Welcome to Power of Parks, a podcast produced by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, where we share inspiring stories from people who have benefited from nature, parks and recreation. Episode 11 features Emily Briceno, Jemma Currie, and Marina Barto. They’re students who lead a group called Surface 71, a non-profit organization that helps keep our oceans and communities clean by raising awareness of plastic pollution, hosting and participating in cleanup events in parks and beaches, and working to get other students involved in their efforts.
Volunteer Spotlight: Meghan and Taylor Morrison have been volunteers at Okeeheelee Nature Center (ONC) for 6 months, where they work as greeters, education docents and animal caretakers. Providing quality animal care is necessary at ONC for their animals to remain healthy, especially since they have 23 animals inside the nature center to manage. Volunteering requires extensive training, detailed reporting and teamwork. Volunteers spend their shifts cleaning enclosures and preparing food amongst other tasks like prepping for upcoming programs and events, including prepping their arts and craft activities. Ultimately, there isn’t much Taylor and Meghan haven’t done for the nature center and it’s even more amazing that they have learned it all so quickly and accomplished so much in the 6 months they have been with ONC. “Their position title should really be All-Around Volunteer!”
They have made an impact at ONC with the absolute love they both have for the nature center animals and willingness to drop everything in their personal lives to come in and volunteer. Before the pandemic caused facility closures, they helped the nature center staff run their school programs more smoothly and efficiently, ultimately improving ONC’s reputation with the schools. Meghan has also assisted on other special event programs, in particular, getting the arts and craft activities preset for ONC’s upcoming Gopher Tortoise Celebration Days! All in all, Taylor and Meghan are huge helps to have around and ONC staff are super appreciative of the time they have dedicated to ONC and their animals. In 6 months, they have already put in 170 hours of volunteer service, that is true dedication!
Even though they are twins, they are two unique individuals who together make an extraordinary volunteer team. The twins have this enthusiasm to help with just about anything, which is crucial at ONC, since their unofficial motto is “never a dull moment at ONC.” They come in eager to work and care for the animal ambassadors every day they are at the nature center! For Volunteer Coordinator Emilie Travis, it is always a joy to know they are scheduled, which makes her job easier and more fun!
The biggest personal benefit that Meghan receives as a volunteer at ONC is the opportunity to work with and learn from such amazing people and animals, and getting to learn about South Florida’s ecosystems first hand. For Taylor, it’s the relationships she has developed with the amazing people (and animals) of ONC that have helped her grow her confidence and passion for helping others, both of which will greatly help her as she begins her masters degree this fall.
Taylor received her Bachelors degree in Secondary Social Science Education from FAU, and participated in color guard/marching band while in college. Currently she is pursuing a Masters Degree in Student Affairs from FAU. She’s one minute older than Meghan. She loves painting and crafting. She previously worked at Disney World as a park greeter. She loves raccoons. Meghan is finishing her Bachelors degree in English with a minor in theater from FAU, and actively participated in various projects with the theater department and Office of Leadership and Service Learning. She also loves cats, baking, spending time with her family and helping others any way she can.
Since 2018, staff at West Boynton Recreation Center have been welcoming students from Park Vista High School to the facility to provide valuable job training experience. It began in August 2018 with an off-campus job training program, and has since transitioned to include ESE students from the school. The students range from ages 18 to 22 years old. The program currently has up to three students per day, everyday.
“The purpose of the program is for our students to have another ‘boss’ outside of the classroom… they get to experience employer expectations, interact with the community, and learn skills that cannot be taught on a high school campus,” said Melia Videtta, Park Vista High School ESE teacher. The goal is to not only help students get a feel for what it’s like to go to work, but also to raise their self-esteem and create a sense of excitement for the tasks.
“The students are excited to go to work,” said Ogden Powell, Job Trainer for the Palm Beach County School District. He recalled, “some students have mastered some tasks and are able to work without supervision.” The tasks include window cleaning, sweeping, mopping, and setting up rooms with tables and chairs.
West Boynton Recreation Center Maintenance Worker Carlos Jerez headed up the initiative. He trained the students, supervised, and assigned tasks when the program was at it’s initial stages at the recreation center. Powell recalled, “Mr. Carlos is great with the students.”
Overall, the experience has been welcoming and productive for all the participants. “Everyone is so nice, helpful, and patient with our students… the people at the Rec center are flexible and open-minded,” said Videtto. Travis McPheeters, manager of WBRC, expressed his gratitude for working with the students and faculty at Park Vista High School. “We are thrilled with this partnership we have forged with PVHS,” he said.
The Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department and National Garden Clubs, Inc., Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc. (FFGC) District X, and Plant America with Trees, together with more than 70 student volunteers from Latinos in Action, planted 27 native trees in John Prince Park on Saturday, January 18, in celebration of Florida Arbor Day.
The event was part of a national effort to encourage community engagement for the purpose of offsetting tree loss and promoting carbon sequestration in the atmosphere. $1,500 in native trees were donated by FFGC District X for the event; 60 trees were previously planted by local Boy Scout Troop 199 on January 4 in John Prince Park, which allowed the boys to earn badges and help promote environmental sustainability.
