WCLT Scholarships 2020

WCLT Scholarships 2020 Awarded

In 2020 the Westborough Community Land Trust (WCLT) awarded two $1,000 scholarships and two honorable mentions to graduating Westborough High School (WHS) seniors. Awards were made on the basis of essays written for WCLT’s annual Earth Day Essay Contest, which was held in spite of coronavirus-related school closures this spring.

Audrey Didier won a scholarship for her essay describing how she came to know the Bowman woods through the town’s nature camp and Girl Scout activities, connected with nature for comfort during stressful times, and now cares for the woods on every visit by carrying a trash bag and picking up litter. Her college plans include entering the honors program at Fairfield University and a likely major in either mathematics or economics.

Carolyn McDermott received a scholarship for her essay about walking with her dog on Charm Bracelet and Mill Pond trails, finding solace in the woods, and making nature her artistic muse for photographing small details in the natural world. She plans to attend Fairfield University as a nursing major.

The scholarship recipients’ essays can be read below.

Additionally, Sarah Stroscio was recognized with an honorable mention for her essay about the problem of traffic in Westborough and its contribution to air pollution and greenhouse gases, her suggestion to create bike lanes on town roads to make local bike travel safer and more appealing, and her personal efforts to bike and walk more and to drive less. In the fall she will attend Assumption College and major in elementary education in order to become a teacher.

Andrew O'Keefe received an honorable mention for his essay describing how his Eagle Scout project of rehabilitating a trailhead at Gilmore Pond deepened his understanding of the importance of access to natural areas such as Gilmore Pond for everyone, but especially for people with movement disabilities, and his ongoing work to keep trails and nature accessible to all. He plans to attend Quinnipiac University to study engineering.

“Almost all the essay writers mentioned the natural world as a respite from the stress of the coronavirus pandemic. Altogether they named many natural areas in Westborough that they use and appreciate: Lake Chauncy, Gilmore Pond, Mill Pond, Bowman woods, Sawink Farm, and the Charm Bracelet trails,” said Annie Reid of the WCLT Scholarship Committee. “In fact, committee members were impressed by all the essays we received. And as always, we could see how families and the Boy Scout and Girl Scout organizations provided many experiences that helped the students get to know and feel close to nature.”

Since the beginning of the scholarship program in 2006, WCLT has awarded 24 scholarships to graduating seniors in Westborough, as well as 24 honorable mentions. (See the scholarship section of WCLT’s Hall of Fame.) The Earth Day Essay Contest and the scholarship program are ways that WCLT encourages environmental awareness and supports the environmentalists of tomorrow.

Audrey Didier’s Earth Day essay 2020:

Audrey Didier

Describe an experience or place in Westborough that has brought you close to nature or has inspired you to see the world from an environmentally conscious perspective. Explain why and note anything you have done or plan to do as a result.

Years ago, in elementary school, the Westborough Recreation Nature Camp introduced me to the Bowman woods. Despite living a short walk away, I had never ventured onto the trails that were practically in my own backyard. Over the years, I have come to hold the hidden gem that is Bowman very close to my heart. When I was little, nature camp became something I looked forward to every summer. I lived for the days that I could explore the trails, walk out onto the peninsula, and pick the wild blueberries that we walked by. Those endless days in the warm summer sun were the beginning of my love for nature. Through my years as a Girl Scout, I have continued to explore the Bowman woods. Along with a few other girls in my troop, I planned an “Amazing Race” style scavenger hunt. Doing that activity with my Girl Scout troop gave me a chance to reconnect with a place I loved so much as a child and expose other people to this hidden gem. My troop will often take walks through the Bowman woods or have picnics by the waterfront. Personally, some of my favorite memories have come from long summer days exploring the woods.

