Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dan Couchenour Tells Campers How Young People CAN Make a Difference

Dan Couchenour Returns to Catawba to Inspire Environmental Campers
Dan Couchenour graduated from Catawba College last year (2014) and was invited to the National Summit for the Environment to tell high school students that they really can impact on the world even at a young age.

As a student at Catawba College, Couchenour was a West Scholar, a member of the lacrosse team, and an Environmental Steward. Clearly he was a very busy college student.

Environmental Stewards were challenged to come up with projects to benefit the environment. That can be a big task at any age. What can you do? How can you make it happen?

Couchenour's idea was to reduce campus water usage and use the money saved to set up a Bike Share program. Yes. This does sound like a real challenge. Can you really get fellow college students to voluntarily cut back on water waste? Yes you can. Couchenour proved it.

The first step to pulling off a big project is to enlist the help of everyone involved said Couchenour. He spoke with his lacrosse team and friends on the football team and explained what he was trying to accomplish.

Some people will help out just because you ask, but most need guidance, incentives and encouragement.

Couchenour provided ideas his peers could use to cut back on water. One really great suggestion he made was for students to create a short playlist. When the music stopped (yes - college students do listen to music in the showers), the shower is over. One guy told Couchenour that he went from twenty-five minute showers to seven minute showers.

To provide encouragement, Couchenour put up flyers showing the impact of taking minor water saving ideas and implementing them. Students in one dorm were able to cut back $150 in one month on the cost of water. That's group progress that feels good.

Couchenour also said that he went around and thanked fellow students. It's surprising how much a "thank you" can mean. People often forget this follow up, but it is important. It really does matter to others that their efforts are noticed.

Having network support is another part of being successful. The college agreed to direct the money saved on water toward buying bicycles for a Ride Share on campus. An anonymous donor said he/she would match all dollars saved.

The goal was to buy five bikes that students could check out to ride around campus or to town. That's a pretty big expense, but the project was so successful that eight bikes were purchased as well as a tandem bicycle. It's really great when a project goes beyond projections. The goal might have seemed like a stretch, but with a strong effort, Couchenour went way beyond what he had even dreamed.

Campers Get Pumped Up - Success Encourages Success

Couchenour's leadership abilities were not lost on the campers. They were excited by his ideas and his motivational session. He had everyone out of their seats and thinking, dreaming, and having fun. He helped high school students see that it is possible to do great things even when young. Students could relate to the bike project and understand how it would be possible to do such a project.

Campers were also impressed that Couchenour is now a teacher and assistant lacrosse coach at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, NC. That's quite impressive for a recent graduate, but he did not stop there. He also sponsors Icing Smiles at the high school. This is a student group that bakes customized birthday cakes for children with terminally ill diseases.

Couchenour Finally Gets to See the Results of His Hard Work

At the end of Couchenour's program, Dr. Jay Bolin rode one of the Ride Share bikes into the classroom. Ironically Couchenour had never seen the bikes he earned the money to purchase. The money was earned while he was a college student, but the purchases were made the following year. Dr. John Wear congratulated Couchenour and invited him to take a bike cruise around campus.

What Do Summer Camp Counselors Look Like at the End of a Camp Day?

Camp Counselors Getting a Little Bug Eyed
Yes. Being a counselor at the National Environmental Summit is a great and rewarding experience. You not only work and earn money for your college expenses, you get to learn more about environmentalism right along with the high school campers.

Days are long. You're up around 6 am and may get to bed at 11 pm or midnight. Then there are those 2 am room checks. Coffee becomes your best friend even if you don't like coffee.

Here you see some of our counselors trying to hold their eyes open. Okay. They are joking around, but being a counselor is pretty intense as these counselors can tell you.

Is it worth it? You bet!

Thanks to Deep Dave for the funny photo and to all the counselors for taking a summer week to work at Redesigning the Future. They are making a difference too.

