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MAKING WAVES: Hendry and Glades students clean up Fisheating Creek

Engaging in hands-on ecology lessons, Hendry and Glades County students become stewards of their natural surroundings
Posted at 5:47 PM, Mar 05, 2024

PALMDALE, Fla. — Students from Hendry and Glades counties made a splash on Fisheating Creek in Palmdale on Tuesday. They learned about ecology and cleaned up the creek as part of the annual 4-H Youth Leadership and Development Program Water and Environment Day.

Protecting the environment is a core value for Hendry and Glades counties, and coordinators with 4-H say that starts with learning about it.

So, they brought 10 students from various schools in the counties to get immersed in the beauty of the area by canoeing down Fisheating Creek while picking up trash along the way.

Chance Harper and Miley Castellon, two sophomores from Clewiston High School, shared their insights, highlighting the impact such experiences have on them.

"Being out here and being in the wildlife - it gives you a whole different appreciation for nature," Harper remarked.

"It just gives you a better understanding of what’s around you," Castellon said.

This program not only fosters an appreciation for nature, but also encourages leadership.

"I am able to make a difference and I am able to show others how they can make a difference too," Castellon explained. "If I ever see my friends throw trash on the ground I’m like ‘Hey, no, go pick that up and throw it away.’”

Their participation has inspired them to consider future careers that align with the values instilled by the program. Harper said he’s interested in agriculture, while Castellon said she’s drawn to the Peace Corps, motivated by the desire to help people in different environments.

The day concluded with a presentation from the South Florida Water Management District, emphasizing the significance of water health for Florida.

Keitha Daniels, Hendry County Economic Development Director, and Sonja Crawford from UF/IFAS/Hendry County CES, who have coordinated this program for more than a decade, say education like this is vital for these parts of Florida.

"The goal of the program is for these kids to become ambassadors for our community," Daniels stated.

"Some of these students will go back and tell kids in a lower grade ‘You need to sign up for this, it’s so much fun," Crawford said.

Through initiatives like this, Daniels says the agricultural community in these counties are exploring ways to preserve its essence, while educating the next generation on the importance of environmental conservation.

“It's such a relief to be in a program that cares this much,” said Castellon proudly.