Youth Forward Scholarship Summer 2018 – “Us and Them” No More

Name: Nickee Brumbaugh
From: Fulton, MO
Grade: Freshman - Sophomore (18-19)
School: Westmisnster College
Votes: 0

I volunteer in the area of animal conservation, specifically, Birds of
Prey. It initially started as a family tradition as my Grandmother,
Mother, and Sister have all volunteered there. However, I was one of
the youngest volunteers at The World Center for Birds of Prey, and
have worked hard to be able to teach guests about birds, but also be
able to handle the birds and get to know them on a whole new level.
I’ve been there for 6 years now and have over 300 hours and I
average about 7-10 hours a month. I play many roles, I primarily sign
up as a Rover, someone who runs around talking to and helping guests,
but I often step into Docent positions by doing bird presentations
and tours as needed. I am also trained to work the gift shop, so
often times I’ll step in if the person working needs a break. I
have already helped foster more opportunities for younger volunteers
because of my sheer willingness and eagerness I had when I started
off. I know I will never be forgotten and that if I were to come back
I would continue to involve young volunteers and help them grow. I
want them to have the same amazing experience I did, and to possibly
discover some of things I did too or something new on their own.

I work to make sure that people connect to the birds on a personal
level by telling guests the bird’s name, age, and certain quirks
he/she might have. Many see the World Center for Birds of Prey as
another zoo, but all of the birds have their own emotions and
personalities. This barrier of an “us and them” mentality,
is broken during the live bird presentation. When I bring Bob, the
American Kestrel, out on my glove and people see him scratch his
small beak, stretch his legs and wings, or sink into his cozy fluff,
they see he is a tiny other being with feelings and little relatable
tendencies. I want people to see animals on an equal plain, because
it’s not us and them, we’re no better than they are.

I want others to see places like the World Center for Birds of Prey,
and zoos, differently. Not as places of “us and them”, not
as places to gawk at things foreign to us. But places of learning and
places of interactions with creatures who are just as afraid of us,
as we are of them. That is my mission as a volunteer at the World
Center for Birds of Prey and at times it can be difficult.
The
most rewarding part of volunteering is when I present an education
bird. Before I say a word you can see in every audience member’s
face either pure joy, or and unspoken respect for these beautiful
creatures. I also love when people are already really interested in
the birds or I when I can help grow their interest, even just a
little. I’ve learned so much as a volunteer – I’ve learned the
value of hard work, the importance of a community, and what it feels
like to be loved by that community. I’ve learned self
accountability as well as self betterment. I’ve also learned about
the importance of other organisms’ lives and although I will never
know what it is like to be a Falcon, Owl, Hawk or Eagle, I will have
the joy of being very close to the beings who know exactly what it is
like.

I’m only mildly spontaneous, I like to plans things, and have some sort
of goal in mind. I am “forward looking” in that I goal, although
broad, for the future that I am working for. There may be a lot of
“unknows” at this point but that is how life goes, so if you
always have a goal in mind you won’t ever get off track. I am
interested in being an Civil Engineer, however, I had never really
had an interest in songbirds until I saw a Blue Jay and Cardinal with
my own eyes. Now I am working towards and an rigours Ornithology
class my school offers that I am tremendously excited for. What this
means for my career goals, I don’t know specifically, but I do know
the poor effects power lines and windmills already have on birds of
prey. Although my journey may not lead me to birds specifically, I
will always have the effect my work will have on the environment in
the back of my mind.


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