FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – The epic scenic coast of Big Sur has its beauty unmatched. It is also home to the picture-perfect Andrew Molera State Park – inside the park lurks an invasive species, a plant that could overtake the natural ecosystem.
State Park Rangers like Sam Winter work to help rid the park of harmful species as they need help and often depend on volunteers like these students from Fresno County’s Coalinga High School.
“Nature Corp is out here with these students. They’re able to help provide some extra hands. It’s really that volunteer work that’s able to help us stay on top of some of these patches of mustard,” Sam Winter, Volunteer Coordinator at California State Park.
Coalinga High School students have volunteered with Nature Corp, a non-profit organization for six years. Biology teacher Jennifer Lucero believes it expands their educational experience.
“I think your education truly starts once you leave the four walls of the classroom. We can prep them inside the classroom, we can give them the tools and the knowledge but applying it happens outside of the classroom that’s why opportunities like this are so important,” said Jennifer Lucero, BiologyTeacher at Coalinga High School.
A partnership between Chevron, Nature Corp, and Coalinga High School makes it possible for the students to participate.
“A lot of the students haven’t had a chance to get out into nature and experience this. They get out here and they get to experience, wow, all these beautiful resources that we have here in Big Sur,” said Jeff Landon, Director of Operation, Nature Corp.
They learn a lot, about why the mustard plant is harmful and how to spot it and weed it out. For some students, it’s their first time on a camping trip, away from home.
“My first experience, this is magnificent. We went out to the beach yesterday that was really nice, it was so refreshing. The volunteer work is super fun tool,” said Kaley Osegueda, a Student at Coalinga High School.
Other students like Marlen Cathary have volunteered before her experience is so rewarding, that she hopes to find a way to continue after she graduates.
“I think my love for helping out and the nature, just connecting with it and being able to return just a little bit of everything that they give us,” said Marlen Cathary a Student at Coalinga High School.