Holly Kuhn Enjoyed the Summit So Much She Came Back and Brought a Friend

Holly Kuhn and Savannah Herrera
Holly Kuhn was one of eight returning campers to Redesigning the Future 2015. You know campers had a good time when they opt to return for another second (or even third) year.

Holly said she loved the camp and her Focus Group "A Backbone for Conservation" so much that she talked her friend, Savannah Herrera, into signing up for camp and joining her this year. Holly said she enjoyed Dr. Joe Poston's section so much that she wanted to take it again and share it with her buddy.

Both young ladies were having a great time this session, and Holly said she'd enjoy coming back a third year.

We think Holly would make a great National Environmental Summit counselor one of these days. She certainly has a passion for the Center for the Environment summer summit.

President Brien Lewis, Dr. John Wear, and Heather White of EWG

President of Catawba College Brien Lewis, Founder of the Center of the Environment Dr. John Wear and Heather White, Executive Director of Environmental Working Group 

Dr. John Wear, Director of the Center for Environment at Catawba College, welcomed Heather White and Catawba College President Brien Lewis to the 2015 Designing the Future Summit for high school students.

President Lewis noted that Catawba College is an award-winning green college. The college is currently working on a solar panel project which is the largest academic solar panel project in the state of North Carolina. Panels on top of campus buildings will save money and resources over the years which is good for all of us.

Some other projects Lewis mentioned were the sustainable garden on campus and a bike share program for students. These, along with other projects like turning cafeteria waste into compost, make Catawba College an excellent college to major in environmental science or studies.

Waste from the Cafeteria is Used to Make Rich Compost at Catawba College
Heather White, the keynote speaker for 2015, is the executive director of Environmental Working Group (EWG) - a partner on the Redesigning the Future summer camp program. She has a law degree and testifies before congress on important environmental issues.

White encouraged campers to make plans. She said she wrote down where she wanted to be by the age of thirty and worked to make her dreams happen. President Lewis also noted that he took the same successful approach. Both encouraged students to be purposeful in moving toward the future.

One student did ask how it was possible to tell if goals set were realistic. White noted that this was a good question. She said, "You don't know." She said the process was really the important part. As students move toward goals, they may find that they discover new avenues that better fit their strengths and interests explained White.

Another tip White shared was that it was important to network. She said that those in the field to make the world a better place love to share what they have learned and explain how young people can get involved and help. She encouraged campers not to be shy. She said that they should make it a point to talk to or contact their environmental heroes. Often students find mentors when they reach out to learn more and to get help with their earth-friendly projects noted White.

Students Mingling and Enjoying Snacks After the Keynote Address

What Would Camp Be Without Counselors?

Meet Our Energetic and Hard-Working Counselors 2015
Meet our counselors for 2015. Camp couldn't run without these high energy college students who live and breathe camp for a week every summer. From setting up events to late night dorm checks and cleaning up messes to coming up with fun ideas, these young people deserve a high five.

Counselors this year include Payden Mitchell, Ashley Everidge, Mary Scott Norris, Brinsley Stewart (head counselor), Seth Stephens, Deep Dave, Hannah Davis, and Forest Fugate.

Catching Turtles to Mark and Track for the Future

One popular Focus Group at Redesigning the Future is Dr. Joe Poston's "A Backbone for Conservation" group. The campers in the group enjoyed learning about turtles and then trapping some to tag for scientific study.

Here are some photos taken by Payden Mitchell, the student counselor for the "Backbone" group, which included Renuka, Savannah, Ashley, Riley, Holly, Kathryn, Macayla, Caitlin, and Thomas.

Kayaking and Canoeing on the Lake at Environmental Summit 2015

Campers enjoyed a fun time kayaking and canoeing on the lake at the ecological, wildlife preserve behind the Center for the Environment at Catawba College in Salisbury, NC.

Read more about hands-on geocaching with "Green Ink" (blogger group) camper Kayla Blackburn in her educational article on geocaching from earlier in the week.

Here are some great photos of the event provided by summit counselor, Payden Mitchell.