Full Circle with the UEC

Written by Terrance Davis
    Thursday, 28 March 2019
Full Circle with the UEC

I was first introduced to the Urban Ecology Center in the year 2002 through my job with Milwaukee Public Schools. At this time, the Urban Ecology Center was no more than a trailer, yet something about the place was special. I can remember seeing children extremely excited to learn about animals and go on nature hikes. I was just as excited to see them experience these things!

On these hikes, children would listen for bird calls and learn to identify trees and plants. It amazes me how people can connect with one another simply because of a mutual favorite bird or stories about a type of tree they read a book under, and how these connections can last a lifetime. Although the UEC is not a person, I still felt a connection. I was glad that my work with MPS had led me to this relationship with the center. However, my time with MPS had come to an end in 2004 and my connection with the UEC had distanced. However, it was still there, even though I didn’t visit much anymore.

UEC trailer

The UEC in Riverside Park when Terrance first visited around 2002

Through some twists of fate, I found myself working as a temporary employee with the Department Of Public Works in 2011. Strangely enough, the crew leader told us we need to put in a radius on the corner of 39th and Pierce and that this would be for the electricity for the new Urban Ecology Center!

This brought the Center back to the forefront of my mind, but I still didn’t go back to visit and I had not even learned about the building that was built in Riverside in 2004. I thought to myself, “Wow, they have a building now!” and I was glad they were growing.

The fact that I was a temporary employee with the Department Of Public Works meant that my time there was short lived and over with by the end of 2011. With two children to support and temporary agencies only having so much work at any given time, I joined a transitional job program called Supporting Families Through Work and to my surprise, I was placed at the Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park! I was scheduled to work this position for 4 months and was grateful for the opportunity. I mopped and swept floors with a smile because I was amazed to see the building in Riverside Park. It was beautiful and had come such a long way from the trailer days. It wasn’t long before I learned that there was an Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park. I had grown up in the Washington Park area and immediately put in a request to work at that branch, and they let me!

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The UEC at Washington Park, where Terrance now works and engages the community with nature. Stop by and say hello!

At Washington Park, I met Willie Karidis, branch manager at the time. To this day, I am so grateful for that introduction because he saw something in me and wanted to keep me around longer than the 4 months I was scheduled to work here. After Willie sat down to negotiate and advocate my permanent employment status, I was full time staff by July of 2012. My position also changed - I became the Visitor Services Assistant. I was now in the position to take better care of my children and do some of the things I had always wanted to do for them. For this, I am eternally grateful for the UEC.

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Terrance helping with a Community Science dragonfly survey at Washington Park

Seven years later and I’m still here at the Urban Ecology Center, welcoming people from all walks of life. I feel like this is exactly what I should be doing with my life right now. Introducing the people of my community to some awesome recreational activities and connecting them to other people and nature. I never would have thought in 2002 that I would be at the Urban Ecology Center in 2019 as the Visitor Services Specialist. I am glad that my life has come full circle with the UEC.

Terrance Davis

Terrance Davis

Terrance Davis is the Visitor Services Specialist at our Washington Park Branch. He takes a special interest in this area because he grew up in the neighborhood on 37th & Lloyd. Terrance's affection for the area is demonstrated each day with his attention to the neighborhood children and families. The work he has done with MPS and Choice schools across the city brings him much pride. With his daughters being his main motivation, Terrance strives to make positive changes in the community.


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