WMA 5 Ambassador Update
Reflections on a successful year
By Tara M. Casella
On May 30, I attended the AmeriCorps End of Year Program, what I think is the last Americorps mandatory event of the year. It seems that reflection was the overriding theme of the day. I hope you all don’t mind, but I think I’ll take this time to reflect on my Watershed Ambassadorship within WMA 5. Upon arriving at the office of Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc. back in September, I was greeted so boldly by a ribbon cutting ceremony. No silly, it wasn’t to welcome the 2002-2003 Watershed Ambassador, Your Highness Tara M. Casella, but rather to welcome the Riverkeeper and staff to Hackensack, the capitol of the watershed.
Still, it was an exciting and, at the same time, intimidating day for me. I ducked out early to accompany NJDEP employees Kerry Kirk-Pflugh and John Zuzek out into the field to interview urban anglers about their fishing. Smart, huh? I stayed long enough to meet everyone but then jetted out of there to “get things done” as the Americorps motto suggests we do.
There are lots of things to get done, I’m sure you’d all agree. This might be a good time to let you know what I got done this past year. There are certain goals and objectives that Americorps members have to meet by the end of their service year and particularly for Watershed Ambassador’s some of those goals include school presentations, creating a partnership, getting citizens to an event or meeting, attending municipal meetings, and competing a certain number of RATs and BATs. I presented nearly 100 times to schools all across the watershed, linked Liberty State Park with Jersey City PS #34 for a beach clean-up in the park, and sat in on numerous meetings and attended lots of watershed related events. Looking back I can honestly say I enjoyed each and every thing that I have done within the WMA 5 community.
I’ve given numerous Enviroscape presentations outdoors at Laurel Hill County Park Secaucus, NJ, with Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc. I love being there, despite the yet to come summer weather. The guys who work for the parks are great! I want to thank them for being so kind to me. And the students, ah, they are such a pleasure to teach. As I walked a group of Passaic students down the paved path along the water toward “Snake” Hill, one student asked me in wonderment, “Are there other places in New Jersey like this?” If she only knew!
After that day, she got it. Hackensack Riverkeeper and I make sure that these students know what a watershed is, how humans impact and are responsible for their local environment, and everything else I can think to impress upon them that this is their world and how best they can move through it. What HRI does for the students throughout the watershed is remarkable. I really feel lucky to have been placed with such a notable organization. It is the experiences with the Riverkeeper and the students that lift me to new heights. Every encouraging word or phrase of empowerment that we utter so sincerely to these children is in every respect meant for us to hear and follow too. We all, being dwellers of the land, need to follow a certain conduct respectively to contribute to the protection, preservation, and restoration of our waters, our lands, our Earth plane, our social systems, and ourselves. It has been a pleasure serving you, WMA 5.