El Paso students hike, learn, protect

By Neysa Hardin, El Paso Sierra Student Coalition

The Americas High School Sierra Student Coalition of the El Paso Group would like to extend heartfelt gratitude to the El Paso Sierra Club and the Rio Grande Chapter for their continued support. We had a great and productive year:

January: We joined forces with El Paso nonprofits on MLK’S National Day of Service to clean up litter on Trans Mountain Road. The students ended the day by hiking the Lost Dog Trails to see first-hand open-space areas that the city wanted to destroy through development of shopping strips and housing.

February: SSC sledded down the sand dunes at White Sands National Monument. Prior to the trip, we conducted a book study on Red by Terry Tempest Williams and shared passages from the book as we watched the sunset over the mountains.

April-May: SSC students worked diligently on voter registration drives, voter data mining, petition drives, social-media blitzing and poll sitting to save wildscapes in our Lost Dog Trails in the Franklin Mountains from being bulldozed and concreted. Our efforts paid off with a resounding 89% voter approval! This was a crowning achievement for the community!

May: We hiked to Osha Trail in the Lincoln National Forest; students were assigned an organism found within the forest. Each student represented their organism as an art form from poetry to paintings, music, etc., and presented their pieces in a sharing circle while relaxing in the Osha Trail meadow.

August: We hiked Dripping Springs Trail in the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument and learned about water issues by taking pH, temperature, phosphate/nitrate readings, and measuring dissolved oxygen levels in the Rio Grande at Leasburg Dam State Park.

September: Students investigated the unique geology of Franklin Mountains State Park by exploring the abandoned Prospect Mine, which is dazzled in lapis, malachite, and pyrite.

Students volunteered at an El Paso Zoo lecture on the Black Bear of Big Bend National Park as a community-service project sponsored by the El Paso Group.

October: AHS Sierra Student Coalition was invited to speak at the El Paso Community Foundation’s Cultivate Speaker Series. Three students presented on the impact of connecting young people to nature and the importance of being environmental stewards.

Students created an altar for Día de los Muertos on endangered species in Texas and New Mexico. The altar paid homage to endangered animals and plants and was used to inform their peers on the current administration’s attacks on the Endangered Species Act.

November: Students spent the day hiking the amazing fall foliage under big tooth leaf maples in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We read “Thinking Like a Mountain” from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and discussed land ethic issues with park rangers.

December: The students have an upcoming trip on the 13th to hike under a full moon at the Palisades Nature Preserve.

El Paso students hike, learn, protect