Continuing our series focusing on the contributions of historically under-recognized groups to conservation and environmental sciences, this month we are featuring Edward Waters College student Onecia Adams, who is a student participant in Audubon Florida's Conservation Leadership Initiative (CLI). Here is Onecia's story in her own words:
"I was born and raised in a small country called Guyana, a place where many people I meet haven’t heard of before. I spent the most days of my life living in a place that appeared to be devoid of any beauty. Polluted waterways, garbage in the streets and decrepit buildings surrounded me wherever I went. Although there was so much ugly around me, I found beauty and solace in the trees and the ocean. I made a habit of slipping away from my house and venturing out to see the ocean whenever I had a chance. I would sit and watch the waves and mentally drift away to a place that was devoid of pollution and remained in the pristine condition God had created it in. Unfortunately, I would have to return to reality and the scent of dead fish usually did it for me. The ocean was my escape, even though it was visibly polluted, it was the best thing I could experience. I knew that I wanted to always have that place to come to and I knew that I wanted to make it a cleaner, healthier environment. I believe that is how I developed an interest in conservation.
Though the city where I grew up was not a very beautiful place, there are many parts of my country that are exquisitely composed of the best things nature has to offer. I learnt about these beautiful places but I was never afforded the privilege to experience any of them. From the magnificent Kaieteur Falls, the largest single drop waterfall in the world, to the Iwokrama River Lodge, nestled in a very prolific ecosystem brimming with biodiversity, they were all so close but yet out of my reach. I don’t know when or how the desire to see and experience nature was planted inside me, but I know it is the deepest desire I’ve ever had. The more I was denied the opportunity to experience these things because I simply could not afford it or my mother had more important things to do with money, the more I craved it. I knew that I had to change my situation because I could not bear the idea of dying before I had the chance to truly live.
I continue to find myself in less than ideal environments as I pursue my educational goals but I persevere in the hope that someday I will be working to make the world a better, healthier place for all living things. I am currently pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida. This past Fall I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of Audubon’s Conservation Leadership Initiative and have been involved with Duval Audubon Society under my mentor Carolyn Antman. I’ve really enjoyed the learning experiences provided by CLI events even though it was virtual. I was also able to visit the Crosby Sanctuary and it felt really great to experience a natural space after being stuck indoors for too long. I’m very excited to become a part of the conservation community in Duval Audubon and I feel like I am on the brink of being able to experience all the nature I could not growing up and so much more."
Thank you for sharing your inspiring story, Onecia. We are thrilled to be working with you!