ELM GROVE, WI –The Elm Grove Junior Guild has announced the winner of its annual essay writing contest. Steven Butler was selected as the scholarship recipient from 31 entries received from graduating high school seniors residing in the Elmbrook area. Submissions were rated anonymously by a panel of volunteer judges. Students were asked to discuss a significant personal experience or event that inspired them to make a difference in their community, detail what they learned from the experience, and share how they plan to use their findings to help their community or others in the future.
Steven’s essay is reprinted below.
Every fall, my cousin, William and I embarked upon our fishing adventure that came with the changing of the seasons. As the leaves’ colors changed and the temperatures dropped, the salmon and steelhead made their pilgrimage toward the end and beginning of their life cycle. Almost ceremoniously, we eagerly put on our waders and strung up our rods, nearly shaking with excitement for possible, yet improbable, success on the water. We finished preparing, trekked down to the bank, and finally cast our first line, waiting for a bite. I walked downstream, hoping to find a pack of fish in the rapids, and, instead, found an old leather boot, a tire, and rotten soda cans.
Despite my immediate disgust and disenchantment, I found inspiration in the cesspool that had taken over my favorite fishing waters. I took it upon myself to found an organization of fellow students who are committed to conservation and stewardship. That Monday, I proposed a club at Marquette University High School, which would eventually be named “Environmental Science and Outdoors.” To materialize the club, I was to acquire a minimum of 25 student signatures, recruit at least 15 students to commit to joining the club, and convince a faculty member to moderate the club. Since then, we, as a club, partnered with multiple organizations, like the Milwaukee Audubon Society and Milwaukee River Keeper, planning and executing restoration events around the state. We have gone from two to forty-five members, and our mission is to create satellite organizations in the surrounding Milwaukee high schools; our goal is to raise awareness and promote responsible recreation in the prolific Wisconsin outdoors. I have always been an outdoorsman who has had a reverence for nature, but I never would have considered my interest a cause. Nor would I have fathomed that I had the creativity to materialize such a popular and productive organization. It is my passion for a conserved earth that evoked this motivation to effect positive environmental change.
Through this leadership experience, I learned how to bring my creativity and initiative into fruition in such a way that benefits my community. I learned how to bind my fellow citizens together so that we may work towards our environmental goal while preserving the emphatic passion we have for outdoor recreation. Thus, I was able to use that passion to translate that into practical work and useful projects. Through this, we have reclaimed overgrown paths within forests at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center so that the nuns and the retreatants may have a more nature filled experience. We have worked to restore the Natural Midwestern Savannah, one of the rarest and most naturally beneficial biomes within our ecosystem. We have worked together in the repair of the waterways around Wisconsin by participating in water quality and oxygen content testing. Thus, I have learned how my leadership and my companion’s cumulative passion for the outdoors can forge a path of restoration and conservation so that this land will be the same for our children and our children’s children.