Moorestown Friend School Senior Emma Nei joins the LRWP as a 2022 Summer Intern. Here she shares her impressions of her first day “on the job” – conducting outreach for the LRWP at Rutgers Day.
This past weekend, I experienced my first day interning for the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and my first Rutgers Day, a day dedicated to showcasing the different programs, events, and culture of the Rutgers community. RU is my mother’s alma mater and she explained the excitement around this day and how thrilled she would be to run into past professors and classmates. We parked the car and made our way to find the LRWP table. I was struck by the smells coming from food trucks and the sounds of tents and tables being set up. Thankfully, it was beautiful outside. With the sun shining through the trees and a nice breeze on my neck, I knew I would enjoy the day. Surrounding the water body known by students as Passion Puddle, there were dozens and dozens of displays for many different organizations. You could measure how high you could jump at the Kinesiology Department’s table or play trivia games with the State Climatologist. After a few minutes of walking, a large rain barrel and a colorful sign captured my attention. I had arrived at my destination.
Jocelyn and Piash, two other interns for the LRWP, quickly showed me the ropes. I had already done some background research on the watershed but they taught me the best ways to catch peoples’ attention as they walked by, answer their questions and introduce some of the programs LRWP offers. Soon I was explaining the basics of the water monitoring program, how samples are taken every week from six different locations along the Raritan and where to find the results posted online. I answered questions as best I could but when someone asked about green infrastructure in their town, Jocelyn and Piash were both there to swoop in and help.
I loved my environmental science classes this past year. I knew I was interested in science and research from the projects I had done throughout high school. Wrapping up my senior year through internship is an exciting way to learn something new and gain some work experience before heading off to college. Classes end in April at my high school and students are required to intern for an organization of their choosing during the month of May. After going through a list of environmental non-profits, my mother suggested looking at the LRWP. Their website and newsletters really conveyed the mission, purpose and passion of the organization and I wanted to experience it. My interest in the health of local waterways increased as I saw the wide range of programs offered.
As the hours of Rutgers Day passed, all sorts of people came up to our display to ask about specific projects. Engineering students wondered how bad the pollution was in various waterways. An outdoorsy couple approached, wondering about the best times to go kayaking or hiking around the Raritan River. Children wandered up to look at the plastic bugs on the table, their curiosity piqued. It became obvious to me that the health of local waterways impacts the whole community; no matter how old you are or what your background is, you are affected in some way. So many different people stopped at the table and shared their concerns about the health of their waterways. We were able to provide ways for them to learn more, to help monitor them and to actually help clean them. A mother came to the table with her two boys who were fascinated by the critters on the table. She was curious about how safe the waterways were because her son liked to collect rocks by the river. She also wanted to learn if she and her family could come out and volunteer. I realized that LRWP wasn’t just a means to collect data and inform people about issues but also a way to bring the local community together through service. As my day wrapped up, I said goodbye to some new friends and felt excited to start my internship.