Gator Hook Trail

Centennial Volunteer Ambassador Joshua Kezar at Big Cypress

ABOVE: My office for the afternoon…

“On the edge of a moment, in a land that we love, at a time that our best has to be good enough. Like all those before us, we start out alone, we race from our schoolyards into the unknown…you and I, we will live differently…this moment is yours. This moment is mine. And we’re going to be fine.” – The Lucky Ones

“Oooooh, I wonder what this means!”

“Ah, how thought provoking.  This takes me back to when I was a young grasshopper ready to dash off to _________ as soon as I possibly could.”

“I sure hope he explains how at all this is relevant to anything.”

“Mhmm, starting out with a quote.  Classic.” 

  1. Start with a quote.
  2. Explain why or how the quote is relevant to this post.
  • Ned’s Declassified Guide to Blogging (not really)

Or, I can include a quote now and see if anything matches up with it as we go.  Yes, that’s what we’ll do…

I’m coming to you live  well, obviously not right now as you read, but as I type this, it’s live  from Gator Hook Trail at Big Cypress National Preserve in Southwest Florida.  We’re just at the top of the wet season, so for a swamp it’s still rather arid; humidity values in the two weeks I’ve been here have gotten as low as 85%!  I’ve set up shop here just for you. Below you can see I’ve rigged up a little 10 square foot or so space for myself this afternoon among the 729,000 acres within the Preserve’s bounds, including the following: a translucent beige umbrella to simulate fluorescent lighting, a top notch bug jacket to simulate a door bearing a “Do Not Disturb” sign not allowing colleagues (read: insects and other flying things) to distract me, and a backpack with lots of pockets to represent desk drawers. Seems to me like just another day in the office? *shrugs and slyly smirks*

My name is Joshua Kezar. I’m a 20-year-old rising senior at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX studying Mathematics and Economics, with concentrations in Operations Research and Financial Applications, respectively.  I very much enjoy participating in almost all things athletic (baseball and basketball didn’t make the cut), especially if they’re played under the sun, no fluorescent lights or translucent beige umbrellas in sight.  At school I’ve been involved in everything from Engineers Without Borders to hall councils to Ballroom Dance Team to Student Government to Alternative Breaks.  I’m sure I’ll tell you more as the year goes. 

That’s just a smidgeon of who I am, but back to the task at hand…I suppose we should address why in the world a rising college senior is sitting in the middle of one of the world’s most known and largest undisturbed wetlands in the middle of internship season.

Surprising as it might sound, I am serving in an internship position! I’m serving the National Park Service here in Big Cypress (BICY) as Centennial Volunteer Ambassador (CVA). One of 70 interns around the country, I along with my fellow CVAs am charged with boosting the Park Service’s volunteer corps by 300% for the centennial year of the National Park Service (NPS) in 2016. 

I’ve already noted some of my school involvement above. The last one I mentioned, Alternative Breaks, has had the most profound impact on me. My involvement there began my first semester of college and only increased over time. This past academic year, in addition to planning my own, I served to help coordinate 18 trips to various locations on this side of the Atlantic, working with different community organizations and recruiting students and staff to participate in the trips.  Preparing those student leaders for their journeys; seeing the incalculable changes (keep in mind I’m a math major – this isn’t insignificant) in not only the groups’ cohesiveness but also the individuals’ worldview edits, whether from working with at-risk youth, victims of domestic violence, or veterans who cannot afford to remodel their own homes; and witnessing the new perspectives those 200 participants brought back to campus with them *exhales*, those are the things that compelled me to come work in the Preserve for the next year in the volunteer program. 

When you volunteer to lend a helping hand up to someone or somewhere with a need, everyone knows you’re offering help to that singular person or place. What we so often overlook is the benefit to you as the volunteer that can result from strong, direct service.  I’ve made it my goal to show that by practicing what I preach for a calendar year – to play, to learn, to serve, and to work in this park. In doing so, I hope to create a healthier volunteer base in the greater Naples community, thereby also creating a healthier greater Naples community.

I don’t think any of this is what I intended to write at my offset into the uneven limestone Gator Hook Trail this afternoon. Once I start on the NPS Centennial, it’s hard to slow me down. Now that I’ve gotten the cursory run-through of that out of my system, allow me to back track next time and we’ll get around to that edge of a moment in the land that we love. 

Phil 4:4

—Joshua