By Gabriella Perez
As a student attending Marco Island Academy High School, there are many opportunities available for me to improve my academic experience and better prepare myself for the college years ahead. One of these opportunities involve volunteer work, which not only helps my community but provides me with volunteer hours and experience required to graduate.
As a teen living in Florida and being near the ocean, it also gives me an advantage to help with ongoing programs and events that may not be offered anywhere else. One of the programs I have experience with offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities — Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Rookery Bay provides volunteer jobs for everyone from teens to elders, and a few of the jobs here involve helping and maintaining our environment. That includes grounds keep volunteer, native butterfly garden attendant, turtle egg monitoring and bird nest monitoring. Volunteers also can choose from greeter, interpreter, welcome desk, touch tank or fish feeder.
I was first introduced to Rookery Bay through my guidance counselor, when I was informed of the many volunteer programs available. Naturally, I was very drawn to this environment because of the love and care shown towards the surroundings and wildlife. As I continue to volunteer here, I hope to better my human interaction skills and helpfulness, as well as expand my knowledge of the many plant and animal species that share my home.
Everyone is welcome to volunteer at Rookery Bay, especially teenagers. Whatever job you choose to participate in, it requires quite a bit of time and patience. Because of this, volunteers have a chance to completely understand their job and the importance of it. First of all, in order for a teen to start the volunteering process, they must attend orientation at Rookery Bay. This enlightens the volunteer with a little more information about Rookery, such as what it is all about, who it helps and why volunteers are a such big part of keeping it up and running. Also, teens are given a tour of the reserve to familiarize themselves with locations and exhibits.
Most of the jobs offered are great way for teens to better their social interaction skills and learn the importance of little hard work, helping to prepare us for jobs we will face in the future. Volunteers play a very big role in helping maintain Rookery Bay. All who help in the preservation, restoration and management of the reserve are greatly appreciated, and Rookery Bay could always use another pair of hands.
As an active volunteer, I have come to really enjoy working in Rookery Bay’s environment. The overall feel of the atmosphere is very inviting and friendly. Everyone is there to help, and it’s a place all ages are welcomed. Though my sister and I have only been at Rookery Bay for a few weeks, we’ve noticed how interested people are about our experience. My parents even are considering volunteering too mainly because of how much we enjoy it. I strongly encourage anyone interested in volunteering, either for school or in free time, to give Rookery Bay Reserve a try. I assure you — from first-hand experience — there’s a job for anyone willing to try, and you won’t be disappointed.
For more information on volunteering at Rookery Bay, contact Donna Young at 239-530-5974, or visit www.rookerybay.org.