In mid-July, six students with the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) program traveled from New York's Bronx and Queens neighborhoods to American Prairie Reserve. SEO works to ensure that students from low-income areas, many of whom are also first generation Americans, successfully transition from high schoolers to college graduates. This group of soon-to-be-seniors embarked on a twelve-day multi-disciplinary ecology adventure - and they would also experience some "firsts" in the outdoors, from setting up tents in the prairie wind to roasting marshmallows around a campfire.
Throughout their trip, the students - Vaughn, Diana, Prabhjot, Muhammad, Tenzin, and Aidee - reminded themselves to be brave and try things out of their comfort zones. From a geocaching lesson that took them hiking across the prairie to learning about bison anatomy with a life-sized model named Ernie, the group and their journey were inspiring to watch. They quickly became a part of a team of biologists from the neighboring national wildlife refuge working on a prairie dog vaccine study. It's not every day that you get to assist in the capture and release of live animals to help save a species! The group also explored their creative sides thanks to an art lesson with Clyde Aspevig and Carol Guzman-Aspevig, solidifying the students' observations that there is a world beyond smart phones and technology.
One of the most memorable experiences (other than digging up T-Rex bones on a nearby paleontology site!) was the visit to Fort Belknap Reservation for a traditional powwow where they were honored by a special song. The students remarked on how welcomed they felt and marveled at how much work it must take to preserve a culture.
By the time the trip was done, the horizon had never looked so big. We are grateful to our supporters that help us provide opportunities like this. Because of you, there's a group of young leaders heading into the world with the prairie wind at their back and a sense of wide open that never existed before.