Copper River Record August 16, 2018
By Robin Mayo
The office is quiet this morning, and full of ghosts. Last week WISE said goodbye to two staff members, Americorps Volunteer Mikaela Dalton, and Environmental Education Intern Matthew Roman. They gave their tremendous talents, energy and enthusiasm to WISE, and will be greatly missed. Their leaving stirred up memories of other WISE staff who have filled this office over the years. Matt, Lyda, Jamie, Kiana, Tim, Tommy….we miss you too!
Mikeala Dalton arrived last August, and spent a full year with WISE as an Americorps Service Member. She was part of a program sponsored by RurAL CAP, a statewide profit which focuses od improving the quality of life for rural Alaskan residents. The Resilient Alaska Youth program sends Americorps volunteers all over the state to work with our most valuable resource, our youth. Mikaela graduated from University of Vermont with a degree in Global Studies. With experience in Outdoor Education as both participant and instructor, she was the perfect person to get our new Outdoor Wilderness Leadership Skills (OWLS) program up and running.
“I grew up loving the feeling of awe; a reverence and wonder for the world around us. That feeling when you’re alone in a tall woods, or on top of a mountain you struggled to climb…It’s that feeling that sends shivers down your spine, makes your hair stand on end, and gives you goosebumps.” Mikaela Dalton
As well as writing the curriculum for OWLS, Mikaela helped plan and implement WISE programs old and new during her year. Since her marching orders included spending as much time with youth as possible, she was able to teach snowshoeing at Kluti-Kaahs spring break program, camp out for a week at Chosen Frozen, and hang out with the preschoolers at Copper River Native Association. Whenever possible she put on her favorite costume, a fuzzy fox onesie, and used her creativity for skits and engaging hands-on lessons.
Mikaela’s greatest accomplishment by far was developing the OWLS program. Starting with brainstorming, a detailed logic model, presenting a proposal to the School District curriculum committee, and capturing a full set of lesson plans, this new program simply would not have happened without her talent and commitment.
Matt Roman was with us for just 10 weeks, but we definitely filled those weeks! Florida is home to Matt, and he is a student at Columbia University in Manhattan, so taking up residence in the rustic cabin at WISE for the summer was definitely a change of pace. Matt is a natural teacher and full of enthusiasm, a great fit for jumping into a myriad of programs. He took on a wide variety of tasks, from maintaining the van to giving WISE’s digital presence some much needed attention, to holding the hands of our youngest hikers as they explored.
“The past few months have been much more than some internship I can sum up on a resume….Life is just different out here, the sense of community is one of the strongest I’ve ever felt…We all may have a clear idea of the beauty of the natural world, what I’ve come to realize is that it can really change the way we think and feel. It can make us more aware, more connected with ourselves and others, and on the whole more complete.” Matthew Roman
Most importantly, both Mikaela and Matt embraced their roles as members of the WISE and Copper Valley communities. They volunteered their time to work on the new bridge at Wellwood Nature Preserve, and took advantage of many opportunities to be a part of daily life here.
How will WISE fill the gaping holes left by these two? After the summer season is done, we will assess our finances and decide what help is needed for the upcoming year. Chances are very good that we will once again host an Americorps Volunteer, we’ve had some amazing people through this program, and really like to be a part of RurAL CAP’s Resilient Alaska Youth network. And hopefully we will host another intern next summer. As programs like OWLS and Copper River Stewardship Program nurture local teens in outdoor and leadership skills, it is our hope that Copper Valley youth will fill these roles.
In the meantime, I’m getting used to the empty desks, and reminding myself to check the oil!
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.