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Coastal Stewards broadening horizons - August 8, 2013

Each year 15 local high school and college students get the unique opportunity to work as Coastal Stewards for the summer. The program, a collaboration between the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, the Assateague Island National Seashore and the Maryland State Park, and funded primarily through the Environmental Protection Agency, teaches these students information about our coastal bays wildlife, heritage and history which they in turn use to educate visitors and locals alike.

Many of our young coastal stewards experience many life-altering firsts in the program; from going on their first boat ride to earning their first pay check and even banding their first brown pelican. Some lucky stewards however get a chance to go above and beyond the job and get to attend camps, conferences and meetings throughout the mid-Atlantic and across the country.

One such hard working steward is Omar Alvi, 18, a Delmar resident and recent high school graduate who has worked with the stewards for 2 years.

Omar recently graduated James M. Bennett High School in May and plans to attend Salisbury University for a double major in physics and mechanical engineering. He came back for his second year as a Coastal Steward and is a valued leader and role model in the program.

This summer Omar received a scholarship to attend the 12th annual National Minority Youth Environmental Training Institute at New Mexico Highlands University in northern New Mexico.

The institute is an intensive 11-day program that uses an outdoor, nature-focused Environmental Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum. Several federal agencies fund the institute, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Omar’s travel, accommodations and training costs are fully covered by the scholarship he received through a nationwide competitive application process. After the workshop, we hope that Omar will return to work brimming with new ideas and will teach us and our partners what he learned at this amazing institute. Omar however is not the only steward to receive an amazing opportunity.

Amy Cooper and Myia Tariq are both rising seniors at Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin. Both are returning stewards from last year who impressed us with their enthusiasm, willingness to learn and patience for teaching others. Amy, 16, and Myia, 17, will both be attending Camp Avocet, a camp for young birders, in August.

Camp Avocet is a young birders camp created and run by the American Birders Association and held in state and national parks all across the country. Our two stewards will be attending the camp in August at Cape Henlopen State Park, Del.. The camp is a 6-day program focused around unique field and classroom experiences with world renowned birding experts and small group sizes for personalized attention for the campers.

While the Coastal Stewards is a summer-based job program, there are always opportunities for more work during the fall, winter and spring with events like the Osprey Sprint Triathlon, class field trips and more. This past February many coastal stewards new and old got to attend the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education conference in Ocean City.

This yearly conference focuses on many different topics throughout the environmental and green fields from topics such as how to plan your lessons to reach a more diverse audience to incorporating more technology in the classroom and in the field. This year’s conference key note speaker was Maryland’s own NASA astronaut, Richard R. Arnold II and included a panel with experts; Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, executive director for the Children’s Environmental Health Network; Brent Kim, project officer, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and Delegate Shane Robinson, representing Maryland’s 39th legislative district.

Not only did Omar, Amy and Myia get to attend this three-day workshop but two other stewards also attended. They are Tashonna Grant, 17, another rising senior at Stephen Decatur High School who has been with the program for 3 years, and Lester Franklin, 21, who now works for the National Park Service and Assateague Island National Seashore at Assateague Island, and who is currently attending the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

While all of our coastal stewards learn and grow a tremendous amount each summer, some get the special opportunity to go even further and not only create memories that will last a life time but also help them on college applications and future job opportunities. This program is not just about giving jobs to local youths and also having a chance to educate the public but it is also designed to help young people grow and develop into tomorrow’s leaders.
 

Harrison Jackson is the Coastal Stewards Coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.


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