Posted: November 30, 2011

Name: John Track
Position: Intern
Program: SFS Rainforest Studies, Australia

Seeing a cassowary in Australia is awe-inspiring; touching one can be deadly. Recently I received an invitation to do both with a guarantee of zero harm to either party. In early November I was privileged to attend the 13th annual Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) Cassowary Awards. WTMA is a regulatory body charged with protecting the Wet Tropics of Queensland, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and annually recognizes local community members and organizations that are committed to making a difference in fields like arts, community conservation, and government. The School for Field Studies (SFS) received a Cassowary Award in the field of education.

Walking into the newly completed building with Moni Carlisle, director of The SFS Center for Rainforest Studies, and lecturers Justus Kithiia and Rohan Wilson, I was struck by the venue’s remarkable beauty, blending into its natural surroundings in the Cairns Botanic Garden with hundreds of reflective glass panes. While I enjoyed the honor of representing SFS on this day, the award represent decades of hard work by committed faculty and staff to facilitate the hands-on learning experience of hundreds of university students. The Center for Rainforest Studies’ reputation for sound research and service learning truly has made a profound impact on the local community. Being the newest member of the team, I share this award with team members who have put in the work before me to raise the center’s reputation in the region. I credit them with consistently putting forth an excellent program.

Sitting at the awards, I listened to the other award categories and learned what the winners have accomplished in their respective fields to earn the honor. Hearing the accolades and the acceptance speeches, I was struck by the genuineness and earnestness with which people spoke; they speak from their heart here. They have a passion and let it show through their words and their actions. Most humbling was learning how people put their time and resources into investing in the future.

I think of the saying “One generation grows the trees, the next enjoys the shade” and these are the people planting the trees, investing in a sustainable future. Working at SFS I see the great work we do and understand why we too were recognized as a positive change agent. While the cassowary I held may simply be an award, it sits perched at the Center as a constant reminder of what has already been achieved there and the legacy I look forward to continuing.

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