In celebration of our incredible 2017 Alumni, we are featuring student reflections on our blog. This reflection was written by Meena Baher, who joined us on our Utah: Unleashed program this summer. Throughout the trip, Meena showed herself to be a positive and enthusiastic group member, who contributed insightfully to group activities and discussions and gave her all to our service work at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Her trip leaders recall the level of care and consideration she exhibited when interacting with the Vicktory dogs at the sanctuary and the way she soaked up all of the beautiful scenery on the hikes through some of the country’s most incredible National Parks. Recently, Meena took some time to reflect on a particularly fond memory from one of the group’s hikes in Zion National Park. Scroll down to read her reflection on service work, appreciation of the outdoors, and the close bonds she formed with her fellow participants.
“The dry desert heat filled the gorgeous atmosphere of Zion National Park, but the vast rocks created a smattering of shade as my campmates and I strolled through the immense park. The reds, oranges, and splotches of green trees glowed as the sun tucked behind a steep precipice. I felt as if I were on a different planet, for these rocks and waterfalls seemed foreign and unreal. As my friends and I turned the corner, we inadvertently found the ideal way to cool off; a small natural water pool on the side of the trail we had been following for the past five miles. After a long, arduous hike, diving into the crisp, crystal blue water, with our hiking clothes on, was like heaven. It was our first time to let go, and feel relaxed, after a week’s worth of volunteering at an animal sanctuary. We could lay our heads back and feel the cool water splash against our hair, and reflect on the work we had put in to help our community. Once we felt cooled off enough, we searched for small, flat stones to skip across the water. The sound of the rocks plopping onto the water was soothing. As daylight gradually began to transform into darkness, we started to venture back through the park and to our van.
Looking back, this experience was incredibly meaningful to me. This was the first time I really began to appreciate nature. Up until the day I visited Zion National Park, I never really acknowledged how pretty nature was. Now, I am fascinated in learning about anything concerning the outdoors. Not only did I enjoy the natural beauty of the park, but I also began to appreciate the beauty of face to face communication with my friends, due to the restriction of our cell phones on our trip. I was able to become even closer with my campmates, which now are lifelong relationships.”