SpotlightYouth Spotlight

When it comes to pursuing your passion, Katherine Ball doesn’t hesitate. After reading a book about Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle-based oceanographer, in the sixth grade, Katherine was inspired to study marine debris and its behavior in the oceans. Not only is Katherine now studying physical oceanography at the University of Washington, but she also focused her Girl Scouts Gold Award on researching plastic debris in the Puget Sound. In addition, Katherine recently earned her associate’s degree through the Ocean Research College Academy. Impressed yet?

We are very inspired by Katherine’s determination and passion for marine debris and oceanography, and for the ambition to follow through and desire to make a positive change in the world. Katherine shares with us her experiences at the Ocean Research College Academy, what actions we can take today to create a better tomorrow, and how she defines success.

*The Girl Scouts Spotlight Series is an exclusive weekly Youth Spotlight on amazing young women who have earned their Gold Awards, the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn in the Girl Scout organization.

Name: Katherine Ball
Education: Physical Oceanography, University of Washington class of 2016
Follow: tumblr

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Katherine Ball: Seizing your youth is all about taking your passion, whatever it may be, and doing something with it. Take advantage of being in school, youth groups, scouts, and sport teams. Use the people around you to do something, many of them are willing to help you make an impact or they know someone who is. Use whatever passion you have to get better at it, to solve a small issue, or if you’re really aiming big start to change the world. It doesn’t matter what you do with it, but use that passion for something while surrounded by people who will help.

CJ: You are currently a student at the University of Washington. What are you studying, and what led you to those academic passions? What do you hope to do with your degree once you graduate?

KB: I currently study physical oceanography, basically fluid dynamics. Inspiration for studying marine debris and its behavior in the oceans stemmed from reading a book about Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle-based oceanographer, in sixth grade. While I lived in Idaho at the time, the ocean was something I loved without seeing it. My passion for the topic lead me to understanding that simply researching the issue won’t resolve it, but people can. I hope to work in citizen science to engage adults in the full scientific process. Current citizen science programs revolve around citizens collecting data without following through and getting to see how their contribution impacted the study. I aim to improve that using my passion for marine debris and oceanography.

KB 4

CJ: You recently completed an associate’s degree through the Ocean Research College Academy. What did this degree entail and what was this experience like?

KB: Completing my associate’s with the Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA) was an amazing experience. With the small running start program and an oceanography focus I was able to cover my general college requirements (Political Science/History/English) in small college classes with 40 other high school students. The small classes meant I was able to get any help I needed as well as tie something in each of the classes into the oceanography research I conducted in my science courses. Already having an interest in oceanography I used ORCA’s focus on student-designed research to conduct pioneering research in Possession Sound, a sub-basin of Puget Sound, by working with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. One of the greatest opportunities ORCA gave me was the chance to present my findings at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference 2014 and meet and discuss my research with professional, renowned oceanographers.

CJ: How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts, and what did you love most about being a Girl Scout?

KB: I got started early at age five thanks in part to a family tradition of Girl Scouting. My mom’s side has been active in Washington Girl Scouts since my great-grandmother worked to get girls outside. Being a member gave me the chance to do so many things that pinning down one favorite is nearly impossible. That is probably my favorite thing, do things from fashion shows to fitness days to council philanthropy groups to 90 mile backpack trips. I participated in many of the things Girl Scouts offered and enjoyed every one of them.

CJ: What are the top three lessons you learned from being a Girl Scout?

KB: 1) Leadership doesn’t mean being in charge. I participated in a lot of leadership opportunities as a Girl Scout but I learned some of the biggest lessons about it by being a team member during camp and on backpacks with YAYA hikers. Having grown up backpacking with my family I had random bits of knowledge and experience to share with the newer-to-backpacking girls on the trip.

2) Being fearless is nearly impossible. I thought I was pretty fearless as a young girl doing so many crazy things but the more things I tried the more I realized it wasn’t fearlessness, it was determination to try something new.

