‘Ding’ welcomes three new YCC students
Three high school students were hired at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge last week as part of their annual YCC (Youth Conservation Corps) program.
During the eight week summer program, students have the opportunity to extend their knowledge in landscape and trail maintenance, assist with education lesson plans and tours, greet visitors, learn more about visitor services and perform clerical work.
The three students who are participating this year – Lauren Hearn, Lisa Hutchins and Brandon Mansell have previously been involved with “Ding.” For Hutchins and Mansell, this is their second year participating in the YCC program.
Lauren Hearn, who is a senior at Fort Myers High School, volunteered at “Ding” last summer with their summer campers.
Hearn, who is tasked with clerical duties, sets up the visitor and education center every morning, answers the phone, does filing and assists Ranger Jeff Combs with various jobs.
Hearn said she returned for a second year at “Ding” because of the impression it left on her.
“I love the atmosphere, the people and the overall goal they’re trying to achieve,” Hearn said.
After graduation, she plans to study environmental science or marine biology at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.
Lisa Hutchins who is a senior at Dunbar High School, found out about the position through her father who is head of maintenance at the refuge. Like Hearn, her duties involve clerical work.
“My favorite aspect is that it teaches you so much. I’m originally from Pennsylvania, I’ve only lived here for a year. When I moved down here, I knew absolutely nothing about Florida and when I came here I learned all about the birds, the ecosystem and how much humans do hurt the Earth,” Hutchins said. “I just love how people come here to learn and I can help them learn and teach them.”
Eventually, Hutchins wants to go to school to become an art teacher.
Brandon Mansell, who is a sophomore at Dunbar High School, found out about the position through his mother who works for the city. Mansell is following in his sister’s steps who completed the program a few years ago.
Mansell’s day to day duties include anything that is maintenance related which includes leaf blowing, trimming, taking out the trash and masonry work.
Mansell said he returned for a second year because of “Ding’s” welcoming environment.
“I also love this whole place. It’s so friendly around here. They make you want to come back because it’s that much fun,” Mansell said.
Once he graduates, Mansell has plans of attending fire school then possibly moving to forestry.