After two years of volunteering with TWC, Mt Hood Community College SEED (Scholarships for Education and Economic Development) students are returning to their home countries. These students, from around the world, have worked with TWC land stewards Megan Garvey and Kaegan Scully Engelmeyer as part of their program studying natural resource management. For many of these students their work with TWC over the last two years was their first experience in a wetland. Now, this group leaves Portland as wetlands enthusiasts and more importantly ambassadors and advocates for these critical landscapes.
Watching the final presentations, the student’s passion for both the beauty and critical role that wetlands play in the ecosystem was alive. When asked how they grew to love these complex ecosystems they quickly offered that it was the time they spent collecting samples, watching wildlife and building a relationship with our land stewards. Pablo offered, “Kaegan, taught me that work is something to enjoy, and something fun, being in wetlands gives you the ability to love your work”.
One of the goals of these students is to raise awareness and understanding of ecosystem services with their peers in their home countries. The students know they will face challenges with this goal but are determined, Roberto from Mexico said it best, “Be creative, be creative about different ways to approach people because people have different ways to learn, we can’t expect everybody to learn the same way especially when talking about a place they may never have visited”. Getting children out to visit and get excited about wetlands and their vital importance to health of the environment was a common theme for all program participants. “Getting kids excited about wetlands will get their parents excited about wetlands which is the fastest way to grow support for this habitat” states Heysell from Nicaragua.
In just a few days these students will go back to their home countries to start their own community outreach projects. They will take the lessons learned from their internships and apply them to their chosen issue. These students have big ideas but also understand that it is really about getting people to try something new. Vanessa, from the Dominican Republic, reminds us, “just try it, you never know what you might learn, I never thought I would be hip deep in the mud, but I did and it was great!”