3) Everyone is capable of anything. Not only did I see the impact I could make on people through my Gold Award I also saw myself grow by doing backpack trips I’d never dreamed off.

KBA

CJ: For your Girl Scouts project,  Actions and Oceans: How Our Actions Today Affect the Oceans Tomorrow, you conducted pioneering research on plastic debris in Puget Sound and held events to educate and inspire others. Why did you choose this topic for your project, and what did it entail?

KB: From years of talking to people about marine debris and trying to understand the issue I started to see that a lot of people didn’t know there was an issue, which blew my mind since I had been aware of it for so long. The next point that drove home I could do something with my passion was that those people who did know there was an issue often did not realize they could do something about it on an individual scale. Therefore I decided to bring together local marine protection groups and scientists from local and regional science organizations to talk about different aspects of the issue.

To organize my event I worked with an advisor from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create the best program. Overcoming a few fears of contacting strangers with questions I set up interviews with local organizations to talk to them about their events, primarily what worked and what didn’t work about them. I learned a lot from those interviews and was able to implement some of the improvements into my own event. Based on these interviews I also asked organizations to attend my event and provide information about how attendees could get involved with the organization.

Being in charge of organizing my event gave me a lot of skills, from talking to people to time management to proposing ideas, which are continuing to prove incredibly useful on a regular basis.

CJ: What actions can we do today that will help create a better tomorrow?

KB: The problem with plastic is that the United States, and the rest of the world, has been building a ‘throw-away’ society since the 1960s. The idea of this ‘throw-away’ habitat was advertised as a positive when Tupperware became a thing! Now don’t get me wrong, plastic is an amazing material and it works great for all the things we use it for. I’m not advocating we stop using it, we just need to get better about how we handle it. A throw-away society isn’t something we can stop doing, but as a society we need to figure out how to handle our plastic waste so we can continue to use such a great resource while protecting the environment. So be smart, limit the number of small containers you get, reuse, invest in a good durability water bottle, and recycle as much as possible, at home or in the bin.

CJ: How did you keep your project organized as you were working on it? How did you balance your workload with school, extracurricular activities, etc.?

KB: Since my Gold Award was based on such a huge passion I found ways to combine my school work with my project. By attending ORCA I was given the chance to choose a topic for projects in all of my classes. Therefore, while working on my Gold Award, I researched such things as effective education for citizen science in classes.

One of the biggest things I did to keep myself organized between college deadlines, school, my project, and my research (including conference deadlines) was use giant pieces of poster board to make a calendar for the entire school year. I tend to forget to look at calendars for deadlines, a problem the size solved since it was so large.

Basically my life became distilled down to working on classes, research, and my project which even though it’s not a long list of things left me overwhelmed at times. What I allowed myself to do most often to relax was to go on hikes with my Girl Scout hiking group, the YAYA Hikers. Hiking and being outside with my friends was not only relaxing, but it let me bounce ideas off them if I was stuck on something.

KBall Group

CJ: Do you have mentors? How did you go about finding them?

KB: I have a handful of mentors who have helped me in a lot of areas. For many of them I found them either by directly pursuing my passion or by telling everyone what I wanted to do and being directed to them.

CJ: To you, what does it mean to be a good leader?

KB: There is a lot to being a good leader but there is a quote by Lao Tzu that really rings true to me – “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Something I have found to be the key is having a passion and inspire others to think and change. Rather than directly telling someone the best way to do it, leading means educating and providing all the information for them to make the decision. Give them some options, but leave it to them to make the final decisions.

CJ: How do you define success?

KB: Seeing the impact of a message is a huge success but for me success is knowing I’ve spread an idea, planted a seed in someone’s head.

