Stories from the Field

2019 Student of the Year Honorable Mention: Joshua Velazquez

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The four-day Environmental Science program that sixth grader Joshua Velazquez attended with his fellow Montessori Elementary & Middle School of Tracy classmates, including student of the year honorable mention Rylan, left a lasting impression on him.

Nearly eight months after Joshua returned from NatureBridge, Dr. Pamela Zell Rigg, School Curriculum Director described the eye-opening experience as still being sharply etched in his memory. As the second oldest in a family of four boys, Joshua naturally falls into the role of the quiet and reserved middle child, she said. Though as soon as Pamela brought up his experience at NatureBridge last June, it was as though Joshua had been waiting to express his feelings and excitement for the program. 

Though Joshua's style is not effusive, within his heart there is such passion and depth that I have encouraged him to submit his essay. I am recommending Joshua for the NatureBridge [student of the year] award because he is your greatest supporter with our parents and he exemplifies a deep commitment to conservation and stewardship.
Dr. Pamela Zell Rigg

Joshua’s thoughtful nature and passion for the discovery of the natural world was emphasized in the essay he submitted. 

“During this time I was able to perceive nature from another perspective,” wrote Joshua. “NatureBridge accomplished this by allowing me to take nature walks alone. Enjoying my classmates and other students' company was nice, but being alone helped me to reflect on how beautiful and mesmerizing nature really is.”

He wrote of the experiences that made him more environmentally conscious, the intentional educators that provided opportunities to build friendships and strong relationships and the impact of plastic and waste on marine life.

This experience made me more aware! I am forever changed. Now, I make sure I only take what I can eat, and I am also more conscious about recycling and not littering. I am motivated to educate others, like my little brothers, of the importance of being eco-friendly.
Joshua Velazquez

Upon returning to school, Joshua joined fellow classmate Rylan in his efforts to encourage the entire student body to reduce the amount of waste it created. He even speaks about the NatureBridge programs at parent meetings so that more students have the opportunity.

“In conclusion, this was truly a life changing experience,” Joshua wrote. “It was an event that marked my life and created in me a passion to care for the environment. It has also produced an interest and compassion for all of the sea creatures, as well as a strong desire for a better tomorrow that I can help to create.”

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