A Letter to the Mighty Mississippi

Talon Benavides, Mississippi River Educator Fellow, Mississippi Park Connection

Mighty Mississippi, this summer I have had the opportunity to learn all about you. It's been quite the honor to learn your history, your backwaters and the trees you give life to along the river banks. The fact that we are lucky enough to have the most unique part of one of the world's greatest rivers right here in our backyard is incredible. The unfortunate thing is not everyone knows these complex and beautiful places exist here. Even I am guilty of this. Prior to getting involved in the outdoor industry in Minneapolis I had no clue the meaning or importance of this river. This fellowship has given me a sense of place. I've learned more about the Mississippi than I could have ever imagined. Shockingly, this is not the best thing that has came from this job.

The real satisfaction comes from sharing this knowledge with the people. The people that this river cares for. The people that this river gives life to without them even knowing. Seeing a kids eyes light up and gears start turning is like no other feeling I've experienced. Knowing that I quite possibly motivated a future caregiver for this river makes me smile just thinking of it. This position is so important to the future of our park and parks like this. Allowing youth to step into these roles will only make a better future for us and our river. Working with the National Park Service has truly been a dream come true. Seeing the inner workings and talking to the Rangers has been eye opening for me. Before having this position I often stressed over the state of our earth and climate change. The threat is still very real but meeting all of these forward thinking people that truly care for our lands is inspiring. Knowing that these people are on the front lines putting in the work is comforting and only lights a fire under me to do my part. I'm feeling very bittersweet about this position ending.

This opportunity was one of wonder, a huge part of me wishes it would not end. Then I sit back and think of all the things this summer has given me and I want other people to have this chance. I want other people to feel the way I feel about the river because the more people we can inspire to care about the environment at times like this, the better off we will be in the future. So thank you mighty Mississippi, may your waters always flow and your cottonwoods always sing and dance in the wind.

The Mississippi River Educator Fellowship is supported by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), the Minneapolis FoundationKEEN shoes, and Bill and Judy Walter.