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“I was in awe of the noise that its wings made. At that moment, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in wildlife biology.” Gabrielle (Gabby) Dennis, of Northwest Ohio, was awarded a scholarship to attend Condor Wilderness Camp. (Her full story below)
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Some Student Stories . . .
gabby dennis (photos left)
Gabrielle Dennis, of northwest Ohio, has always had a passion for animals, and her mother, Rose, was overjoyed to receive a scholarship to help her cover part of the costs of attending our Condor Wilderness Camp.
As a low-income single mom, Rose was grateful for the help to make this journey happen for her only daughter. She shared with a friend, “This is going to be a real learning experience for Gabby because although she loves the outdoors, she has actually never been camping before. This is one of the reasons why she wanted me to sign her up for the camp because Wildlife Biologist do a lot of camping and field work. On this camp, she will get to meet a real Wildlife Biologist! They say it's an experience that kids never forget.” Gabby recalls a moment when condors flew right over her head at camp. “I was in awe of the noise that its wings made,” she says. “At that moment, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in wildlife biology.”
Gabby looks forward to being a first-generation college student studying wildlife biology at the University of Wisconsin, and as a young woman of color with many obstacles, breaking barriers in this field. Rose tells us, “you’re making a difference in the life of not only condors but my daughter who I know will make a difference in the lives of endangered species.”
Often what participants verbalize or express in other ways can be more telling of the effects our program has. It can be as simple as a student refusing to participate or interact with our instructor through the first month of classes, to ending the year as a top student. This was the case with Yamile, who became deeply involved in the menu planning for the camping trips, and assisted our instructor with surveying the student’s preferences, creating shopping lists and a budget and actually doing some of the shopping as well.
It's been a joy watching the growth of 16-year-old Destany and her love for nature grow over the year. Nobody definitively knew how long she had been out of school, but she could not add or subtract when she started to attend again. She is cyclically homeless but comes to VWS classes, a non-mandatory program, knowing that she may be walking up to an hour and a half to someone's house to sleep that night.
Another promising student, Edgar, attended not only our Salinas River Transect classes, but also assisted with our Natural Science Awareness Class for youth from the Cesar Chavez Library community. He earns a paycheck for the time he has put into our youth program through Turning Point's Silver Star Youth Employment Program. Our contact at the Cesar Chavez Library for whom we provide the youth classes gave very positive feedback on Edgar's leadership and his role in maintaining the children's excitement for the class.
Edgar has also participated in a parent question and answer session for our summer camps, speaking to the parents about his involvement in our programs as an instructor assistant, and answering questions that the parents had in Spanish and English. Edgar also attended the April 23rd Watsonville Earth Day / Day of the Child Event with VWS staff, as a youth/bilingual representative of our organization.
Kayli attended our programs through various alternative education partners. Since her very first class she expressed gratitude for the opportunity to have class outdoors. Enthusiastic and passionate, she went to great lengths to hold group morale up in her class, in order to maintain opportunities for outdoor ed. Her home life has been desperately unstable since her young childhood. Over her year and a half with VWS, she has been to juvenile hall several times, but each time returned motivated to be even more involved. She wanted to work with VWS to help lead outdoor education classes for her own peer group. For three days Kayli was in our office feverishly learning about all of the sites that her class was planning to visit and how we assess a site's viability for classes. She learned how to take notes from a college text on Oceanography and how to present related ideas she wished for her classmates to understand about the connections between land and sea. She also discovered, contrary to her self-doubts, that she has many valuable leadership skills. She brought home the question: What type of leadership skills do you have that would help you lead groups in an outdoor setting? This was meant to be a brief exercise in the office, but she could not think of a single skill she had gained that qualified as a leadership skill. The next day she returned this list: Inspires/motivates others, honest (sometimes brutally), good communication skills, confidence/knowing self, positive attitude/outlook on life, creative, trust in intuition/gut instinct, building others up, compassion, sharing struggles, being open-minded, have no expectations. a