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Interns help the community connect to nature despite COVID-19

Written by Urban Ecology Center
    Monday, 20 July 2020
Interns help the community connect to nature despite COVID-19

As the summer picks up speed, the Urban Ecology Center is bursting with energy and amazing interns. They have come to share their skills, further fulfill their career ambitions, and connect their communities to nature despite the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the UEC had a total of 17 interns. Five are land steward interns, 11 are summer camp interns, and 1 is a science communication intern. Altogether, the interns helped summer campers reconnect to nature and keep the organization’s mission to help the community.

For a few interns, the Urban Ecology Center has been supporting them since their childhood. For others, this internship experience has been the first time they are involved with the organization. Despite their walks of life, the Urban Ecology Center has brought together a vibrant team of interns ready to make this a phenomenal summer.

Luam Rincon

LuamLuam Rincon first became involved with the Urban Ecology Center as a kid while attending the summer camps at the Riverside branch. While in high school, Luam was an outdoor leader for three years at the Menomonee Valley branch. This experience was similar to a job and was an excellent way for Luam to build responsibility. The flexible hours were manageable for Luam as a highschool student. As an Outdoor Leader, Luam had the chance to rotate and help with various activities, such as Young Scientist’s club, Eco-Art, Visitor Services, and Community Programs at the UEC. One of her favorite memories while working as an Outdoor Leader was going on trips that the Urban Ecology Center planned. These trips included backpacking and camping at the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan and camping at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. These field trips consisted of all Outdoor Leaders working at the Urban Ecology Center. 

Luam is currently working as a summer intern at the Menomonee Valley branch. Her involvement with the Urban Ecology Center as a kid, and going to the Riverside Branch with her family to borrow equipment is what motivated Luam to apply as an intern. This summer Luam has learned how to work with kids of all ages while teaching them about social distancing. One of her responsibilities as a summer camp intern is to plan for camp, and this year, the lesson planning must incorporate social distancing. 

Currently, Luam is studying psychology and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and plans to work as a school psychologist. Working at the Urban Ecology Center has given Luam a lot of experience working with kids of all ages. These experiences have helped Luam observe how kids interact with each other and react to different situations or trauma. 

I would say the Urban Ecology Center gave me leadership skills. As an Outdoor Leader and planning a lot of the summer camps, I’m learning to be more in charge, and be more comfortable with responsibility.” 

Sarah Wessel

Sarah Wessel’s passion for early childhood education began at a young age when she watched her mother run a daycare from home. Sarah wThis fueled her decision to study early childhood and special education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Sarah discovered the Urban Ecology Center through a course aimed at looking at all the educational community resources Milwaukee has to offer. The curriculum included a field trip to the UEC, where Sarah learned about the nonprofit’s mission, and its involvement with the community. “From here, I simply loved the work that was being done, being a part of nature, and being outdoors.” Living near Washington Park for most of her life, Sarah was surprised when she learned about the Urban Ecology Center but never participated in programs as a child. Aside from being passionate about early childhood education, Sarah is also passionate about the outdoors. These two passions encouraged Sarah to apply for the Summer Camp internship with the Urban Ecology Center. This summer Sarah has had a chance to work with people of all ages in a diverse atmosphere where she says it will best prepare her for problem-solving and working with a diverse group of kids. “The staff at the Urban Ecology Center are so knowledgeable and educated that they are such an asset as I grow and pursue a career in education.

Summer camp is in full bloom at the Washington Park branch, where Sarah is interning. One of her favorite memories from the first week of summer camp was finding two stag beetles with her campers. beetle bloginternsFinding the stag beetles took an educational turn, and Sarah and her campers made makeshift homes for the beetles out of ice cream buckets and carried them around while researching what they ate and how they lived. “We took the stag beetles on adventures, and took pictures with them on swings and even named them Ted and Jessica”. Sarah says this educational opportunity engaged the kids with their surroundings and was a great way to begin the summer. 

Despite the pandemic, Sarah states that being open and available to the public is an excellent way for the Urban Ecology Center to reach out and provide for the community through these uncertain times. “Even with the limited staff, the kids are learning so much. The smaller camp sizes are also helping campers connect on a personal level.” Exploring Washington Park and helping the Urban Ecology Center with its mission to connect people to outdoor spaces has been an opportunity for growth not only for the campers but also for Sarah.

Camoya Evans

Camoya Evans is no stranger to the community building the Urban Ecology Center provides. Camoya internAs a Milwaukee native, Camoya grew up across the street from Washington Park. Growing up so close to the Urban Ecology Center helped Camoya spread her wings and see the revitalization and changes in her neighborhood park. “It’s been a long ride with the Urban Ecology Center. I started out volunteering for two years and then became an Outdoor Leader two years after that. I was an intern last year, and now I am an intern again this year!” As a volunteer, her first experience and favorite memory were canoeing in the Washington Park Lagoon. It was this memory that fueled Camoya’s passion for the outdoors and especially for Washington Park. From this experience, Camoya was able to teach canoeing programs as an Outdoor Leader with the Urban Ecology Center. Since then, Camoya has made it her mission to help other kids at the Urban Ecology Center form their memories involving nature. Last summer Camoya was a community programs intern, and this year she is working as a summer camp intern.

As a student in her junior year at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, Camoya is studying biology with an animal concentration. A choice she made from her experiences at the Urban Ecology Center. Working as a Community Programs Intern, Camoya was able to further explore other STEM careers besides her original plan of being a veterinarian and decided to pursue Zoology. This decision stemmed from working in the animal room at the Urban Ecology Center. “I would do animal-based programs and educate people on the animals.” Through animal-based programs, Camoya learned how to think outside of the box, promote creativity, and learn how to adapt. 

As a summer camp intern, Camoya’s goals are to help campers have fun despite the pandemic, and work on her adapting skills as this enjoyable summer zooms. “The Urban Ecology Center has shaped me so much. I grew up with the UEC, and their mission to involve kids in nature so that when they are adults, they can continue to care for their community is something I relate to. I walk through Washington Park and have so much love for it and want to protect the area for my community”.

The interns at the Urban Ecology Center are immensely thankful for the supporters who make these internships possible. A special to thank you to Johnson Controls for their sponsorship of this summer’s internship program. We are looking forward to a thrilling rest of the summer! 

This blog is written by Elizabeth Gamillo, UEC Science Communication Intern

 

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