Aida Rodriguez, Outreach Associate, The Escondido Creek Conservancy
When driving north along Center City Parkway in Escondido, it is easy to miss one portion of critical wildlife habitat. It blends in among the Escondido Police Department and local apartment buildings. Reidy Creek is a tributary that is lush with vegetation, wildlife, and flowing water. It is located in central Escondido among the hustle and bustle of vehicles and city life.
It might go unnoticed, but one group of high school students spent three weeks of summer vacation exploring the Creek to better understand its ecological role in the Escondido Watershed as part of The Escondido Creek Conservancy’s Conservation Fellows Program.
In this outdoor education program, students get the opportunity to explore the preserves owned and managed by The Escondido Creek Conservancy, discuss critical environmental issues, and culminate their knowledge into a project that demonstrates their mastery.
Five bright, local high school students were a part of the 2021 cohort of Conservation Fellows, including Yoshigie Garcia, Freshman at Del Lago Academy, Arlunya Sisomvang, Junior at Escondido Charter High School, Matthew Kenville, Sophomore at La Jolla Country Day, Michelle Torres, Senior at Oceanside High School, and Fabiola Theberge, Sophomore at Torrey Pines High School.
As part of the environmental leadership program, each student spent a week learning about the Reidy Creek Restoration Project. They explored the Escondido Creek watershed and completed assignments designed by the Conservancy’s education team to enhance their outdoor knowledge. They then shared their newly acquired knowledge and showcased the Conservancy’s on-going restoration efforts by hosting nature walks along the creek for the Escondido community.
During the nature walks, they impressed attendees with their knowledge of the creek and the environmental issues facing conservationists. They inspired all of us to pay more attention to our natural surroundings and find ways we each can support the environment.
“It’s amazing to discover that this piece of nature is located right in our backyard, something I drive by every day and never even noticed,” said Juan Figeroa, an Escondido resident and nature walk attendee.
“Before the program, I thought of nature as being in the wilderness, far from the city, and now I realize nature is all around us and can be found everywhere,” said Michelle, one of the Fellows.
“Before the program, I thought of nature as peaceful and well kept. Now, I believe nature can be a bit chaotic, but in that, you can still see the beauty,” said Arlunya.
The pandemic, although unpredictable and sometimes isolating, created a newfound appreciation for nature, the outdoors, and human connection.
“I felt fortunate to participate in a program where we got to share our passion for learning and nature with a group. It was nerve racking at first, communicating with others after living through isolation and the pandemic, but I got the hang of it,” explained Matthew.
“My favorite part of the program was being able to work with others, creating the nature walk, and working as a team playing our own roles,” said Michelle. “I think that [being a part of this program] made me appreciate getting out there and being with others again in a team setting. This was something people didn't get to do during the pandemic. It made me appreciate being with people again.”
You can learn more about the Conservation Fellows, and all The Escondido Creek Conservancy’s outdoor educational programs at www.escondidocreek.org. The Conservancy also owns and manages conservation preserves throughout the Escondido Creek watershed region.