with the 3rd of 12 JRBP
20th Anniversary Awards
This month we have the privilege and honor to award Greg Swick the 3rd of 12 awards in celebration of JRBP’s 20th Anniversary. After helping launch the ever expanding GLADE – Conservation Leadership Academy and a long, fulfilling career in education, Greg’s retirement has led him to help produce even more programming in the Ozarks. We appreciate Greg’s continual commitment to invest in the next generation of scientists, leaders, community organizers, and innovators.
Q & A with Greg Swick
Q: Why did you choose to dedicate your career to empowering and educating our community’s youth?
A: I had a junior high conservation teacher named John Colyn. He taught what I wanted to learn and encouraged my budding interest in wildlife and the prairies of Kansas. (I didn’t quite realize that at the time.) I was an ornery 8th grader, and I’m sure my other teachers wondered how I could be so good for Mr. Colyn – and so bad for them!
A few years later, when I declared my major in Wildlife Biology (as a 19 year old), I knew I wanted to work in conservation. However, in 1975, there were few, if any openings in the field – so I decided to try teaching. I never turned back.
Teaching is exciting and challenging nearly every day, and there is never a doubt in your mind that your life has a purpose. Working with bright, caring youth is just one of my greatest joys!
Q: Please tell us about your educational career and your journey of teaching.
A: I started teaching in 1976 at Thayer High School. I was the entire Science Department, which is often the case in small schools. I then moved to Fordland, where I taught for 10 years. I finished my public teaching career with 22 years at Ozark teaching biology and gifted education.
Toward the end of my time at Fordland, I was noticing that the higher ability students were often not pursuing advanced education opportunities. I developed a weekend course called EAGLE (Environmental Awareness and Green Leadership Explorations) for high ability students in this rural school system. It was designed to increase environmental awareness, to empower individuals, and to open up the youth to possibility thinking.
This was my first venture into combining environmental education with leadership training, and I continued to teach a two week version of EAGLE at the Drury University Summerscape program from 1987-2000. The EAGLE leadership model, which incorporates natural analogies connecting leaderful action to natural objects like feathers or flowers, is what I brought to the GLADE table.
Q: Please tell us how you first became involved with GLADE at its inception.
A: GLADE came at a perfect time in my life. I had just retired, and I always thought I’d do conservation work after completing my teaching career. Local Audubon activist Lisa Berger applied for a grant to develop a bird-centered camp. One day she called to ask, “Would you like to direct a bird camp?” “Yes, yes, yes!” I couldn’t believe my ears!
Soon I joined with the other founders of GLADE; Dr. Janice Greene, Celeste Prussia, and of course, Lisa Berger. There was an extraordinary excitement in those early days of GLADE; like we had stumbled upon the right combination of ideas to transform lives, positively impact wildlife habitat, and build healthy communities.
It continues to be very exciting as it enters its ninth year!
Q: What is your favorite project that you are currently working on?
A: During my one-year TogetherGreen Fellowship, I met amazing conservationists from all over the country. I found that there was one very intriguing program, the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Program (an extension of Los Angeles Audubon – much like GLADE is an extension of the Greater Ozarks Audubon Society).
In spite of our obvious geographical differences, our programs had so much in common that Stacey Vigallon of LA Audubon and I wrote a grant to explore the possibility of a Youth Conservation Leadership Exchange between our programs.
In 2014, we visited each other’s programs, and were encouraged further. Just this past week, the Greater Ozarks Audubon Society sent one of our GLADE alum and current Girls’ Residence Coordinator Brooke Widmar and GOAS Board Member Jill Hays to LA to visit the program and explore future student exchange possibilities.
So, that’s what excites me today….
Building the infrastructure for future youth environmental summits and exchanges involving GLADE alum and other youth from around the country.
Q: What local organization do you enjoy spending time volunteering for?
A: Most of my time volunteering is for Greater Ozarks Audubon, as I have a passion for birds. I lead field trips, present programs, try to keep up with the GLADE community conservation projects in the Ozarks, and volunteer at South Creek. In 1996 GOAS talked the city of Springfield into leaving South Creek corridor natural along Sunset Ave. between National and Campbell “as it is”. Kay Johnson and Myra Scroggs of GOAS have organized regular work crews on that stretch of the stream ever since.
Q: When did you first become acquainted with JRBP?
A: I have been involved with JRBP indirectly through friends, river clean-ups, and water festivals for many years. I remember being excited when the JRBP River Jam music festival first came to Ozark on the Finley River. I was able to walk to the great gatherings from my home!
In 2009, JRBP partially funded the first GLADE Community Conservation Project grant! GLADE alum Sarah Bakker and Amy Norval established a rain garden at Kickapoo High School. At the time, it was the largest rain garden in Springfield!
I love the whole Ozarks conservation network, as it’s full of such caring and dynamic people!
Q: Do you have a favorite author?
A: I love John Muir and greatly admire the passion and commitment that he brought to his cause in the Sierras.
I cherish Rachel Carson, especially what she wrote in A Sense of Wonder. Her adventures of discovery with her nephew provide a framework for what I try to do in my work with young people.
Q: What is your biggest pet peeve when you go to our local rivers and streams?
A: Trash… especially when it’s left by people who have just experienced a night around the campfire on a beautiful Ozarks’ stream. I just don’t get it!
Q: What makes you smile when you go to our local rivers?
A: The crystal clarity of the moving water, and that surreal aquamarine hue that transcends into penetrating indigo blue in the depths of Ozarks’ springs. Ozarks streams are just magical, and they subtly draw you deeply into their own time and space.
That moment when I’m drawn in…yeah… that makes me smile!
Did You Know …?
JRBP is celebrating their 20th Anniversary in 2017..!
We are so honored to have shared in this journey
alongside our passionate and dedicated volunteers, members,
donors, patrons, partners, and friends for 20 years.