News: Conservation program helps district spread safety message
Story by Mary Hudson
DENISON, Texas — For summer 2012, seven Student Conservation Association interns are working in Tulsa District. Matt Mueller at Lake Texoma is working water safety. Six others, Ryne Dever, Alania Julian, Jeff Havey, Christa Ogden, Abby-Gayle Prieur, and Team Leader Josh Kalfas, are doing recreation use surveys in the parks at Eufaula, Tenkiller Fort Gibson, and Webbers Falls Lakes. This article focuses on Mueller and his work in the Red River Area; it gives a glimpse into the benefits derived from the Tulsa District/SCA partnership.
Meet Matt Mueller. He’s here in Tulsa District on a Student Conservation Association internship working fulltime on water safety. The association has been “at work for the planet” for 55 years. For the past few years, Tulsa District has been tapping into its intern program. Thanks to the SCA/Corps partnership, the district gets an intern’s knowledge, energy, and passion for the price of lodging and a stipend.
Interviewed his first day on the job, Mueller, an education major from the University of Kansas, said he found the SCA program when he was looking online for a way to get away for the summer. “I thought it would be amazing to travel, meet new people, and be in the outdoors,” he said.
Coupled with his interest in education, Mueller has years of water safety and outdoor experience through the Boy Scouts of America. “With my course work at the University of Kansas, I felt I could be a creative asset for the Red River Area's pursuit of water safety education, and help provide a fresh outlook on water safety promotion,” he said.
A lifesaving award was presented at Lake Texoma by District Commander Col. Teague the day that Mueller arrived. “Everything seems more real now,” Mueller said. “It seems like I had a skewed vision of what it was going to be before I got here. I was thinking that I was just going to be making connections with visitors, and I am going to be doing that, but it seems like a way bigger initiative than I anticipated. Everything seems more real now with the drownings that have occurred in the past and are going on right now. I thought this position might not be as important, but now I can see that there needs to be definite push for water safety.”
At the time of this writing, Mueller is several weeks into his internship, and it seems to be going well. “Working in the Red River Area lakes and with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees has been unforgettable, and I feel privileged to have been asked to contribute to their effort," he said.
B.J. Parkey, assistant lake manager at Lake Texoma, has a similar sentiment. "Matt has been a tremendous asset to the Red River Area lakes this summer. His perseverance, strong motivation, and willingness to succeed in water safety education have played an integral role in our ability to effectively communicate the vital importance of water safety to the public."
He explains that Mueller is able to focus fulltime on communicating the water safety message, and that the Red River Area is benefiting from this partnership with the Student Conservation Association. “It’s really good,” Parkey says. “Matt works not only at Texoma but within the entire Red River Area – Pine Creek, Hugo, Broken Bow, Waurika and Pat Mayse. He’s made thousands of water safety contacts, and we’ve discovered opportunities that we didn’t even know existed.” Parkey says that Mueller is making a point to meet the marina operators face to face and, by doing so, has found new venues for the promotion of water safety. “We’ve discovered several events that draw numerous people to the lakes that we didn’t realize were happening -– festivals, charity runs, and fishing derbies. That’s been a real opportunity for us,” Parkey said.
For the interns, the summer work can affect how they spend the rest of their lives. A press release from the association says, “SCA members hone a conservation ethic through their service, to the benefit of both the land and the individual. SCA experience leads a majority of members to become lifelong stewards and 60 percent of SCA interns go on to lead successful careers in the conservation field.” To learn more, visit http://www.thesca.org/