Southwest Airlines Spurs SCA’s Biggest Earth Day in 60 Years


Hearts in Action Across the Nation

The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is proud to call Southwest Airlines its most LUV’d partner, especially after SWA “Cohearts” participating in the airline’s spring company-wide initiative, fueled a record-setting SCA Earth Month celebration in April. Together, we mobilized a record-setting 4,000 volunteers to serve the planet, and conserved over 136,000 square feet of parks and public green spaces, created more than 6,500 seed balls, and planted over 3,000 trees, flowers, and shrubs. All told, SCA facilitated over 60 unique projects in 22 different states in honor of its 60th anniversary, an unprecedented feat that literally could not have been accomplished without Southwest.

SCA’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship by engaging young people in service to the land. We take pride in “putting boots on the ground” and “getting our hands dirty”. We bring passion for the planet and appreciation for the people with whom we serve, without expectation or need of accolade. We see Southwest folks as kindred spirits in that regard.

Alexis Acar and Ally Ratliff, two of SCA’s Community Engagement Coordinators, facilitated activities in multiple cities nationwide. They saw first-hand how the “Servant’s Heart” mantra of giving back and “fun-LUVing” mindset is a marinade unique to the SWA culture that adds unique flavor to the entire experience. From station managers to front line employees, their message was “we are here to serve the greater community, but we are also here to have fun with each other.” This was no “show” for anyone watching – the Cohearts put their boots on and got their hands dirty for some serious conservation work.

Alexis, Ally, and many others captured the essence of the “Servant’s Heart”  while hopping from dozens of planes to parks to pollinator projects in a two-week span:

Dallas vs. Houston Seed Ball Showdown

Alexis: I don’t think you could even begin to comprehend the level of intensity that was radiating through the In-Flight lounge. The Dallas team had sworn me to secrecy and the Houston In-Flight teams were not about to lose to their rivals — I never gave them a number to reach but simply said “it’s under 1600”. Now that’s a crazy number of seed balls and Dallas had actually made under 900, but I could tell by their drive this was going to get interesting. We ran out of materials in the first hour but I soon had the Southwest staff begging me to get more supplies, so I got escourted outside and went on a pursuit for clay. When I returned, they were waiting and ready to get back into it; they even had a fire line system to increase output… it was wild — in short the power of seedballs knows no bounds. 

Alexis and Ally Make an Unexpected LUV Connection in Denver

Thanks to a generous donation of airline tickets from Southwest, SCA is able to move volunteers, staff, and leaders around the country to facilitate service events, sometime’s on a moment’s notice. In the case of Earth Month, this meant dozens of connections coast-to-coast, sometimes multiple flights in a 24-hour period. The following realization illustrates the number of miles, time zones SCA traveled to make the magic happen.

Ally: I was roaming around the Denver airport, in a half-zombie like state, when it hit me… Alexis’ flight was leaving out of this very airport! Perking up, I grabbed for my phone and in true Gen-X style texted her. Her reply says it all: “OMG, Where you at?” We had totally been wondering around the same 1,000 feet for the past hour.

SWA & SCA Volunteers Spreading the LUV at Herring Run Park in Baltimore

Alycia:  No coffee needed when working with the BWI Inflight crew. This crew brought their own energy, and it was infectious to everyone around them, including me! This group of volunteers was so pumped to remove invasive vines at Herring Run Park; one volunteer got into the vine-swinging spirit as you can see below.

Discovering the Pleasure of a Pulaski

Alexis: There’s something pretty special about the first time you use a pulaski …although I might be biased since it is my favorite tool! Working with SCA we tackle some pretty tough work, ranging from trailbuilding to firefighting, so it’s no surprise that we get to play with some pretty fun tools. During an SCA Earth Day event at Oakland City Stables, I had the chance to introduce some folks to the pulaski — when I brought them out everyone’s eyes lit up. Initially, they were nervous but it only took one volunteer to who got in “the swing” of things to encourage the rest of group to take a turn! It was one of those moments where you could see people exceeding their own expections of themselves which made it a cut above the rest. 

OKC Maps Its Seedball Plan of Attack

Ally: I arrived at the OKC office and spotted a map (pictured below). “What are we going to do with that?” I pondered. Soon my question was answered by Mike; they were using the map to track their seed balling across the city! I have to wonder if all those seeds have sprouted up by now?!

Restoring Wetlands in Southern California

LAX was literally in the thick of things, restoring Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve. They plowed through 1,500 sq feet of invasive ivy. For dessert, Krispy Kreme donuts!

Special thanks to all parks and agencies across nation for their partnership with SCA and to Southwest Airlines for supporting SCA.