At 13 years old, Jason Clarke answered a press release asking for Junior Naturalists to help with the Junior Ranger program at the Nature Center for the summer of 2001. Jason's enthusiasm and personable nature made him a natural for this kind of work. Young rangers enjoyed and requested working with Jason. It was clear Jason enjoyed this work, too.
In the Fall of 2001, Jason was back but this time with his Boy Scout Troop. His Boy Scout troop was looking for a project to do for the community and the Placer Nature Center – always having something to do – quickly found trails that needed to be mulched. Thanks to this effort our young visitors could stay out of the mud as they walk the trails during their school class visits.
In the summer of 2002, Jason was back but not alone! Jason spread the word about how much fun the Junior Naturalist work was and brought several of his neighbors as well. Thanks to Jason's promotion we had plenty of helping hands to work with the Junior Rangers during summer camp.
Jason didn't stop here with his involvement though. He took the weekend-only docent training. Here he learned all about our exhibits and our trails and was ready to host one of our Friends & Family Days on site. After training, he volunteered to give a group of Japanese students a tour of our facilities and hosted one of our weekend Friends & Family Days, too.
Jason also represented us at the Gold Country Fair. He organized our booth from the beginning to end. Getting tables, donated printing for our flyers, and volunteers to help him. This was quite a commitment for a 14 year old! The results were fantastic. He collected 60 new names of interested young people for our Junior Ranger program.
Because of his experiences as a Junior Naturalist, Jason was determined to get a successful Junior Ranger program going for the Nature Center in summer of 2003. With two other former Junior Naturalists, Alden and Nelson Harris, they wrote a grant to the Grants Advisory Board for Youth. They decided they would enhance the summer program by adding crafts, puppetry and more nature games and wrote a grant for $1,100.
Patiently they awaited word from the grantors and were totally delighted, as we were, when they found out their project was awarded the grant funds. Throughout the summer of 2003 Jason took the lead in training and developing activities for the Junior Ranger Program.
As Jason says, " These programs are fantastic opportunities for all participants to learn more about the natural world and also to mature and develop leadership skills." He will also use this project for his Eagle Scout Award.
What began as a summer volunteer opportunity expanded and grew into a full project with lasting benefits for the Placer Nature Center and inspiration for other teens in our community. We feel very grateful and honored to have this young man's energies and talent shared with us and our visitors. Jason Clark has modeled the true spirit of volunteerism using his energy and ideas to benefit others in our community and what he has gained from these experiences will benefit him the rest of his life.