NOTE: This guest blog post was written by Kaleb Stevens, a junior at Ames High School. Stevens served as a high school communications intern with the Water Rocks! team this summer.
The story begins one day when I was seven. It was either a late summer or an early autumn day, because I remember it growing dark too early in the evening to be a part of summer’s dog days. On this day in history, I met Jackie Comito and Ann Staudt, two current members of the Water Rocks! team who were at the time a part of the band Joyful Hearts, of which my dad was the drummer and my uncle the guitarist and one of the songwriters. When Ann and Jackie showed up at the door that fateful day, my younger siblings and I hid downstairs. I was very quiet back then, and if you know Jackie you know that she’s not afraid to increase the speaking volume in a conversation if the matter being discussed requires it. Peeking up the stairs at the foreigners standing in the doorway, I had no way of knowing how strongly they would impact my life.
In the minutes, months, and years to follow, my siblings and I warmed up nicely to both Jackie and Ann. The family, including my siblings and a roving pack of cousins, adopted Jackie as the Italian aunt that life hadn’t conventionally provided to us, and Ann became the subject of my little brother’s affection from the ages of at least two to five. Wherever Joyful Hearts performed, an entourage of little Stevenses could be found exploring the venue, dancing as only small children can and swarming the band members during breaks to get money for smoothies. We were featured on their recordings and became appreciators of their instruments. To this day, my cousins and I are Ames High School’s resident experts on both the Tibetan singing bowl and the frog, which are both as fun to play as they sound. We had good times with that band.
As we grew up, Jackie remained a strong figure in our lives. She employed us to help with lawn work in the summer and snow shovelling in the winter and supported us in Little League fundraisers, even helping to coach my younger sister’s softball team. It was only natural that as she became more and more involved with conservation, the Stevens family followed suit. She organized us into an elite brigade of conservation warriors and sent us to do battle with the forces of environmental oppression. We picked up trash, starred in semi-viral videos aimed at educating our peers, and generally helped to spread the conservation message to the world.
This summer I have been given the opportunity to add a new experience to my list of conservation exploits. The good people here at Water Rocks! took me on as a little baby high school intern and kept me busy with writing assignments to help me enhance my own writing skills while communicating conservation to the masses. Through this experience I have gained a deeper appreciation for everything that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that our message is clear and engaging to the public. It is truly impressive to see how much work goes into even the most simple of projects, and being close to it all has shown me the passion for conservation that everyone here possesses.
I’m not sure what will happen in the next chapter of my conservation story. I am currently going into my junior year of high school and have yet to settle on a college major that I want to pursue for sure, but most likely it will not directly be related to helping the environment, more likely related to writing. However, I do know without a doubt that no matter where I go, the message of conservation that Jackie shared with me nearly a decade ago will follow, and I will do my part to make this big world of ours a little bit better.