my own event if I could make a more meaningful an impact with the Parks and Recreation program? They had expensive tools, trail experts, and more people to come together. They needed more people, and I had people from my club interested in the environment. Simple. Thus, I committed myself to bringing in more volunteers to fill those empty gloves. Most importantly, I was eager to mobilize high school students to build connections and do something good. At the Coastal Rail Trail, I was the youngest person there and I realized there was a disconnect between these city trail clean ups and teens. Most of the volunteers were adults who had been volunteering for decades. Who would take over when age took its toll and the harsh work of trail maintenance was just too much? I have always cherished trails and respected them, but did my peers share the same sentiment? I decided that I needed to be the one to raise a new generation of people to maintain trails and love the outdoors.

Next month, I showed up at the Batiquitos North Bluff Trail with 2 other members of my club in tow. I wielded sheers the size of my arm to trim vegetation, making sure a stray branch does not accidentally take out the eye of an unfortunate runner. We struggled tying the burlap sheets to hold the cut vegetation and eventually came up with new knots such as the “Please stay in place” and “this is ‘knot’ working”. We leveled the trail, making it safer for runners by pour sand in grooves of the pathway, watering the sand down, and slamming square-metal plates down to pack the sand.

2 other members at trail clean ups turned to 5 members to 8 members to an entire realization that as high school kids, we can make a difference. At Leo Carrillo Ranch Trail, we dug holes, mixed cement, and installed signs regarding trail safety. We painted over graffiti and staked in 30 foot snake-like hay sacks to control erosion. To my surprise, I used a malet without hitting my own hand. At Calavera Preserve, I wheelbarrowed piles of rocks and placed the rocks in crevices to help prevent erosion (pictured above). For Arbor Day, we planted trees at Poinsettia Park, contributing to the 30+ trees planted that day. Apparently, planting trees requires at least 4 people: 2 people to dig, 1 person to hold the tree, and 1 very encouraging person for moral support. It was a hot day and the ground was hard; ample encouragement was what glued our team together.

While my club members and I have learned a variety of practical maintenance skills, we have also forged stronger bonds. When you have dug holes together with a group of people and put your blood, sweat, and tears into mixing cement, you learn so much about the faces you see at school every day. I learned how to support people through their struggles, comfort them through their losses, and celebrate their wins. I believe I have helped my club members foster a love for the outdoors and the importance of maintaining trails. I also know that I've created a bridge between teens and adults. On the trails, we have become close with the adult volunteers. I have heard countless narratives of the “good old days” without strict law enforcement. I know the about their adventures with their grandchildren and we bond over our shared love for the Beatles.

With volunteering for an established organization, comes liability and waivers. I became a skilled networker and made sure my club members’ paperwork was in order. I interacted with many departments of city government, such as Housing and Neighborhood services and Library centers. I also reiterated the significance of volunteering with the city to my club, ensuring that everyone acted respectfully. I had to step up and become a leader, putting responsibility on my own shoulders.

Now, Environmental Club has aligned with the city, providing high school volunteers for trail clean ups and a chance for students to appreciate the outdoors. Our roster has grown from 20 students to over 100 students in less than a year. We have come a long way from where we started. For example, we now sit in the desks instead of on top of them for club meetings. Trail clean ups were our first initiative to improve our community, and since then, we have expanded.

I created “break-out groups” for my club members to divide and conquer different issues in our community. Early on, I discovered an important part of leadership was trust and the ability to delegate tasks to catalyze change. I divided my club into 3 teams: water bottle refill station advocates, educational outreach advocates, and repurposing advocates. For each, group a team leader was elected who would report back to me. I personally headed the water bottle refill station team, spurred by my school’s lack of refill stations. I could not stand the thought that my classmates were contributing to the 50 billion bottles bought by Americans alone. I started emailing company after company in hopes of striking a deal. I was mostly met by misses, but I did find treasure. In exchange for an exposition I wrote on my school’s need for refill stations, StickerRobot, a world famous sticker company, agreed to send me custom stickers that my club member designed to sell. Through the sale of stickers along with reusable water bottles, we were able to raise over $450 for a refill station. While we were raising money, we made sure to make our intentions clear to school board officials and held frequent meetings with our principle. Next year, our school will be the proud owner of 2 refill stations, purchased by our school district and the ptsa. Our funds will either go to maintenance or to a third station.
I also took my interest for water to the next level. Every Wednesday, I teach an hour and a half Science Olympiad Class on water quality where I delve into aquatic ecosystems, indicator species, and monitoring techniques along with analysis. For my senior year project, I took the initiative as a junior to start writing water quality curriculum for elementary students. I also look forward to conducting water quality research at the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, which was recently taken off the impaired waters list.

I used to define my treasure hunt as a quest for the best experiences for the best prices. Today's world isn't a cheap one to live in; unfortunately, money does matter. But something else matters more: kindness. I wouldn't have connected high school students with trail clean ups if it wasn't for the kindness of people who didn't immediately dismiss me. I had a plethora of people tell me “no” without listening to what I had to say, but I also had a handful of people who lent me an ear and said “yes”. Without the kind people I met on the trails, my experiences may not have been as wonderful, despite my love for the environment. Throughout my quest for a greener tomorrow, I have learned that treasure is not something that has a price tag.

After all, kindness is a gift everyone can afford.
Date: December 31, 2018 Views: 3652 File size: 21.6kb, 147.9kb : 624 x 723
Hours Volunteered: 60
Volunteers: 14
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 & 14 to 18
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