This post written by Kenneth Nalley. Kenneth is a graduate from Tarleton University and was a Collegiate Conservation Program (CCP) intern during the 2017 summer. Take a look at Kenneth’s experience and head to the CCP website to learn more and to apply for summer 2018!
Summer 2017 will forever hold a special place in my heart. From the moment I heard about the CCP internship with the Houston Zoo I knew it was special, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Since I had a friend that had done the internship a summer prior I somewhat knew what to expect. I knew that I would learn about regional and worldwide conservation efforts and the Houston Zoo’s role in those efforts. What I didn’t know was that we would be examining what I now see as the most important part of conservation: the human aspect. Throughout the summer I would be taking a greater look at myself through the eyes of 12 strangers.
This summer consisted of a lot of critical thinking. Where do I fit into this puzzle? What is my role in conservation? It starts with learning more about yourself; which is exactly what we did. We took a strength finders test which told us what our top 5 strengths were and then we each shared our strengths with the group. This was a powerful exercise because it fostered a level of understanding and bonding amongst the group that wasn’t there prior. It allowed us to accept and bond over our differences. Throughout the rest of the summer this bond would grow amongst the group, and this better understanding of each other led to a better understanding of people’s role in conservation.
My philosophy before CCP was that people were the reason we are in this mess. Our selfishness and greed has destroyed habitats, altered our climate, and devastated wildlife. There were people like me—nature-loving, wildlife enthusiasts—and people like them. Now, thanks to the growth I experienced this past summer—I only see people. I met some of the nicest people from EXXON Mobil, who were so generous with their time and investment in us. I was able to see things from different perspectives; no right or wrong…just different. I learned and now understand that we are all in this together. Conservation is not just people who work in this fields issue, we can’t save the world alone. This effort belongs to us all—and we must be willing to listen to everyone. That’s the biggest truth I took away from this summer, and for that, I will be forever grateful for it has shaped my future in this field.