When I first heard about the In My Backyard program, I was instantly intrigued. It seemed like the perfect balance of youth development and environmental stewardship, two of my greatest interests. When I was asked to interview for a Mentor position, I was excited but equally nervous. The program seemed like a fantastic opportunity to work with a passionate group of people who were working hard to inspire the next generation of stewards, and I wanted to be part of that.
I knew immediately after interviewing with the IMBY Support Squad that they were just as enthusiastic as I was about working with youth. I still remember the excitement I felt after getting off the phone with them, and desperately hoping that I would be able to join the team and be a part of the meaningful work they were doing.
After being asked to be a Mentor, the interview jitters shifted to excitement about the prospect of working with the IMBY program and meeting the youth participants. Once I got to know the In My Backyard team and learned more about the program, I was hooked. When people would ask me how my new position was going, the first words out of my mouth were always, “It’s so much fun,” and that sentiment stayed true throughout the summer. I knew early on that working with IMBY would be a wonderful experience, but little did I know just how much of an impact it would have!
It was during a jam packed, fast paced day at Seward Park where I was reminded of just how significant of an impact the In My Backyard program has on not only the youth Interns, but the Mentors as well. From the intrigue and bewilderment the Interns showed while learning about owl pellets, to the amazement I felt seeing two bald eagles chasing an osprey, the day was awe inspiring for both Interns and Mentors alike. Part of what makes IMBY so memorable and significant for me is the fact that the program allows Mentors to learn alongside their Interns, and gives the Interns an opportunity to teach their Mentors as well. Whether I was being reminded to step back and enjoy the moment, or being challenged to think of things from a new perspective, I was always learning from the IMBY Interns.
One of my favorite lessons from an Intern came during our Seward Park field trip. Towards the end of the trip, our group stopped to search for osprey across the water. As most people were peering through their binoculars in search of osprey, one of the Interns pointed out a Great Blue Heron that was perched in a nearby tree. I had been so focused on looking across the water to get a glimpse of the osprey that I had forgotten to take in what was right in front of me.
While I try my best to focus on experiencing each moment while working with the Interns, I often find myself analyzing activities, trying to make sure that everything is going smoothly. Are the Interns engaged? Does anyone need help with anything? What can I do to make this the best experience for our youth participants? All important considerations to make when leading a group, but there are times when it’s okay to let down my guard and focus on the fun and wonder of the program. Without our IMBY Intern pointing out the Great Blue Heron, I’m not sure I would have taken the time to stop and fully appreciate the moment.
It was moments like these where I personally felt the impact of the In My Backyard program, and I know the Interns felt similarly throughout the summer. All summer, the Interns showed me the value they were gaining from the program. Whether they enjoyed the Seward Park field trip for its bird watching, or simply because it was a great opportunity to connect with the outdoors, the impact the program has had on the youth is obvious.
After interviewing for the Mentor position, I had a gut feeling that the In My Backyard program would have a great influence on my life, and I was right. The trip to Seward Park was just one small part of my IMBY experience, and if the Interns were able to get as much out of the program as I did, then I am confident that the program made an impact. I learned so much about myself from this experience and from the Interns with their amazing insight, outlook on life, and perspective on the world around us. I will definitely take this knowledge with me going into my next adventure!