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Confluence
Midwest Region, January 10, 2012
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Top row left to right:  Dario Ramirez (Mexico), Berth Silva (Mexico), Briet (Belgium), Sun (South Korea), Rosalba Uribe (Mexico), Jeanette Fonseca (SEED director), Cristian Cruz (El Salvador), Jimmy Osias (Haiti), Michael Victor (Haiti), Elix Diaz (Nicaragua)
Top row left to right: Dario Ramirez (Mexico), Berth Silva (Mexico), Briet (Belgium), Sun (South Korea), Rosalba Uribe (Mexico), Jeanette Fonseca (SEED director), Cristian Cruz (El Salvador), Jimmy Osias (Haiti), Michael Victor (Haiti), Elix Diaz (Nicaragua) - Photo Credit: Colby Wrasse - USFWS Columbia FWCO

Confluence
1. a coming together of people or things
2. a flowing together of two or more streams

 

The Missouri and Mississippi rivers converge near St. Louis, Missouri in a large expanse of water, where east meets west and north meets south. For centuries, the confluence of these two great rivers has been a gathering spot of historic importance. The area surrounding the confluence supported one of the largest and most sophisticated Native America civilizations, and signs of these indigenous people can still be seen in the large earthen Cahokia Mounds which tower over the Mississippi River Valley. It was at the confluence that Lewis and Clark camped for the winter before beginning their legendary journey. And one of America’s great cities (St. Louis) grew up around the confluence, with more than 2-million people now calling the area home.

Last October, the confluence once again served as a gathering site as 300 volunteers met to clean-up the shores of these massive rivers. The event was the final stop of Missouri River Relief’s (MRR) busy 2011 river clean-up season. We at Columbia FWCO assisted, as I piloted one of our large john boats, ferrying volunteers to clean-up sites along the river. While I have helped at several MRR events in the past, this one was extra special, as I had the opportunity to meet some volunteers who had come a very long way.

On my boat that day, was a group of international students from St. Louis Community College’s SEED (Scholarships for Education and Economic Development) program. The SEED program is a partnership between the US Agency for International Development, Georgetown University and community colleges across the US. The program awards scholarships to qualified young people from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. The students come to the US to learn about US culture, serve as ambassadors for their home lands, and learn valuable skills which they can use to better their countries once they return. The SEED students were also joined by two international students from the Youth for Understanding program.

I had the opportunity to work with nine enthusiastic students representing six different countries. Although the morning was cool, St. Louis Community College’s SEED director Jeanette Fonseca had her students fired up and ready to go. We loaded into the boat, shoved off and motored up the Missouri River a couple miles. As I brought the boat up on plane, cheers erupted from the eager students. They tackled the dirty work of river clean-up with good natured cheer. After a couple hours, they had collected a large amount of river trash highlighted by a pink-and-white fútbol – that’s soccer ball to most of you reading this.

After the students were finished filling their garbage bags, I took them downstream to the confluence. I shut down the motor and we talked for a moment about our longest river and our largest river and this place where they meet. To our left lay the Missouri River and the western Rocky Mountains. Directly in front of us you could follow the Mississippi River all the way to Minnesota’s north woods, and behind us the Mississippi River flowed south to the Gulf of Mexico. To me, it was remarkable to have people from seven different countries together on this one small boat, at this historic crossroads.

Missouri River Relief once again succeeded in bringing together a diverse group of people for a common goal. During this particular clean-up event, we removed more than 14-tons of trash from the river. The good work MRR performs is only possible because of the volunteer efforts from people like the SEED students. These young people did a wonderful job representing their perspective countries. I wish these students the best of luck in their future endeavors, and I hope the experience left a lasting impression – I know it did for me.

To learn more about SEED and Youth for Understanding programs see the following website: http://www.stlcc.edu/Programs/Study_Abroad/International_Programs.html

To learn more about Missouri River Relief go to http://www.riverrelief.org/


Contact Info: Colby Wrasse, 573-234-2132 x30, colby_wrasse@fws.gov



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