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

KB: I’m definitely working on using the connections I’ve made through all my projects. Once I’m finished working with someone they often tell me I’m welcome to contact them with questions about other things or for a reference and I forgot to do so, sometimes thinking they wouldn’t remember me. Lately though I’ve been working on projects at the University of Washington that involve bringing together a lot of components.  People from my Gold Award and high school are coming to be crucial. It’s mostly been a curve of learning how to write professional emails that remind people how they know me and quickly getting to the point.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

KB: Don’t let hard times stop you from pursuing your passions. I guarantee you’ll have a hard time with something you’ve always been good at and I totally understand that failing something sucks. When it happens don’t be afraid to talk to people, get help, figure out how to ask for it before college when it gets even harder to find the help you need. And most of all? Just keep going, you’ll learn too much from the hard patch and it might even strengthen your resolve to pursue your passion.

Katherine Ball Qs

Images by Katherine Ball

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to thinking outside the box, Kimberly Del Col is required to do so on a daily basis. As a Senior Staff Engineer at Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Kimberly oversees and documents day-to-day activities on construction sites to make sure contractors are compliant with environmental regulations. Her days start early, but every day is different which keeps things exciting.

Majoring in Chemical Engineering and Sustainability from Villanova University, Kimberly knew early on that she wanted to study something that combined science and math. As a female in a very male dominated field, Kimberly is learning how to be more assertive. We can’t help but be inspired by her drive, passion, and determination to make a change. Read on to learn Kimberly’s advice for those interested in being an engineer, how we can take care care of the environment on a daily basis, and the resources that have professionally and personally inspired her.

Name: Kimberly Del Col
Education: Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Sustainability from Villanova University; Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering from Villanova University
Follow: @Kim_DelCol

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Kimberly Del Col: I envision youth as a resource we are given.  Like any resources (physical or other) we have the ability to use it to our advantage, to help us grow, or we can waste it. To me, seizing your youth is the ability to harness this resource for your better good and use it as a foundation to help you grow and meet whatever goals you’re trying to achieve.

CJ: You majored in Chemical Engineering and Sustainability from Villanova University. How did you determine what to study?

KDC: I’ve always had an interest in science and math, so I knew when I went to college I wanted to major in something that incorporated both. Engineering seemed like the right balance of the two. At Villanova University, the first engineering class you take helps you explore the various disciplines of engineering through lectures and labs on each disciple. When it came to the Chemical Engineering portion of the class I found the concept and theories discussed made sense, everything clicked.

As I progressed in the Chemical Engineering degree I had the option to take classes that incorporated some of the foundation classes of the degree (such as mass transfer and reactor engineering) and applied it to environmental scenarios. That is when I decided to pursue a concentration in sustainability.

CJ: After college you decided to earn your Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering from Villanova University. What led to your decision to go to graduate school?

KDC: I’ve always had an interest in sustainability, climate change and environmental health, but it wasn’t until I was a senior at Villanova that the Sustainable Engineering program was formed.  Once I began working, I became more involved with local sustainability initiatives and educating myself on what it means to live sustainably. I decided to go back to school part-time about a year after I finished my undergraduate degree so that I could incorporate the knowledge I attained from class into work (and vice-versa). Also I was able to use what I learned in class to drive new initiatives at work and my personal endeavors, that’s how you create change.

KDC D

CJ: You worked as a Staff Engineer at H2M architects + engineers, a consulting and design firm. What did your duties entail and what takeaways did you learn from that experience?

KDC: At H2M I worked as part of their water resource group.  The group’s responsibilities were primarily designing and overseeing the implementation of drinking water (groundwater) treatment, distribution and storage systems. I also worked on groundwater models that would predict groundwater impacts (contamination) down the road. These models helped us better understand the challenges these water districts may face and help us better design treatment systems so that the water can be clean and safe to drink. I learned so much at H2M; the biggest take away was learning to effectively communicate with my team. It easy to think engineering is just about numbers but if you can’t communicate that idea to someone effectively, you’re project can’t succeed.

CJ: You are now a Senior Staff Engineer at Langan Engineering & Environmental Services. What does that mean and what does your role entail?

