By Naturalist Megan Harrison
During my two years at Dunes Learning Center, countless people have told me how lucky I am to explore outside for my job. While they are absolutely right, the best part of my job has been connecting with campers. Coming into this position, I was certainly ready to teach kids and hopefully impact their lives, but I had no idea that they would do the same for me. One camper in particular who has impacted me is Amari.
I was fortunate enough to get to know Amari during his first Dunes Discovery Camp and learned that he wants to be a zoologist! As a wildlife major, I was really excited to share this common interest and started talking his ear off about colleges, programs, etc. It should be noted that Amari is still in middle school, and probably not applying to colleges yet... However, I hope that when he looks back on that day, he sees how much I believed in him.
Too often, we tell kids “you’re too young to know what you want to do” or “that’s too much school, you won’t stick with it” instead of “WOW! You’ll make an awesome astronaut/veterinarian/doctor!” As Lady Bird Johnson once said, “Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.” With tears in our eyes, Amari and I said goodbye at the end of camp. I spent the next few months wishing I had asked him more about his dreams.
Luckily, Amari and I crossed paths again during a Frog in the Bog program! Returning campers are another reason I love being an educator. It is like catching up with an old friend when they walk through the door. This was definitely the case when Amari greeted me with his trademark smile and hug. His return to Dunes Learning Center gave me the opportunity to talk with him more about his dreams.
Amari has always been an animal lover and this drew him to zoos. He wants to be a zoologist so that he can give animals a happy, healthy life inside of zoos. Learning about more animals, Amari says, is what drew him to summer camp and encouraged him to come back to DLC for a school program. He also mentioned that the friendships he formed here have had a huge impact on his life. We said goodbye again, and I started to reflect on why Amari has made such a lasting impact on me.
Here is what I realized: Amari reminded me that dreams are valid, regardless of your age. You can never be too young or too old to start pursuing your passion. He also taught me that a little kindness can go a long way. Amari is the type of kid who will always have a smile and a hug for you. I have seen campers, classmates, naturalists, and teachers light up when Amari enters a room, because he truly does spread kindness to everyone.
I am so thankful for Dunes Learning Center for making these connections happen. Without places like DLC, kids would have fewer places to explore their passion for nature. May we never stop teaching and learning from kids.