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Environmental Essay Contest 2012 Dodge

Following a competitive essay contest, the Otsego County Conservation Association has awarded nine Otsego County middle-school students with a week-long stay at a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Summer Camp.

Otsego County students ages 11-14 were invited to compete for DEC camperships via the essay contest. In 750 words or less, they were asked to consider the question, “Imagine yourself in 50 years: What would you say to your younger self about the value of Otsego County’s beautiful land, lakes and streams?” OCCA received essays from Kathy Hardison’s Oneonta Middle School students and Amy Parr’s Cooperstown Middle School  science class as well as independent submissions.

Earning a trip to DEC camp as a result of their efforts are: Eva Barberio, Danielle Basdekis, Michael Crippen, Brandon Gardner, Majesti Hamilton, Ray Hovis, Phoebe Jones, Reilly Mooney and Aaliyah Saunders. Alternates are Ian Quinn, Henry Wager and Mikayla Web. The authors of the winning essays will enjoy a week at NYSDEC camp this summer, where they will spend their time immersed in the natural environment and will enjoy a balance of environmental education, sportsman education, and outdoor fun.

OCCA will sponsor the campers at $350 per student, thanks to funds provided by private donors. Alternates will be rewarded for their hard work as well with a small cash prize and the opportunity to attend camp if a spot should open up.

OCCA also recognized essayists who did not apply to attend camp. Brayden White took top honors, followed by F. Tulip Bailey and Jacob Rei.

Now in its fifth year, OCCA’s Campership Sponsor Program is intended to help connect middle schoolers with nature through their writing skills, knowledge of science, introspection and real-life experiences.

“Since 1947, kids have been making friends and memories at DEC environmental education camp,” said OCCA Executive Director Darla M. Youngs.

“Today’s children are spending too much time inside. Our program is possible thanks in large part to donors who attended these camps. They, like us, want to spark the interest of our young people in nature and, ultimately, get kids outside more,” Youngs said.

Founded in 1968, OCCA is a 501(c)3 membership group dedicated to promoting the appreciation and sustainable use of Otsego County’s natural resources through education, advocacy, resource management, research, and planning. For the last 48 years, OCCA has played a key role in initiating and carrying out programs designed to improve and/or protect Otsego County’s water, land, and air, representing more than 800+ members and volunteers. Visit or call (607) 547-4488 for more information.

Cooperstown Central School: F. Tulip Bailey, Michael Crippen, Ray Hovis, Phoebe Jones, Reilly Mooney, Ian Quinn, Henry Wager, Brayden White.

Oneonta Middle School: Eva Barberio, Danielle Basdekis, Majesti Hamilton, Jacob Rei, Aaliyah Saunders, Mikayla Web.

Valleyview Elementary School: Brandon Gardner

TAKE THE PLEDGE TO CLEAN, DRAIN AND DRY, AT Signatures equal leverage for grants, funding support and legislation!

Darla M. Youngs, Executive Director
Otsego County Conservation Association, Inc.
Secretary, Otsego County Water Quality Coordinating Committee
7207 State Highway 80, PO Box 931
Cooperstown, NY 13326
(607) 547-4488; (607) 282-4087
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“Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

There have been three major violent attacks in the United States in the past six weeks. A shooter in Las Vegas killed 58 people and injured 546 others attending a music festival. In another attack, in New York City, a man murdered eight people and injured 12 using a rented truck from Home Depot to plow into them. Last Sunday, a man killed 26 and injured 20 people attending Sunday services at a church in a small town in Texas. As humans sharing the world, it is hard to believe how commonplace violence is, whether in the form of a “lone shooter” or as an “act of terrorism.” Instead of feeling the shock and horror we should, we have almost become numb in reaction to these outrageous and revolting events.

As a 17-year-old, I have never known a time in America where there wasn’t violence. I was just 1 year old when the 9/11 attacks happened. I have lived through many acts of violence, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012. That same year, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African- American from Florida, was fatally shot, ironically, by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Whether it’s a mass attack, mass shooting or the killing of one person, the action is violence and the result is the same—death. And we are left asking ourselves, “Why?” What can we do about it?

As teens, we don’t have to feel powerless. There are things we can do. One thing we can do is to raise awareness about religion and racism. Interfaith programs at our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples can help promote goodwill and understanding through diversity. By seeing that we share faith in a higher power and working together for the greater good, we promote understanding. Programs like Harvard University’s The Pluralism Project runs the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition in the St. Paul, Minn., area, where “teens work together to nurture interfaith understanding, reduce prejudice and misunderstanding, and act together on common values through service and justice to transform their worlds. In the process, these young people are empowered to be capable interfaith leaders, both within their own communities and beyond.” This program includes many community-based events like a gardening service as well as leadership workshops for the teens. Having more programs like this one, throughout the United States and the world, will help cultivate more understanding leadership and promote greater understanding among different religions.

Teens can also raise awareness of gun violence. Events such as Seattle, Washington’s “Teens Against Guns Youth Summit,” hosted by the Atlantic Street Center, are a way to bring teens together to actively support the anti-gun movement at a grassroots level. Programs like these can help empower teens to help them realize they can be proactive in ending the cycle of violence.

Another way teens can use their voice to denounce violence and terror is through social media. When she was challenged by another student to prove there were Muslims who condemned violence in the name of Islam, Heraa Hashmi, a 19-year-old college student at the University of Colorado Boulder, decided to make a list of all the Muslim groups that did. According to a November 2016 Teen Vogue article, “ The result was Worldwide Muslims Condemn List — a spreadsheet with 5,720 instances of Muslim groups and leaders denouncing various acts of terrorism.” Her Twitter account generated 12,000 re-tweets and the list has been made into an interactive website called Her idea led to a resource for anyone to access the information.

Whether coming together in an interfaith group, rallying at an anti-gun youth summit or using social media to create awareness against violence, teens have a voice. Gun violence and terror attacks need to end in my generation. Maybe Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers), said it best: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” We, as teens, need to be those helpers.