The event began with a small ceremony, followed by the tree planting at Custard Apple Trail.
About 120 students, along with parents and teachers, ventured to Riverbend Park on November 3rd to discover “Old Time Florida” as part of Riverbend’s Education Day, part one of the two-day Pioneer Farmstead Event.
“The idea here is for the schools to come out here and experience a little bit about what they learn in the classroom through the history program – 4th graders are targeted because there’s a big history drive on the fourth grade,” said Naturalist John Welch.
The students learned about sugar cane processing and boiling, growing citrus, cattle and other animals, general pioneer life and more. Welch says the event helps teach kids about the work pioneers did to prosper on the land, “to make them a little more appreciative of how we came to be here, what the challenge was that these people faced, what they did for us and also themselves.”
Riverbend Park is located at 9060 Indiantown Road in Jupiter and is operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. The park is open every day from sunrise to sunset.
We make the quality of life for Palm Beach County residents and visitors better by providing diverse, safe and affordable recreation services, welcoming parks, and enriching social and cultural experiences. We achieve this by promoting wellness, fostering environmental stewardship, contributing economic value, and by improving our community every day for this and future generations.
Please visit www.pbcparks.com for more leisure opportunities available through the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department.
By Gina Musick, Education Intern for Summer Tour Plus 2016 Program via Summer Travels: Into the Land that is Japan \(^.^)/ — Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
Hello everyone! My name is Gina Musick and I am a new volunteer, but as a seasoned Morikami member and Elementary Education major in college, I saw an amazing opportunity in front of me when I read about a posting for an Education Intern for their Summer Tour Plus program. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like – a tour! A wonderful tour where both docents and volunteers come together in order to create a fun, interactive, and educational experience for visiting camps of all ages into the land of Japan in South Florida.
Imagine visiting another country for almost the whole summer with nothing but the clothes on your back…without leaving your home state! “Impossible!” is what some may say, but that’s exactly how it felt for me. Walking up the steps to the museum alone is a stunning view, surrounded by a preview of the gardens and a small koi pond. Morikami creates a one-of-a-time experience that children of all ages and backgrounds are able to participate in.
Here is what a day in the Summer Tour Plus 2016 program looked like:
1. Japanese Game Show: the volunteers engage the campers in a slideshow of various Japanese tools and objects, guessing their true meanings of utility, after watching a clip from a real live game show!
2.Art Gallery Tour: the docents give the campers a unique and peaceful tour of Hiromi Moneyhun’s paper cut exhibition, where they learn about her unique art style and its main elements – metamorphosis and symmetry.
3. Shadow Art: Kirigami: the volunteers teach the campers how to create the own paper cuts (known in Japanese as kirigami)! The campers use scissors and hole-punchers to create unique designs and patterns into their canvas’, which is a moth – a strong representation of both symmetry and metamorphosis.
4. Docents’ Choice: the docents choose an activity of their own discretion to educate the campers about! For instance, during the week of the Star Festival (also known as Tanabata), which occurs on July 7th, the children learned about the history behind the festival and wrote a wish on a strip of paper attached to string (known as tanzaku) and then tied them to a bamboo tree for the wish to come true! Click here to learn more about Tanabata.
Each camp that visited Morikami participated in all four of these activities at some time or another during their day. In each rotation, the campers were motivated and supported by volunteers and docents alike to pursue a passion in learning to appreciate the very diverse and beautiful culture of Japan. The Summer Tour Plus Program created by Morikami strongly reflects the museum’s mission to the community…”to provide authentic Japanese cultural experiences that entertain, educate, and inspire.”
I thoroughly enjoyed my volunteer experience as a summer intern at Morikami, as it was everything I expected it to be and more! It was amazing to see children of all ages and cultural backgrounds learning about a very historic and unique culture through different activities, and excel at participating in every way. Such a successful experience does not go without thanking all of the staff, docents, and volunteers involved in creating such an enriching and lasting experience!
Morikami is always looking for volunteers to help out on a day-to-day basis, as well as for festivals or a variety of programs. During the time we waited for the camps to arrive, we volunteers would work on creating decorations for upcoming festivals. We made paper chains, tissue paper flowers, and paper lanterns all to help prepare for the upcoming Lantern Festival: In the Spirit of Obon! If you have a passion for education, culture, or anything Japan, I highly recommend you take an opportunity and offer your time to this amazing non-profit institution. You will receive a timeless experience for the time that you give! Click here to find out about your possible opportunities~! \(^.^)
For three weeks in December and January, College Swim Teams from around the country travel to Palm Beach County’s Aqua Crest Pool and North County Aquatic Complex to train for the fall season. The teams travel from as far west as Iowa to as far north as Michigan to escape frigid temperatures that make it difficult to train. As students from Michigan State and New York’s Wagner College explain, Palm Beach County’s palm trees and beaches allow them to take a mental break during the winter.
Aqua Crest Pool and North County Aquatic Complex are owned and operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. Providing for athletic programming and facilities is one of the core services of the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. For more opportunities, visit www.pbcparks.com.