Throughout the time I’ve spent in the Bowman woods, one of the most disheartening things I’ve seen is the myriad of trash that is strewn carelessly around the trails. From empty bottles to discarded fishing equipment to toys left behind by children, the amount of trash that gets left behind disgusts me. One of my favorite memories from nature camp was the competitions that ran every week. Each group was challenged to pick up the most trash that they could find in the woods; at the end of the week, the group with the most won a prize. The competitive part of me loved trying to beat the other units, but there was also a part of me that realized the value of taking care of your environment, even as a young child. Because of this, I often will take a trash bag and gloves along with me when I walk through the woods. Personally, I find it so important to take care of the world we live in and let nature be untouched by people. As the age-old hiking motto goes, “leave no trace”.

The Bowman woods have always been a place for me to relax and reconnect with nature, especially during stressful times in my life. When my dad suffered a major stroke my sophomore year of high school, I found comfort in the tall pine trees and the calm of the water. After a particularly hectic week at school, I often spend my Saturdays by myself in the Bowman woods. Now, during our time in quarantine due to the coronavirus, my family loves to go take walks through the woods. It brings me such joy to see so many other people taking advantage of this hidden gem that has been a part of my life for years. Overall, the Bowman woods have provided me with valuable experiences and become a second home to me in Westborough.

Carolyn McDermott’s Earth Day essay 2020:

Carolyn McDermott

Describe an experience or place in​ Westborough that has brought you close to nature or has inspired you to see the world from an environmentally conscious perspective. Explain why and note anything you have done or plan to do as a result.

“Kodah, we are not going swimming today. Do you understand?”, I say to my six-year-old yellow labrador retriever. We are approaching the vernal pool on the Oak Woods trail, her favorite spot on our walks in the woods. Per the usual, Kodah looks at the pond, then back at me, and as an act of joyful canine defiance, sprints and jumps into the muddy, algae infested waters. She then emerges, smelly, dirty, and wet, but also with the biggest smile. With a face that cute, it’s impossible to then get mad at her. She is a water dog after all and swimming is what they do.

Walking Kodah along the Westborough Charm Bracelet Trails is one of my, and her, favorite activities, and has brought me much closer to nature and the outdoors. Not only has it formed a precious bond between me and my best furry friend, but it has also become my therapy during stressful times. When I become overwhelmed or anxious, walking on the beautiful and peaceful paths soothes me and is the perfect remedy. Hiking the trails allows me to exercise both my dog and myself and I always feel better when we reach the end. After years of walking along the Mill Pond trails, I know them by heart, allowing my mind to come to complete ease as my heart directs which way I go. Most recently, with the COVID-19 quarantine, my family and I have found great solace in woods, using the time to have family hikes. The quiet of the outdoors brings much-needed respite during an otherwise stressful time in our lives.

Nature has also served as my artistic muse. In my AP 2D Art & Design class, each student is instructed to choose a concentration to focus our photography on and develop a portfolio. For my love of the outdoors, I chose to center my concentration on small, intricate details in nature that are typically overlooked. This required me to spend hours outside capturing Mother Earth up close, and my favorite spot to capture her beauty was the Westborough Charm Bracelet Trails. My entire portfolio consists of stunning photographs highlighting the miniscule, intimate, details of the Westborough woods. Spending so much time outside taking these pictures has deepened my adoration of nature. It continues to amaze me how such complex and evolved patterns, textures, designs, and colors naturally exist. Although man-made creations are remarkable sights, I find it far more interesting to capture the details in nature that were made by the Earth. Mother Earth is the greatest architect to ever exist, and I am continuously in awe of her works.

The Westborough community is so fortunate to have the Charm Bracelet trails throughout our town for all to connect with and enjoy nature. It is our common duty to preserve and defend such valuable land not only for ourselves, but also for others. The Charm Bracelet Trails have provided me clarity when the future appears foggy; quiet when the life gets too loud; fresh air when it feels as though I’m suffocating; and has shown me that beauty and love exists in the world where at times it feels as though there is none. It is a true honor and gift for our town to have such amazing outdoor space, and I am forever thankful for everything the woods have done for me.

Westborough Community Land Trust, PO Box 838, Westborough , MA 01581
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