Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2016 – One in One Thousand Turtles

Name: Cassie Daigle
From: Athens, GA
Votes: 0

It started with family trips. My three siblings and myself would watch
my father try amid many failed attempts at organizing the trunk of
our car so that somehow all six of us and our overinflated luggage
could make it to the beach.

Somewhere along these annual beach trips, my childhood self began to develop a
passion for sea turtles. I began to take an interest in all the
stakes in the stand marking sea turtle nests. Once the interest
sparked, it never died out.

I emailed marine biologists at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center as a young
elementary aged kid, asking for pictures of sea turtles to tape to my
locker. As a kid, the curiosity of it got me engaged, a reminder of
just how much is out there beneath the blue. But what kept me hooked,
was the odds staked against the sea turtles, and how these underdogs
manage to live amid a world that hasn’t done enough to ensure their

Only one in 1000 sea turtle hatchlings will make it to adulthood. The one
turtle that does make it faces an upward slope its whole life, facing
the devastating effects of plastic polluting our seas, fishing nets
that serve the global fishing industry and poachers desperate to make
money no matter the cost.

This is where the widespread efforts of volunteering come into play. As a
child, I never did get to see a sea turtle nest despite my many early
morning and late night walks along the beach to help my chances. So I
made the decision last May to volunteer in a small Caribbean village
off the beaten path in Costa Rica.

Money is tight in a family of six, so I emailed every professor in the
biology department at my university in the hopes that I could receive
course credit for the volunteer program I found online that was
specific to sea turtles.

Luckily, amid many no’s, was a professor who said yes.

My month in Parismina, Costa Rica was unlike anything I’ve ever
experienced. Not only did I comb the beach for hours in the middle of
the night, measuring gigantic leatherback sea turtles, gathering
their eggs and transporting them to a hatchery to them keep watch
over the net day – but I learned that happiness is found in a
simpler way to live. Volunteering gave me that perspective.

I learned that cold showers are refreshing. I learned that I could kill
spiders as big as my hand and not whine about doing so. I learned
that living without technology offers a new and exciting perspective
on life that is lost on my generation. I learned that the people
within the village have already figured out how to live successfully,
and they do so by loving one another and going day to day without the
luxuries so many of us are lucky to have.

As a journalist at the University of Georgia, I have a platform. This
platform is one that allows me to speak out on issues that I care
about. I believe change is foreseeable so long as we have the courage
to make it so. As a writer for the independent student newspaper on
campus, I continue to write about the challenges we face
environmentally, whether marine or climate related. I want to be able
to tell my grandchildren I did everything we could to preserve the
paradise we live in, and the animals we coexist with, and I hope that
fifty years down the road I won’t need to.

Join our Facebook group "Volunteers for a Better World".