KDC: At Langan, my responsibilities are a bit more hands on. As environmental field staff, I’m responsible to oversee and document day-to-day activities on construction sites, as due diligence for our clients and making sure contractors are compliant with environmental regulations. Upon completion, we compile all of the information from the project and provide a report explaining how the requirements were met. We also are responsible for the planning and execution of sampling events to meet certain environmental requirements. Once the event is completed we compile the results and provide alternatives for moving forward with remediating the site.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

KDC: Every day is different! On typical day in the office I’ll be working on various reports explaining the findings of previous investigations, compiling information for final reports on construction jobs I’ve overseen or doing historical research of new sites to determine if there are any notable causes for environmental impacts. If I’m in the field the day usually starts around 6:30 AM where I’ll be on-site receiving any equipment I may need for the day’s work.

Field work varies from overseeing construction and making sure the contractor is being compliant with not only our specifications, but regulations set forth by various environmental policy makers (ie: New York City Office of Remediation (NYCOER), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) etc.) to completing the physical investigation of a site. This includes the sampling of soil, groundwater and soil vapor and conducting a visual inspection of the site to look for any indication of environmental impacts.

CJ: What are the three most important skills you need as an engineer?

KDC: Adaptability, ability to communicate (written & speaking), and critical thinking.

KDC B

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in being an engineer?

KDC: Engineering is a challenging profession, so be prepared to think outside the box and take things day by day.

CJ: Sustainable building and planning, water and soil remediation technologies, and sustainable farming are interests of yours. What makes you so passionate about these topics? How do you think people can be better about taking care of the environment in their everyday lives?

KDC: Often times people think of ‘sustainability’ as an environmental concept when really it is so closely connected to social and economic impacts (commonly referred to as the ‘triple bottom line’). There are technologies that have been developed to create more resilient infrastructure that can handle some of the recent climate events we’re seeing (ie: hurricanes, droughts, floods etc) so people aren’t left homeless, farming techniques that not only preserve soil integrity but help crops survive floods or drought, and materials that use fossil fuels to produce and are less harmful to produce for factory workers. I think once people start to look at sustainability in this light it takes on a more personal meaning. On a day to day level things like turning off lights, choosing post-recycled or sustainably sourced products all contribute to a greener society. Being educated is your greatest resource. Read labels and ask questions. The more you know, the better decisions you can make.

CJ: What are your time management tips? How do you stay organized and efficient?

KDC: It is critical to be organized and efficient, especially in the field. Before any field investigation I put together a binder of all of the information I need – contact information, site plans, previous investigation reports, sample tables etc. – so that when I’m on site I have all of the information I could need readily available. In the office I have a list of critical items that need to be completed, their deadlines and if there’s any outstanding information I need to complete them.  Once a day I go through the list, make and updates and if there’s something I need to address I make sure to do it and note the action. With the constant flux of information on various projects coming across my desk, it’s easy to forget something if it isn’t right in front of you.

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

KDC: It’s easy to be intimidated as a female in a very male dominated field so I’m constantly working on my ability to be assertive. It’s easy to back down and try to compromise when someone is arguing with me but if I compromise my work then I compromise my integrity, which is not that standard I hold myself to.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

KDC: Engineers without Borders and Society of Women Engineers are two groups that I’ve found a lot of inspiration. Both societies offer resources for both learning and networking that have been instrumental in molding my interest in sustainable engineering and its social implications. Also, many of Michael Pollan’s books, which focus on the sustainability of the food chain, have helped me foster my interest in sustainable farming and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

KDC: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.

CJ: If you could have coffee with anyone – dead or alive – who would it be?

KDC: Emily Warren Roebling. Roebling had a huge hand in the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, even became the chief engineer of the project when her husband fell ill.  For a woman to have such an esteemed role in such a monumental project during a time when women did not really have a presence in the field is awe inspiring.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

KDC: Never apologize for being ambitious or driven. I used to always start sentences saying, ‘I’m sorry/ I’m sorry but…’ when I had nothing to be sorry about. Once you stop apologizing and start being confident in your ideas and concepts, people will notice (and respect) you.

