In celebration of our incredible 2017 Alumni, this fall we are featuring student reflections on our blog. The following reflection was written by Jordan Korgood, a participant on our Florida Keys Program. Jordan was inspired to write this post when he heard a song on the radio that reminded him of his trip. Jordan’s enthusiasm, charisma, and passion for marine biology are something we look up to and are infinitely grateful for at RLT. Read on to discover what this summer meant to Jordan and how he plans to pursue marine sciences beyond his summer.
A Reflection by Jordan Korgood:
I enjoy listening to the songs, “Toes” and “Island Song” by Zac Brown Band-don’t get me wrong, they’re not my favorite songs, and not particularly impressive songs either, but whenever I listen to them, I am thrown back to the happiest days of my life. My time in the Florida Keys with RLT brings back such vivid memories of exciting dives into coral nurseries to relaxing evenings watching the sunset on our dock. If I close my eyes, and play these songs, I can almost see my friends smiling at me and throwing around a volleyball on our beach-a tiny piece of paradise.
I was nervous about this trip- I thought I might not like the kids, or that I wouldn’t adjust to the environment. But boy was I wrong, I can proudly say that my RLT trip to the Keys was a beacon of light and joy in a pretty dark time in my life. I was surrounded by like-minded individuals with a passion to protect our waters, but also knew how to simply enjoy each other’s company while watching the boats pass by in the harbor, or even to simply find joy in watching and petting manatees that visited our dock.
I was nervous about this trip- I thought I might not like the kids, or that I wouldn’t adjust to the environment. But boy was I wrong, I can proudly say that my RLT trip to the Keys was a beacon of light and joy in a pretty dark time in my life.”
We all instantly connected with each other and were as close can be by the end of the trip. We all felt so comfortable around each other that we could share with each other our deepest secrets like we were all old friends. Personally, I love fishing, so of course I brought fishing equipment. I can proudly say that fishing in the Keys must be the best fishing that I have ever done.
I was able to catch barracudas off of our dock, battle a trophy snook while ocean kayaking in the Gulf of Florida, and even introduce fishing to a new friend from California by hooking him up to a 3 foot long nurse shark. Watching the pure joy on his face as he saw the shark breach the surface was absolutely magical for both me and him.
Of course, getting my dive certification was awesome, as well. I was worried that my asthma might make it hard for me to dive, but my dive instructor worked with me on every single dive to ensure that I could equalize enough to continue the dive, no matter how long it took to get me there.
I hope this is the beginning of not just a hobby for me, but a true passion in life”
We were even able to dive a shipwreck by the end of the trip and saw everything from 5 foot long barracudas to ginormous groupers hiding in port holes, and even a Florida Keys delicacy- the common hogfish. Now that I have my dive certification, my dad plans to renew his PADI certification, as well, so we can dive together off of our home island in New York. I hope this is the beginning of not just a hobby for me, but a true passion in life.
I can proudly say that fishing in the Keys must be the best fishing that I have ever done.”
I truly enjoyed exploring the reefs, learning about the marine life in the reefs, and seeing new species of fish that I was unfamiliar with previously. Because I plan to study marine science in college, I collect field guides of fish for different areas. I was able to buy multiple field guides, and one of them was even waterproof, which meant that I could take it down during my dives to identify the fish I saw. Restoring the coral reefs with CRF was also a truly powerful experience. Knowing that cleaning juvenile corals and planting adult corals in dying reefs, during our service dives truly made me feel that I was making a difference and that maybe, just maybe- I might be able to live in a future with living coral reefs. I always have wanted to protect our oceans, but until now I have only been able to do beach cleanups- only now do I feel that I have truly helped our oceans.
Restoring the coral reefs with CRF was also a truly powerful experience… our service dives truly made me feel that I was making a difference and that maybe, just maybe- I might be able to live in a future with living coral reefs.”
In addition to service work, we also did plenty of fun things in the Keys. We were able to kayak off of our own beach, stomp swamped through the Everglades, sea kayaked through mangroves and the Gulf of Florida, snorkeled in a forest of sponges, shopped in Key West, swam with dolphins, and even visited a turtle hospital. My favorite part, of course, was being able to fish all the time. We visited so many awesome, different places, with different kinds of fish, that I was able to add almost 10 different species to my fish list, which I believe has made me a better angler. Staying at a home and being responsible for both the upkeep of the house and cooking of the meals, I believe, has also made us more responsible people. Being on a cook squad with other people, buying our own ingredients at Publix, and using heirloom recipes from our own childhoods to feed 15 hungry young people was stressful, but so rewarding in the end.
We truly were in a tropical paradise, and I now only have the memories of the happiest days of my life, spent with the greatest people I have ever known.”
Our days in the Keys were euphoric, relaxing on sun-lit beaches with a refreshing sea breeze in our faces. Our sunsets were always magical as well, with streaks of purple, red, and orange filling the sky as we watched the sun fall under the rolling crystal-blue waves.
Every minute we spent in the Keys was an enlightening feeling, as you absorbed the wondrous environment around you. Everything we did, from service, to shopping, to simply relaxing was truly awesome. We truly were in a tropical paradise, and I now only have the memories of the happiest days of my life, spent with the greatest people I have ever known. Thank you RLT for an amazing trip, and letting me explore my passion in life. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more amazing time, in the happiest place on Earth.
–Jordan Korgood, Florida Keys Conservation is the Key 2017
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