Youth Forward scholarship summer 2016 – Fourteen

Name: Sophie Owen
From: Taylor, Arizona
Grade: Senior
School: Snowflake High School
Votes: 237

Fourteen. Fourteen and I stepped out of my little town into a global world. I
had always been deeply concerned about the human foot print that was
being left on our environment, but never in my wildest dream did I
think at fourteen that concern would take me out of my small town,
out of my comfort zone, and out of my country.

I discovered the Sea Turtle Habitat Preservation Retreat while I was
doing research for my Girl Scout Gold Project. I was on the Girl
Scout website when I stumbled upon the Girl Scout “Destinations”
page. With trips from Europe to Africa and with focuses on everything
from sports to service. The application process consisted of an essay
on Habitat Preservation, short answer essay questions, past volunteer
work, and two teacher letters of recommendation. I was the youngest
applicant to be a part of the program. I would turn fourteen a month
before I was supposed to leave which was the youngest you could be to
even apply. Fourteen. Fourteen and my life was about to change.

Costa Rica was a very different type of place. For example the Conservation
Base was located in San Jose. San Jose from my experience was three
things. Loud, colorful, and loudly colorful. The traffic was crazy,
people were selling things in the middle of intersections and the
houses were actually just hundreds and hundreds of tiny apartments
stacked on top of each other painted every color imaginable. After
spending the first couple days on the Base training. We were
transferred seven hours from the Base to Ostianal, a small beach side
village. In Ostianal we volunteered by playing soccer with the
children on the community field which was the towns prized
possession, helped renovate a community center to be turned into a
free medical clinic, and spent most nights tracting sea turtles which
consisted of walking the beaches at night in rotations to count the
sea turtles coming up on the shores to lay eggs so that we could
calculate population growth, and watching over them to prevent

My biggest challenge as a volunteer was having to come to terms with the
realization that many people live like those in Ostianal. Without,
proper sanitation, schooling, or even medical care. Although I went
to Costa Rica to help Sea Turtles, I spent most of my time working
alongside the adults and children who I grew to love. My greatest joy
was found in the personalities of the local children who in spite of
their trials took immense pleasure in teasing the volunteers by
playing tricks on them. (I once witnessed a girl find a rather large
crab in her back pack courtesy of the kids) Leaving Costa Rica, I
both left a part of myself there and took an entirely new person back
to my little town. I wish I could say I changed others through my
volunteer work but really the people of Costa Rica changed me.

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