Grace’s Story: In Sea Turtle Viewing, A Passion Unearthed

By BRIAN SMITH

What can the plight of sea turtles teach a high school student uninterested in science?
After the initial glow of watching a female turtle lay hundreds of eggs in the Costa Rican sand faded, two distinct feelings remained for Grace, a senior from a Chicago suburb:

Passion.
And depth.

Before Grace went on her No Barriers Youth trip to Costa Rica this summer, she was nervous to spend 10 days with other students she didn’t have any connection to, learning about a subject – science – she wasn’t quite connected with. Sure, she’d heard good things about the program, but she said a certain apathy overtook her and she “was just not into the idea.”

But her mind quickly changed.

One night, as they walked on the beach, their guide told them about the struggles newly hatched sea turtles face. Their eyes undeveloped, the turtles rely on the reflected light of the ocean’s surface to guide them to a watery safety. The lights from condos on the beaches, however, were sending these turtles in the wrong direction, causing some to die, she said.
Their group found a female turtle rustling among the sand, laying her eggs in a natural trance undisturbed by the students’ presence. She said she was “awestruck”.

Before, science had always been something in a textbook, in a video, in a class lecture. But she instantly connected with this foreign creature.

The experience made her realize the depth to which all subjects can be explored. Other areas of study suddenly had new life.  “In every field there’s so much to learn and I now have the desire to learn about it,” she said.

Grace said she was struck by Costa Rica’s sense of community, which was refreshingly at odds with a prior feeling of being jaded, fueled by living in an urban area.  “I’m a teen and a generally cynical person and I’m an American,” she said. “So I think that it can be generally said that my age group and nationality group would not be people who would be expected to be really interested and really inspired for change and to be knowledgeable about what they are doing.”  But the energy of Costa Rica was infectious and Grace is applying to colleges hoping to defer enrollment to return as a volunteer to help the places she visited.

“I learned about myself on this trip and I think that it made me a more well-rounded person.”

Just like Grace, your students can grow in all subject areas with the help of No Barriers Youth.

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