North Monterey County High School seniors Lindsey Hashimoto and Yoel Sanchez received awards of recognition from the North Monterey County Unified School District Board for their leadership in the Moro Cojo Nature Program. The awards were presented after the students gave a presentation on the special summer program — a cooperative effort of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF), North Monterey County High School (NMCHS), and the North County Recreation and Park District (NCRPD).
In a presentation to the Board, Hashimoto and Sanchez gave a window in to the experiences that prepared them for the job, including being members of the Slough Crew — an environmental education program at NMCHS supported by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation.
The students also described Moro Cojo Park, within walking distance from North Monterey County High School, as an ideal location to test the new program. Managed by NCRPD, Moro Cojo Park offers picnic areas, play fields and courts, and nearly 15 acres of undeveloped grassland habitat with trails.
During the six-week program, Hashimoto and Sanchez led more than 60 individuals on guided tours of Moro Cojo Park, exploring the preserve’s grasslands and learning about the habitat, plants, and wildlife of the area. Nearly a dozen students applied and interviewed for the competitive nature guide position for which Hashimoto and Sanchez were selected. The position combined a paying summer job and an opportunity to gain experience in an environmental career — a resume builder for college-bound students.
“Being a youth guide was an amazing, life-changing event that I will remember forever,” says Sanchez, who navigated employment paperwork for the first time and underwent intensive training to become a guide. “I’ve learned so many new things not only about the environment, but also about myself.”
“It’s important for students to have real-life experiences that prepare them for a career,” says NMCHS Marine Science teacher Amber Gardea. “The Moro Cojo Nature Program is a great stepping-stone towards a future in science or tourism, good jobs that are available right here in the Monterey Bay.”
Elkhorn Slough Foundation and North County Recreation and Park District established the youth nature guide program to encourage conservation, provide work experience that prepares local youth for jobs in the ecotourism industry, and increase awareness of the Moro Cojo Park and its nature trails.
ESF and NCRPD are working to expand the program next summer. “Local youth are ready to take on this kind of leadership and it’s a great way to build understanding and appreciation for conserved lands,” explains ESF Outreach Coordinator Katie Pofahl. “We see this program expanding with more students and locations.”
Community outreach is part of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation’s commitment to long-term conservation of the Elkhorn Slough. Engaging today’s youths through Slough Crew and the guide program helps increase environmental literacy and inspire the next generation of conservationists.
The Board also recognized the North County Recreation and Park District and Elkhorn Slough Foundation for partnering to support the Moro Cojo Nature Program, and the Elkhorn Slough Foundation for its support of Slough Crew programs.