Kim Del Col Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When Genna Reed discovered her love for biology after whale watching in Cape Cod as a kid, she pursued that passion in high school, college, and graduate school. It wasn’t until Genna took an environmental policy class that she realized she wanted to shift gears from science to policy and advocate for environmental change. Genna started working toward her Environmental Policy master’s degree the fall after graduating from college.

What we love about Genna’s story is that when she recognized what made her excited, she followed those instincts. When a class re-awakened her interest in environmental policy, she turned that passion into further learning and ultimately, a career. Genna now works as a researcher at Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization and consumer rights group that focuses on corporate and government accountability relating to food, water, and fishing. She spends her time researching and writing materials to support Food & Water Watch’s campaigns, specifically their GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling campaign.

Genna provides insight into how she spends her days, what it’s like being a researcher and advocate for the environment, and what the important things to know are when it comes to genetically engineered food. We’re inspired by how determined, passionate, and knowledgeable Genna is, and she really captures the ‘Seizing Your Youth’ spirit.

Name: Genna Reed
Education: B.A. in Biology and Psychology and M.A. in Environmental Policy Design from Lehigh University
Follow: @gennaclare / foodandwaterwatch.org

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Genna Reed: Youth is an advantageous time in a person’s life because individuals are most open to exciting opportunities and big changes, while also being resilient enough to manage these changes with ease. This flexibility begins to fade with age. It is absolutely essential that young folks take advantage of their freedom and explore new passions and interests whenever they can. Unless you happen to be Benjamin Button, you’re not getting any younger, so take advantage of it!

CJ: You majored in Biology and Psychology from Lehigh University. How did you decide what to major in?

GR: I have been very passionate about biology ever since going on my first whale watch in Cape Cod as a kid and becoming an instant die-hard humpback whale advocate. I was always more interested in my science and math courses during high school and carried that with me into college where my course load was predominantly biology and calculus courses. I was on the pre-med path until my senior year when I took an environmental policy course that re-awakened my interest in advocating for environmental change.

CJ: You also received your master’s degree in Environmental Policy Design from Lehigh University. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

GR: I realized at the end of my senior year of college that I wanted to shift gears from science to policy. I had worked at an environmental chemistry lab at the Meadowlands in New Jersey for two summers extracting very high levels of pesticides and other contaminants out of soil and water samples. I realized just how badly humans had polluted the environment and how essential it is that our society work to clean it up. Although I enjoyed working in a lab, I wanted to help work on concrete changes at the policy level. It just so happened that Lehigh had started up an Environmental Policy master’s program that seemed like a great fit for me. I began the master’s program the fall after graduating from undergrad at Lehigh.

CJ: You worked as an intern at the Wildlands Conservancy where you led environmental education programs and handled live animals including turtles, lizards, snakes, and owls. What were your biggest takeaways from this experience?

GR: I really loved working at the Wildlands Conservancy because I got to share my excitement about the natural world and environmental conservation with kids. I learned how incredibly important it is to expose children to environmental experiences at a young age and to teach them how they fit into the biological cycles and what they can do to help protect the environment. It’s really fun to channel kids’ energy and enthusiasm into becoming mini environmental stewards!

Genna 2

CJ: You were a National Network for Environmental Management Studies (NNEMS) Fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. What was this experience like and what did you do as a Fellow?

GR: While I was completing my master’s thesis on wetland regulation and preservation, I was lucky enough to get a temporary fellowship position in Philadelphia with the EPA’s wetland division. I was able to apply things I was learning about wetland biological assessments into the policy world and to see firsthand how regulations are enacted. I spent my time with the EPA comparing and contrasting different ways to assess the health of streams and wetlands in order to find the best way to determine how these bodies of water can be protected from pollution and degradation.

CJ: You now work as a researcher for Food & Water Watch where your focus is on new technology issues within the food system. What does your role as researcher entail?

GR: I spend most of my time researching and writing materials (reports, issue briefs, fact sheets, op-eds, letters to the editor, blogs and testimony) that support our campaigns, specifically our GMO labeling campaign. I also work on federal comments on issues relevant to genetically engineered crops and animals and present our research at certain science and policy forums, stakeholder meetings and public hearings.

