How Students Connected to the Natural World


Senior Hermalinda Donis and Sophomore Jose Aquino


By Londy Hernandez,
Junior at Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School
Gryphon Gazette Student Editor

For Hermalinda Donis, it started out as an interesting opportunity for members of her club, Mujeres Con Poder (Women with Power). For Jose Aquino, it was an opportunity for members of his club, Caballeros Con Cultura (Gentlemen with Culture). Both Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School students found themselves immersed in nature through NatureBridge, an environmental science program that provides students with the opportunity to learn hands-on science in one of the few Mediterranean biomes of the world.

Over three days, Hermalinda and Jose bonded with other students involved with NatureBridge, together they hiked, camped, and connected to nature in the Santa Monica Mountains. 

According to Hermalinda, hiking took most of their day but, “at the end [we] would have campfires. They would tell [us] stories about ancient times — with kings and queens.” Participants also engaged in physical challenges, played basketball, ping-pong, and other activities.

“Honestly, at first it seemed like it wouldn’t be fun, but [NatureBridge] helped me appreciate nature more.”

-Hermalinda Donis

At the end of the three days, students found that the program gave them an experience they wouldn’t have otherwise had. “NatureBridge taught me to not be scared, and not give up,” said Jose.

For Hermalinda it opened her eyes, “I really didn’t want to go at first. because they told me there wasn’t going to be any cell service,” said Hermalinda. “Honestly, at first it seemed like it wouldn’t be fun, but [NatureBridge] helped me appreciate nature more.”

Finding Nature

“I really didn’t know nature that well until I experienced it at NatureBridge,” said Hermalinda. Now, when she walks, she pays more attention to her surroundings — the sounds of birds chirping, leaves falling, and wind blowing. Despite their initial feelings about nature, both students felt the experience impacted them and would recommend others to try it out.

As a result of their experiences, both students discovered an interest in the environment and environmental science. For Hermalinda NatureBridge introduced her to the idea of one day working with a diverse set of students as a trainer. For Jose, his experience at NatureBridge inspired him to pursue photography because of the beauty he found outdoors.

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