by Teal Zeisler, ’07
“It is our choices that make us who we are.” This message, borrowed from J.K. Rowling’s Albus Dumbledore, was a key point guiding Stephen Trimble’s speech at the 3rd annual SCA Conservation Commencement in Charlestown, NH.
It is undoubtedly true that our choices do shape our path through life, and these choices are influenced by lessons derived from the outcomes of past actions, as well as feedback from those whose opinions we value. After a few months of service, SCA volunteers have hopefully accumulated plenty of both. Now they are faced with the pivotal decision of whether or not to parlay the experiences gained from their service into fuel for activism in their future endeavors.
Stephen Trimble is an inspiration to the activist itching to expand within every budding volunteer. An award-winning writer, photographer, and conservationist to the core, Trimble has been a powerful voice for the preservation of natural places and indigenous cultures throughout his entire career. Listening to his speech could not help but reinforce my sense of conviction that an outspoken message carries much more than simple word power—it is a conduit for disseminating the fiber of one’s deepest beliefs with the hope of impacting others.
One such message from Trimble was his faith in the empowerment of today’s youth through support and encouragement from their elders. He remarked that, in reference to the parents and teachers of the young and receptive, “We simply work to create the conditions for good work, for inspiration, for each one of you to join the community of interesting and generous people paying attention to the world and thinking about its future.” SCA connects young people with these types of role models, from whom we gain strength and conviction through witness of their success; they provide a precedent to affirm that our ambition to lead a life of conviction is attainable. And I hope that the crew leaders and mentors of our most recent alumni have gained plenty from us in return, reinvigorating the cycle of inspiration between generations.
I can say that, personally, I owe the SCA credit for the reinforcement of my choice to study environmental issues in college, to pursue the experience to qualify for a career in the environmental field, for a roommate turned best friend, and for a supportive and dedicated boss (not to mention an excellent reference once I enter the job market). For those of you who have reached the end of your internships, it is time to take what experiences, support, and knowledge that you have gained during your period of service and share it with others. Trimble offered a challenge to the young volunteers in the crowd by stating that, “My generation had its chance. We made some progress. We missed many opportunities. Now, it’s your turn.”
As 50,000 volunteers can attest, an SCA internship is not just a short-term volunteer position but a catapult to realizing that the things you are passionate about can lead to a real career, a life full of meaning and dedication. Stephen Trimble told us how an SCA summer spent at Olympic National Park was a crucial step along the road to his career and role as an advocate for conservation. And soon enough, the SCA volunteers of our generation will serve as the teachers, the parents, the ones offering the first bits of encouragement to young folk who are searching for a mentor to influence the path that they take. Or perhaps, through your service, activism, and the example you set through your choices and actions, you already have.
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