CJ: What are the three most important skills you need as a researcher?

GR:
1. Patience. It’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for.
2. Versatility. We have to be able to write about food policy to a range of different audiences.
3. Positive Attitude. Working at an organization that attempts to protect our food and water, we are up against very strong corporate interests, which makes it difficult to win our campaigns. We have to remain positive and keep on keeping on.

CJ: You research genetically engineered foods and the impacts that the technology has on farmers, consumers, and the environment. For people who are starting to learn more about genetically engineered foods, what are the most important things to know and keep in mind?

GR: The first thing I always tell people that are just learning about genetically modified foods, or GMOs, is that the way that this technology is currently used is first and foremost a moneymaking scheme for biotech companies that own seeds as well as the herbicides that are used with them. Herbicides are poisons, and their use has increased since GMOs were introduced. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the safety of GMOs and the herbicides that are used with them, and we have been the guinea pigs for this experiment since these crops and associated chemicals have been used for the past 20 years and foods made from these crops have been sold without labels the entire time. We should all be outraged at the lack of accountability and transparency from our regulatory agencies that have been keeping us in the dark about what’s in our food for far too long.

CJ: Food & Water Watch is an advocacy group with food, water, and environmental policy campaigns. Why do these issues matter to you and what can young people who are interested in these causes do to make a difference?

GR: There is not a single person in the world that is not affected by food, water and environmental issues. I have always believed that we have to take responsibility for the way in which we’ve treated our natural resources as commodities since humans began colonizing this planet. It’s high time that we begin thinking about the environment as having its own intrinsic value. Interested young people should get involved at the local level in their communities by getting educated on issues and joining with other concerned individuals to demand change.

Genna 3

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

GR: Monday mornings are spent drinking earl grey tea and going through my emails from the weekend and my to-do list that I’ve written on Friday afternoon. I start the day off finishing quick research tasks and then move on to longer-term projects as the day wears on. I try to do my writing either first thing in the morning or right after lunch, when my mind is the clearest.

Throughout the day, I usually have a couple of calls with our organizers on the ground to discuss campaign details and how we can work together to advance our cause or with representatives from other organizations who work with us in coalitions in order to build power to affect change. Hopefully by the end of the day, I have checked more things off the list than I have added.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a researcher do now to set him or herself up for success?

GR: Having an inquisitive mind is a great way to begin preparing to be a researcher. Research is really just the process of finding an answer to a question or a set of questions. Another good skill to start honing is the ability to distinguish between good sources and questionable sources. It is essential that good research be backed up by solid fact and discerning between what is credible and what is not is imperative in this line of work.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

GR: E.O Wilson’s Biophilia was incredibly important in shaping and affirming my own opinions about the importance of protecting the environment and the role of humans in preservation. Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac was also very influential for me.

CJ: When you’re having a bad day, what do you do to reset?

GR: I usually go for runs to clear my head. After that, I spend time cuddling with my two cats, Jack and Willow, for comfort (if they’re in the mood, of course).

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

GR: As a researcher with a dual monitor computer set-up, sometimes I find myself overwhelmed with inputs. Growing up in the age of multi-tasking and short attention spans, I sometimes struggle with devoting my full attention to individual projects as I’m working on them. I’m attempting to be more mindful of this and to fully immerse myself in one task at a time rather than spreading myself thin on a bunch of tasks.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

GR: I probably would tell 20-year-old me to spend a little bit less time studying and more time exploring the state parks and natural beauty around Lehigh and farther out into Pennsylvania.

Genna Reed Qs

Images: Genna Reed

LearnSkills

Procrastination is that bittersweet friend of yours who dumps you when you need him or her the most. It is not the act of procrastinating per se that is most troubling. Delaying assignments by using Snapchat or watching cat videos is quite enjoyable. It is what happens ‘after’ that leaves us at our wits’ end. It leaves us with more worries, more stress, and more workload. Can this be contained? Yes, of course. Here are a few effective tactics you may use to do so.

