Scholarship Recipient Passionate About the Environment

Friday, November 4th, 2011

By Dianne L. Anderson

Amber and her fellow student volunteers digging up blackberry bushes at the Cascade Head Nature Conservancy

“Since my early years of high school, I have always been passionate about the environment,” stated Amber Diaz in her application for a scholarship stipend to volunteer for a week doing environmental conservation work at the Cascade Head Nature Conservancy in Oregon. “With very little money to spare” while saving money for college tuition and books, this sophomore Environmental Studies major was deeply grateful to the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation for the $575 stipend which covered the expenses of her Alternative Spring Break trip.

Amber’s passion for the environment began as a high school freshman when she and a dozen other students packed themselves into a van and drove to Baja, Mexico to work at a sea turtle reserve in an area where the locals had previously captured and sold the turtles on the black market. While there, Amber helped to rehabilitate and return sea turtles to the wild that had been caught in fishermen’s nets. Amber cleaned the pools, scrubbed the turtles’ shells and helped build a roof over the pools to give the turtles some shade from the hot sun. The operator of the reserve was native to the area and provided jobs to other locals which centered on ecotourism activities such as whale watching in an area where the endangered grey whales can also be found. This was most exciting for Amber who stated, “It was surprising to see the incredible change in attitudes of the locals towards their native wildlife, and to see them using their diverse wildlife to make a living. The trip inspired me to believe that people don’t always have to destroy the environment to be successful, they can live alongside it.”

Amber Diaz and her fellow student volunteers also worked on trail restoration in Oregon

Back in Colorado Amber volunteers with the Colorado Reptile Humane Society after becoming interested in the exotic pet trade and the impact on local wildlife stemming from the abandonment of exotic pets. The shelter takes in iguanas, snakes, and other reptiles, many of whom suffer from health problems due to neglect. “Seeing these animals, who would have died without the humane society’s intervention, survive and find good homes made me realize not only how negative attitudes towards reptiles can affect the environment and harm animals, but also how proper education can significantly better the lives of reptiles kept as pets, and in turn keep those pets from being abandoned and become invasive species in our habitats,” stated Amber.

The environmental significance of Amber’s volunteer work on her Alternative Spring Break trip to Oregon was of a different sort. The variety of ecosystems at Cascade Head, which include forests, several prairie headlands and the Salmon River are home to more than 350 species of wildlife and rare wildflowers.  The spotted owl, marbled murrelet, coho salmon, and the Oregon silver spot butterfly are all federally listed endangered species which either use or inhabit the area.  Because of its ecological significance, Cascade Head Preserve and the surrounding national forest and other lands have won recognition as a National Scenic Research Area and a United Nations Biosphere Reserve.

Amber Diaz and her fellow volunteers pose for a picture at the Cascade Head Nature Conservancy

Amber’s service at Cascade Head  focused primarily on digging up and removing invasive Himalayan blackberry bushes from the grassland community,  which  negatively impact  the rare  wildflowers and wildlife  naturally found there.  “It sounds easy, but the roots were usually really deep and branched out in every direction it seemed,” reported Amber.  Amber and her fellow student volunteers also worked on trail preservation of hiking trails that had become damaged and difficult to navigate after the rainy season. “Sometimes the work seemed tedious and we didn’t see our results immediately, but I know that the work we did during our week in Oregon has contributed to preserving the grasslands in this spectacular coastal headland which is a true natural gem”.

 

[Donate to the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation to help provide other students with scholarship opportuities]

 Related Links and Posts:

Cascade Head Nature Conservancy

Cascade Head Experimental Forest and Scenic Research Area 

Helping our children experience the gift of helping others, article in the Fall CU Parent Newsletter by Casey Feldman’s parents, Joel Feldman and Dianne in which they discuss the establishment of the Alternative Spring Break scholarships in Casey’s memory.

Casey Feldman Inspiration video , produced by CU Boulder broadcast journalism student Kylie Bearse and which aired on CU Boulder TV News, concerning the Alternative Spring Break program and the scholarships established in Casey’s memory.

University of Colorado – Boulder Volunteer Resource Center , volunteer office at CU which organizes the Alternative Spring Break trips

Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation News and Updates – University of Colorado/ Alternative Spring Break, all of the Foundation articles concerning the Alternative Spring Break scholarship program

Feldmans Meet with 2011 Alternative Spring Break Scholarship Recipients

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Scholarship recipients with Casey's parents. From left to right: Joel Feldman, Nicholas Zhou, Erika Durbin, Ricky Bell, Amber Diaz, Patrycja Humienik, and Dianne Anderson.

For the second consecutive year, several students from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where Casey’s parents are active in the parents’ association and Casey’s  brother Brett is a student, are recipients of an Alternative Spring Break scholarship that has been set up in Casey’s memory. This year’s scholarship recipients are Ricky Bell, Amber Diaz, Erika Durbin,Patrycia Humienik, Abigail Lane, Nicole Rodriguez, Amy Moore Shipley and Nicholas Zhou.

 Casey’s parents, Dianne and Joel,  had the opportunity recently to meet with  some of these  impressive students and share in their excitement about the upcoming spring break trips. All of the students expressed their gratitude in receiving the scholarships which have made their upcoming trips possible.

Casey made volunteering and helping others a priority in her life. These students will be doing the same, performing community service during their week off for spring break. The service trips include working at  an animal sanctuary in Woodstock, NY; aiding in disaster relief in New Orleans; preserving a rare coastline habitat in Oregon; filming a documentary about minority populations and human rights in San Diego; and working with the homeless in Cincinnati. 

There are many more  students who would like to particpate but who do not have the funds to do so. Contribute to the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation so that more deserving students may experience the rewards of an “Alternative Spring Break”.

Related Links:

–  Helping our children experience the gift of helping others,  article in the Fall CU Parent Newsletter by Casey Feldman’s parents, Joel Feldman and Dianne in which they discuss the establishment of the Alternative Spring Break scholarships in Casey’s memory.

–  Casey Feldman Inspiration video ,  produced by CU Boulder broadcast journalism student Kylie Bearse  and which aired on CU Boulder TV News, concerning the Alternative Spring Break program and the scholarships established in Casey’s memory.

–  University of Colorado – Boulder Volunteer Resource Center , Volunteer office at CU which organizes the Alternative Spring Break trips

 – Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation News and Updates – University of Colorado, Alternative Spring Break, all of the Foundation articles concerning the Alternative Spring Break scholarships, recipients, trips and student testimonials