Highlands Environmental Leadership Program (Help) Hosts Western Maryland Youth At Calvert Cliffs State Park - Southern Maryland Headline News

Highlands Environmental Leadership Program (Help) Hosts Western Maryland Youth At Calvert Cliffs State Park

ANNAPOLIS -The Highlands Environmental Leadership Program (HELP) will be hosting their third and final environmental leadership weekend, June 23-25, at Calvert Cliffs State Park on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

HELP is an environmental education program designed to develop well-informed, highly motivated future leaders. Open to high school students from Western Maryland, its goal is to produce youth who are knowledgeable about problems and solutions, and are energized to take on the challenge of convincing the public to participate in and support restoration, protection, and revitalization efforts.

The program is sponsored by the Highlands Action Program (HAP) and implemented through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The goals of HAP include the restoration and protection of natural resources, retention of special places and cultural features, and the increase in ecologically sustainable job opportunities and quality of life in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands region. The Highlands Action Program team includes representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region III and the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia.

Thirteen high school delegates took part in this year’s program, ranging from freshmen to graduating seniors. All have demonstrated an avid interest in the environment and a record of academic achievement.

The program is coordinated by Paul Kazyak, a DNR aquatic scientist and Maryland’s liaison for HAP.

“This is an ongoing attempt to identify promising students and expose them to state-of-the-art [environmental] science,” said Kazyak. “One of the things that I think is missing in the environmental community is we don’t go out of our way to train future leaders. This program will hopefully foster interest in our young people choosing careers such as environmental lobbyists, scientists and writers.”

The HELP leadership weekend at Calvert Cliffs will feature a number of dynamic speakers presenting information and field experience on a wide range of provocative environmental topics, including the link between western Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay, biodiversity and exotic species, nutrients, and the history of the Bay. Activities will involve campfire discussions, wading through wetlands, and a fishing expedition on the Bay with Captain Jim Brincefield on the charter boat Jil Carrie.

Kazyak hopes to make HELP an annual program. “As evidenced by the large number of professionals who willingly gave up weekend time and drove some distance to spend time with the students, and a charter captain who willingly donated his boat for the program, there are many in the natural resources field that believe strongly in the need for something like this,” he said.

The first weekend was held at ThorpeWood, an environmental learning center near Thurmont, from March 31 to April 2. The second program took place May 19 through 21 at Swallow Falls State Park in Garrett County. Following the Calvert Cliffs weekend, each student will be responsible for carrying out a final project that will require them to apply the knowledge learned during the program’s three weekends.

Additional support for this effort was provided by Garrett College, Frostburg State University, the University of Maryland Appalachian Laboratory, Hood College, Frederick County, Calvert County, Hashawa Outdoor School, ThorpeWood, Pheasants Forever, Trout Unlimited, the Youghiogheny River Watershed Association, the Georges Creek Watershed Association, TEAMLINK, Inc., Ron’s Nursery and Landscaping, the American Chestnut Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Captain Jim Brincefield of the Jil Carrie, Boy Scout Venturing Crew 202 of Westminster, DNR Fisheries Service, DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service, DNR Park Service, and EPA Region III.

For additional information about the program, please contact Paul Kazyak at 410-260-8607 or email pkazyak@dnr.state.md.us.

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