1. Break the Bulk

Overwhelming work is a driving force for procrastination. Hence it would be in your best interest to break the workload into smaller components. For example, if you have a large project that needs to be completed, divide your work into sub sections such as Introduction, Topic 1, Topic 2, etc. This way it will be easier to digest how much work you have and you will be far more motivated to complete your tasks.

2. Set Artificial Deadlines

Deadlines help us keep pace. Our working senses get activated when we have a near deadline looming over our heads. Making your own deadlines before the actual deadline is a good way to get you on your feet. But they would be void without incentive. Make a penalty for not following deadlines and reward yourself for completing tasks on time. Make sure to not reward yourself too heavily, for you will get carried away and miss your next deadline.

3. Alternate Your Tasks

Boredom is procrastination’s best source of fuel. Don’t stick to one task as it will soon become tedious and the distractions around you will suddenly become more inviting. Alternating your tasks will keep you focused. I mix dull tasks with enjoyable ones to complete my work faster and more efficiently.

4. Stay in a Conducive Environment

Make sure you’re in an environment that is conducive to completing work. This entails doing work free of distractions. In my own experience, I switch off the Internet modem whenever I have homework to avoid WiFi-related distractions. Having friends who are motivated and supportive also helps. They will push you back on the right track when you feel like quitting. Tell your friends about all of your goals so that you become more accountable to fulfilling them.

How do you tackle procrastination?

Image: Jan Vašek

Travel

Summers are underrated. Relaxing under the sun, hanging out with friends, seeing movies whenever you feel like them, and worst of all desperately attempting to avoid work all lead down a high speed road until you’re plopped back into the fall at work or at school and wonder what you’re doing with your life.

For me personally, I am staring the inevitable death of summers right in the face, as I prepare for my senior year of college. But no matter what situation might bring you towards your last summer vacation, what’s important is that you make the most of it.

Here are some ideas for how to make the most out of any summer, and avoid that downhill tumble into September:

1. Make fitness a priority.

The hardest part about exercise is getting it into a part of your daily routine. The dog days of summer are the perfect time to set yourself up for the busier seasons ahead by installing an exercise plan throughout the week. It feels like work, but after awhile the habit will kick in. You’ll want to go for a run rather than need to. Whether it’s to stay in shape or just to keep your mind sharp, exercise is a valuable asset to any go-getter’s arsenal.

2. Mix up your environment.

You’ll have the rest of your life to work in a typical office experience. While getting any professional experience will be incredibly valuable in the future, try to find it in an avenue that’s possibly more of a peripheral interest, or that’ll challenge you in ways your aspiring career might not. I’ll give you a personal example.  During my last summer, I have spent my days as a Creative Writing Intern for a small video game company. Though I’ve always enjoyed both writing and video games, I had never fully combined them into one workday until this experience. I feel like its really broadened my preexisting skillset, and opened a door to a potential career field I hadn’t initially thought about.

3. Keep an idea journal.

One of the most powerful things humans have are ideas. Keeping a journal of your day-to-day ideas keeps them under your control and in your hands. Big or small, easy or difficult, all ideas should be saved. You never know when an idea will come, or when the timing is right to seize on it. Write it down.

4. Take advantage of a flexible schedule.

The last summer also presents the ominous prospect of potentially leaving your home or your hometown. Take some time to revisit landmarks from the past,and to discover new places and possibilities too! The flexible schedule of the summer will leave you with some space to get out of your house and your comfort zone. Sleeping in is always an incredible option, but when you’re young and the world is this old, you gotta take advantage of all it has to offer.

5. Set away time for fun.

At the end of the day, this is still summer vacation. I know it’s hard to remember that second part. But it’s still there! When the waning summer days start to get hectic, give yourself the space to recharge in whatever outlet you find best. Binge a television show you’ve always wanted to binge. Read. Sometimes the best thing you can do to further your professional goals is to achieve your recreational ones. You should love the work you do, but don’t forget to love your life, too.

