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The growling clouds had barely begun to slink away from the rain-lashed sky when a pale face bounded gleefully to the soggy window, her smile reflected in the prismatic droplets clinging to the glass. There was only one thing on her mind today: the squirming, slimy refugees scattered on the pavement outside.
I had always loved helping animals and conserving the environment; when I was a toddler, I would walk around after the rain, picking up the worms and putting them back in the ground. I guess that’s what first drew me towards the Roots and Shoots program. Roots and Shoots is a youth environmental program founded by the famous scientist Jane Goodall. When our Roots and Shoots Project had just begun we met Dr. Sakai, who was busy working on a very unique project: tagging and tracking monarch butterflies.
One of the most common questions we get is “Why in the world would you want to tag a monarch butterfly?” The answer is simple; we tag to track, and track to save. The main threat to monarchs is the destruction of habitat. If we track where the butterflies are migrating to, then we can protect the groves and areas they stay in. The monarch tags we use are only a little sticker, placed as close to the base of the wing as possible to make them easier to fly with. After the butterfly is tagged, you cup it in your hands, blow on it to warm it up, and then let it fly! My friend Kate likes to say that it’s bad morning breath, not warmth that makes the butterflies fly away.
Three years ago, my friends Kate and Nina and I were accepted to attend the 2002 North American Roots and Shoots Youth Summit, held at the Headlands Institute north of San Francisco. We visited the Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Center, explored an old WWII battery on the hillside, and even met Jane Goodall. Two years ago, Kate and I were accepted to go again, this time to the North Woods of Minnesota. This time, we were invited to give a talk on our experiences with the butterflies to the other delegates – including Jane Goodall.
Invigorated by our experiences with other environmentalists, we began working on our own Monarch Festival, which was held in January, 2004. We had booths, games, and entertainment to teach people about the amazing monarch butterflies and to encourage them to plant milkweed to help sustain the butterfly population. Over 2,000 people attended the event, and the revenue was sufficient to fund the Second Annual Monarch Festival this year.
I have come along way from picking worms up off the sidewalk, though I still do sometimes, after the rain. A lot of people complain about the environment and the state of the earth today, but don’t actually take action. With Roots and Shoots, we are actively helping make the world a better place for both animals and people. For this reason, one of my college goals is to start a collegiate Roots and Shoots chapter. Roots and Shoots has been too much of an influence on my life and the lives of others to simply leave it behind in my hometown. In my time at the University of California, I hope to bring the same opportunities for service and conservation to my fellow students. I have learned through my involvement in Roots and Shoots that one person can make a difference, and I am planning to continue my involvement in conservation and the environment for my entire life.
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