Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Engaging Communities of the Ozark in Leadership and Environmental Awareness Development* Part 2

We who live in the Ozarks believe that it is one of the best kept secrets in America. Don't tell anyone, but we have clean air, clear water, beautiful forests, lakes, caves, prairies, and streams. Our cost of living is practically the lowest in the nation, and our economy is diversified with tourism playing a large role in the balance. So, as a conservationist, our case is not nearly as hard to sell as it might be in other parts of the country.That is not to say that we don't have our problems. We have extremely vulnerable water due to the Karst nature of our terrain. We have the scars of overdevelopment and the remains of mountains, whose tops have been leveled for commercial development.
This is all the more reason why we need projects like GLADE, the Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems. And, of course, we'd like for GLADE to become a model for other communities. And so I begin Part 2 of my "Rehearsal for Success" presentation. I begin where Part 1 left off.

GLADE empowers youth and produces concerned, active citizens. One of our alum currently serves on the Sparta, Missouri, park board as the small town plans its very first municipal park. JJ has big plans for a native plant garden at the entrance to the park, and two other GLADE alum have already placed Bluebird nest boxes around the perimeter of the park. Advanced Biology students at the high school will monitor the nests, and contribute their data through their engagement in citizen science.
Exposure to GLADE curriculum results in responsible guardianship of our natural resources. GLADE alum Sarah and Amy have developed and constructed the largest rain garden project in Springfield, Missouri, designed to eliminate an extensive, environmental runoff problem in their school's parking lot.
GLADE's leadership model encourages youth to make positive contributions to their communities by offering its participants grants to develop conservation action plans in their own rural towns. Our young people have set up school-wide recycling programs, water retension projects, reuseable grocery bag programs, lakeshore clean ups, children's library gardens, grow native gardens, bluebird nest box trails, and more.

The young people of the Ozarks are our most precious resource. Our investment in them is critical to the well-being of our wildlife, land, and water resources. They are our flowers, if you will, and we, as a supportive and responsible adult community, must provide them with the fertile ground, the roots, and the stems to support their continued blossoming.
The GLADE project can turn promising fledglings into fully fledged and responsible leaders.

Leadership develops across many disciplines. Did I mention that possibly the only reason Edwin Hubble was able to achieve on such a grand scale is that he had an platform to develop and display his leadership. He was an athlete. He held the state record for high jump and won 7 gold and 3 silver medals in a single track/field meet after he moved to Illinois in 1905.
Not all of our brilliant rural young people have the opportunities that athletes have in the Ozarks. They may dream of being scientists and community leaders, but in remote areas of the Ozarks, they need programs like GLADE to encourage and support their dreams.

The years will pass quickly, and our future will reveal itself. Here are two possible scenarios for the Ozarks. One, a land with clear streams and clear heads providing vibrant, community-based leadership, and one in which the very things that we value have disappeared , and our most promising young leaders trapped in poverty without the skills needed to move forward.

Let's be sure that we guard and nourish our precious resources: our lands, our waters, our wildlife. And most importantly of all, let's nourish and prepare our young people to be our leaders of tomorrow.
Just as sure as the seasons change in the Ozarks, we will need perennial support for the GLADE project. $1000/year will provide the GLADE experience for 1 young leader/year for as many years as you are willing to support the project. Please consider a long term INVESTMENT* in GLADE.

*ECOLEAD - Engaging Communities of the Ozarks in Leadership and Environment Awareness Development - rights reserved by the Greater Ozarks Audubon Society GLADE project.
*poverty in the Ozarks photo from the movie "Winter's Bone". Be sure to see it when it comes to your town.
*for more info, contact grswick (at) gmail.com

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