"I can't imagine working in an office. I love being outside too much," says Anna Pauletta, as she leads her horse, Whiskey, out of the barn where he is boarded.
Anna is a senior at Cumberland Valley High School in central Pennsylvania and an officer in her local chapter of FFA (formerly known as Future Farmers of America). She's also a participant in CBF's newest education program, Mentors in Agricultural Conservation.
Mentors in Agricultural Conservation is designed for students like Anna, who are interested in agriculture and want to learn about potential careers in the field. The program pairs students with CBF restoration specialists, offering job-shadowing and career counseling. It also provides opportunities to participate in outdoor restoration projects, such as planting streamside buffers. "We wanted to get students that were already interested in agriculture, interested in conservation," says Lane Whigham, CBF's Pennsylvania Student Leadership Coordinator.
"It was absolutely wonderful," says Anna of her week-long experience with the program this past summer. "I had already studied [the problems] affecting the Bay, but I never realized how many people these problems touched. We learned about the watermen who live on Smith Island. It was a really eye-opening experience." She adds, "I see a lot of potential for educating young leaders in agriculture to care about the Bay."
CBF debuted Mentors in Agricultural Conservation in Pennsylvania because agriculture is a major contributor to the Commonwealth's badly polluted waterways. Some of that pollution reaches and fouls the Chesapeake Bay. The program enables tomorrow's agricultural leaders to see firsthand how conservation practices can bring about cleaner water, while learning about careers that they may not have otherwise considered. At the same time, their work is tangibly improving the health of Pennsylvania's waterways today. Last year, students in the program planted just over 1,000 trees on the property of established farmers as a part of the hands-on component of the program. These students are making a real difference today, while learning how their future careers will affect life downstream tomorrow.
When it comes to the future, Anna hopes to have a career working with animals and teaching others to care for the environment. "I'd like to have an educational farm. I want to help educate others about conservation and why it's important to preserve wildlife," she says.
Whatever Anna does in her future career, it is certain that her work will inspire others. Already, her dedication and enthusiasm have proven to be powerful tools for getting other students involved. When asked about this, she modestly responds, "I don't try to inspire other students. I just kind of do what I do." She adds, "Caring about water isn't just something that's only for the people who live by the Bay."
This year our educational programs touched the lives of approximately 40,000 students, teachers, and adults through hands-on, outdoor educational experiences. CBF has 15 educational programs, ranging from multi-day programs at our island centers, to one-day field experiences.
Photo Credits: 1. Loren Barnett/CBF Staff, 2. BJ Small/CBF Staff, 3. CBF Staff, 4. Jay Fleming, 5. CBF Staff, 6. CBF Staff.