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Rangers-in-Training Discover Science

Ranger-in-Training Richard Laplace in front of the group of campers as they head out on a hike.Snorkeling and s’mores cooked on the campfire topped the list of favorite activities at this week’s Rangers-in-Training camp at the V.I. Environmental Resource Station and other locations on St. John. The dozen youths from St. Thomas and St. John started the program Tuesday and will go home Friday.
“And my mom made me come,” Kierra Krigger, 14, of St. John said as some of the eight girls and four boys ate their breakfast Thursday at VIERS dining cabin.
The youths got to VIERS aboard the motor vessel Sadie Sea, which took them from Cruz Bay to VIERS via Hurricane Hole. In Hurricane Hole they stopped to snorkel and count fish.
“I liked going on deck and feeling the wind,” St. John resident Kaitlyn Cummings, 11, said.
Many of the youths are veterans of other VIERS summer camps, but this camp also provided a glimpse into park ranger careers.
“We’re trying to immerse them in the environment and spark an interest or two,” said V.I. National Park ranger Jessica Hornbeck, who organized the camp.
The Rangers-in-Training program is sponsored by the Friends of the Park group, VIERS and the park. It’s funded through the National Park Foundation.
The program began with a visit to the park’s Biosphere Reserve at Lind Point in Cruz Bay. Hornbeck said the youths learned about the park’s various resources from Rafe Boulon, the park’s chief of resource management.
They went on a simulated turtle crawl to see what turtle researchers do; and on Thursday, a hike to the petroglyphs at Reef Bay was on the schedule for half the youths. The other half were off to a seashore walk.
While some of the youths are interested in park careers, others liked the camp’s science angle.
Richard Laplace, 16, of St. Thomas is interested in a career as either marine biologist or a mechanical engineer. After his sister told him that field work was important, he signed up for the camp.
“I’d rather not be in a room all day. I like doing different things all day,” he said as explained why a science job is in his future.
St. Thomas resident Jeffrey Thompson, 13, came to the camp because he wanted to explore the island’s marine life.
“I wanted to see if it’s healthy,” he said.
While St. Thomas resident Jaia Hendrickson, 14, wants to be an actor, he said that in previous summers he attended VIERS Eco-camps. This gave him an insight into marine life, so he wanted to see some more.
“I wanted to check it out,” he said.
For Robert Camacho, 14, of St. Thomas, the Ranger-in-Training Camp gave him his first snorkeling experience.
Zoya Otto, 13, from St. John signed up because her friend, Raenessa Smith, 14, of St. Thomas did. And Kiarah Penn, 15, of St. John, came because Otto was coming.
All said they liked the campfire, but Otto and Penn added that meeting new people was a plus.
As for the rest of the girls—Eleah Caseau, 12, of St. John; Savannah Geiger, 13, of St. Thomas; and Laury Samuel, 11, of St. John—the snorkeling was the best thing.
“And I might be a park ranger,” Samuel added.

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