1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
This past summer I was given the opportunity to take part in a service trip to York River State Park in Virginia. While my group and I were there, we learned of different ways to preserve trails and learned a technique known as water shedding to keep the vegetation near trails alive. As a group we were able to come together and build a new fence, a new dock for boats, and clean up hiking trails for others to use.
2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
Before going on this particular trip, I already had experience hiking and backpacking on trails already. I knew what equipment to bring in order to make a hiking trip worth the time. However, I did not realize that while mother nature did the work to create such beautiful scenery, the limited number of park rangers worked in the background to preserve this scenery. Each ranger tirelessly works around the clock to keep the trails clean, make sure trees are not ready to topple, and provide assistance to the many visitors that come by each day. Being able to take part in the process of repairing/preserving the trails really showed how much we have to care for the environment that we live in.
I definitely raised my awareness of the surrounding environment. There are small things that are constantly around us that don’t pay attention to that can ultimately lead to something unfortunate. If we don’t preserve our parks and forests, they can die in the very near future. One small thing can make a large difference. I had never really experienced service in this form, where it was more physical than anything I had ever done. However, this trip definitely changed the way I look at our environment. I feel as if I am ten times more knowledgable of the organisms we encounter or the plants that we see.
3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?
I remember vividly on our first day in the park where we met the first park ranger, Brad. While most people will tell you that they love their jobs, it was easy to tell that Brad was in love with it. The way he greeted us and talked about the park itself truly showed how passionate he was about keeping his park in the best shape possible. This really went to show how amazing mother nature is. Its something most of take for granted but our planet gave each of us a beautiful environment to thrive in and I learned that mistreating our planet leads to serious consequences.
While the work we put in at times was grueling, it was also fun at the same time. I was on a trip with 8 other women and I won’t say girls because each of them was more than capable of holding their own. This group showed me what teamwork really was. No one knew one another before the trip but by the second day, we were given our first project of building a fence and we all banded together to build what I would call a masterpiece. No one argued at each other or stopped working to be lazy; each person helped one another to complete the project. Now while it was only a fence that we built, it is still something that will last a good 25 years. In those years we can look back and say that came together to create something that people can admire.
To me, the most profound experience I had was when each one of us sat down to discuss our backstory. It was just amazing to see how diverse a group of students we were. Our majors spanned from Biology to Engineering to Horticulture. I thought it was just interesting to see that while we may all have different things that we are interested in studying doesn’t mean we can’t come together to enjoy something like mother nature.
4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
While I aspire to be a doctor or pharmacist one day, this trip still resonates with me because it taught me to think about our environment as a whole. Without these hardworking park rangers to preserve our parks, we would be living a world that would look completely different from the one we live in today. I think it is important to remember that we can always put aside what we are doing and give back to mother nature as she has given each of us something beautiful to enjoy. This trip has also elevated my love for the great outdoors as I want to go on more hiking/backpacking trips in the near future.