by Heather Kallevig
One of the greatest ways to protect our future is to empower future leaders and activists. SYRCL’s Salmon Tours create an opportunity for students to learn, teach, and lead. Nåah Lifland a sophomore from Sierra Academy was one of five local students who became the first teen naturalists for SYRCL’s salmon tour program. “It’s so great we get to help teach kids outside. This is way more engaging and fun than teaching them inside. I loved getting out as a high school student and leading younger kids.”
SYRCL’s River Education program is dedicated to partnering with students in the community and engaging a new generation of Yuba Activists. The Salmon Tour Teen Naturalist program was the first of many upcoming opportunities for high school students to take on a leadership role in SYRCL-led environmental education and activism. This year’s participants were from Sierra Academy and Nevada Union High School. These students, Hannah Babe, Mia Belluomini, Henry Seufert, Nåah Lifland, and Delphine Griffith, were selected for their motivation, academic excellence, and commitment to the future of the Yuba River.
Before the season the teens took part in a rigorous training program. They mastered curriculum covering the history of the lower Yuba, its ecology, and the salmon who depend on a healthy riparian habitat. The students spent several school days not in the classroom, but on rafting tours and hiking trips using this curriculum to teach local youth about the Yuba Chinook salmon.
Their commitment to the program required extracurricular work beyond their heavy school load. Each of the students participated in up to five tours, a significant time commitment. Fortunately, they all considered it worthwhile. Mia Belluomini reflects, “My favorite part was talking to the kids as we were floating down the river. I was able to get to know them and teach them about the salmon at the same time. One group of kids from Sacramento didn’t have many opportunities to get out into nature. It was so great to see their enthusiasm when they saw the salmon.”
Many of these students had the opportunity in elementary school to participate in salmon tours. It was a unique experience for them to now run the program. For others, this was their first time on the river, and they had a lot to learn. Hannah Babe was one of those students, “Having never been on the salmon tours as a younger student, I thought this opportunity was really exciting. Every part of the program was really cool. I loved both the rafting and hiking tours.”
The teen naturalist pilot program was an undeniable success, and the start of a new and powerful partnership between SYRCL and local teens. These students had the opportunity to learn through teaching, raising awareness about the Yuba Salmon while serving as powerful role models for younger generations.
Henry Seufert described his experience as a salmon steward. “On a more personal note I compared the 4th and 5th graders to myself when I was their age. Seeing their leadership, curiosity, and enthusiasm is what I enjoyed the most. It gives me hope and pride for the future to see such smart thinkers.”