What's Your UEC Story?

Written by Aria Duax
    Wednesday, 31 July 2019
What's Your UEC Story?

You know that feeling you get when you walk into an Urban Ecology Center branch? The feeling that you are somewhere special? The first time I felt that feeling was 12 years ago when walked into the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park. The branch had just opened, and I was there to help plan the first Winterfest.

I grew up just a few blocks from Washington Park, but I rarely played there. I remember riding my bike through the park to the lagoon, the vast green space felt abandoned and isolated from the surrounding communities. When I returned to Milwaukee years later, I was surprised to discover that the park had been transformed. What once felt overgrown and unsafe, was now a rejuvenated public space full of life and energy. Because of the Urban Ecology Center, canoes now glided across the lagoon and school groups explored the parks ecosystems. Seeing this transformation inspired me to do a year-long service project at the Urban Ecology Center’s Washington Park location, resulting in a deep admiration for the organization’s work and mission. In the years that followed, I never forgot that experience. It was one of many moments that grounded my belief in both the power of community and positive change.

Each year thousands of community members make the Urban Ecology Center come alive. They heal the land, guide children as they explore the rivers, and greet visitors with a warm smile. Each person has their own unique story of what brought them to the UEC and how their lives have changed because of it. I would like to introduce you to just a few of those people: 

Olivia web2

Meet Oliva

Olivia discovered her passion for nature and animals as a UEC High School Outdoor Leader in 2012. She came back as a Community Program educator in 2018. “What I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to show kids of different ethnic backgrounds that people of color can have a career in the science field. It is important for kids to see themselves represented in roles like the ones we have at the UEC.”

stcoletta web

Meet Rachel

Rachel is a special education teacher at St Coletta Day School. Her students come to the UEC in Washington Park regularly. "The UEC – field trips are a very positive experience for our students. They are able to dig in the dirt, look for bugs, explore the pond and much more! Now they really think about science and understand the natural world around them. This hands-on learning helps them thrive in a way they
can’t indoors.”

Jeff web

Meet Jeff

Jeff uses his carpentry skills to help with lighting, painting and other facilities projects at our Riverside Park branch. Since February 2017 he has volunteered over 300 hours! Jeis an amazing example of how volunteering for the UEC can positively affect the staff, facility, and the thousands of visitors that enjoy our spaces.

These stories, and thousands more just like them, weave together to create a tapestry of connectivity. I think it is this spirit of community and collective action that I feel whenever I set foot in an Urban Ecology Center. The physical manifestation of a thousand stories is what gives the Urban Ecology Center the feeling of “somewhere special.” At least that’s my story. I hope you have a chance to visit the UEC this summer and find yours.

Aria Duax

Aria Duax

Aria works on the Urban Ecology Center Development team as the Corporate and Foundation Relations Manager.  


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