How have you been making the most of your summer?

Image: Jay Mantri

EducationExploreSkillsSpotlightTravel

Alternative Education Highlight: High Mountain Institute

Education comes in all shapes and sizes; there has never been a “one size fits all” when it comes to learning. Figuring out how you learn best is a challenge that you should continue to tackle until you discover what works best for you personally. Carpe Juvenis recently sat down with Megan Morrow, High Mountain Institute (HMI) alum, to talk about the high school semester program she took part in her junior year. Megan now studies at Johns Hopkins University where she majors in Global Environmental Change & Sustainability.

HMI is a program for academically driven high school students interested in an outdoor educational experience. HMI focuses on building students’ relationships with nature and their community through full physical and emotional integration. Based in Colorado, students take AP level place-based classes in tangent with learning survival and camping skills. There is a campus with off-the-grid cabins and fully functioning classrooms where students live and study when they are not busy leading hiking expeditions and camping explorations.

HMI offers a range of programs: Semester, Summer team, Apprentice Program, High Peaks Adventure, and Wilderness Medicine and Avalanche Safety courses. If you’re interested in applying to HMI, click here – applications for Fall 2014, Spring 2015, and Summer Term 2014 are due February 15, 2014.

Without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to Megan Morrow. Read on to learn more about her experiences at High Mountain Institute!

Carpe Juvenis: What exactly is High Mountain Institute?

Megan Morrow: High Mountain Institute (HMI) is an outdoor education program combined with experiential education. There are around fifty students from around the United States and you go on a set of three backpacking expeditions that are interspersed throughout the semester. You take normal classes that you would in school but you continue them when you’re on your hiking trips.

CJ: Would you recommend that someone apply to HMI and why?

MM: Yes, definitely! I was really hesitant to go and spent the entire month after I got in deciding whether or not I wanted to go. I actually replied late saying I would. But [HMI] helps prepare you for going away to college because you’ve already done it before for four months, and being in a small community forces you to deal with people. But [the staff] also teaches you about conflict resolution, getting along with people, and working with group dynamics. Its something I never thought I would be able to do … but being able to spend more than a month in the Colorado and Utah wilderness is amazing. I would have never been able to do that in my regular high school.

CJ: What is a challenge or difficulty you faced that took you by surprise?

MM: I expected that I would be homesick – and I was – but I got over it. The hardest struggle for me that I didn’t expect was that it took me a really long time to adjust back into real life again. I got so close to the people [at HMI] that I had a really hard time going back to school.

CJ: How did you feel about the academic aspect of HMI?

MM: The academics I think are really, really good. You have scheduled time to do work every night for two hours. [And work is continued on hiking trips] so you’ll have English class discussing Henry David Thoreau, or you have to do a science lab on your expedition walking around looking at trees, collecting data, writing essays, and all that. The other component is leadership training; you go over types of leadership, how to be a good leader, and you have to be “leader of the day” twice throughout an expedition where you lead your small group of students and you have to use topographical maps and make decisions about when to rest and how far to walk. As expeditions go by you become more and more independent.

CJ: Is there a certain “type” of student that should go to HMI?

MM: I think it definitely helps to be an outdoorsy person, but it was a mixture of people. It’s been interesting to see how [the students in my semester] have all grown up through college because we’re not all the same type of person. I think what’s interesting about something that [happens] in high school is that I was still young enough that it helped mold me. I was young enough to not come into it with such a strong identity that I wasn’t willing to be changed by it. I was sixteen when I went.

CJ: Has HMI stuck with you in any way?

MM: That’s actually where I started getting interested in environmental science. It’s a natural science program there so we would do water tests near old mines and learn about pollution and go to logging areas and learn about the succession.

Carpe Juvenis would like to thank Megan for her time and insight about HMI! For more information about this awesome person, check out her study abroad blog, as well as her professional blog

Photos courtesy of Megan Morrow