Written by:

Anna Maldonado

CWC Environmental Leaders Fellow


Growing up in Santa Cruz, I was always aware of the San Lorenzo River running through town. After finishing my second year at UC San Diego studying Earth Sciences, I was interested in finding an opportunity for the summer where I would be able to develop my academic interests and work within my community. With CWC’s Environmental Leaders Fellowship, I was able to do just that while learning about the local efforts to protect our watershed.

CWC’s team quickly brought me on board with a warm welcome and made me feel like a part of the team. As I worked on my projects for the summer– developing plant profiles in both English and Spanish for native species planted in the site, volunteer engagement, leading events, and monitoring the site (2000 native plants planted by volunteers!)– I was given time both in the office and in the field. As I end my fellowship, I can clearly identify how I applied everything that I worked on, researched, or created within the office in the field.

Through the course of the 12-week fellowship, I was challenged by situations and tasks that were new to me, but the accompaniment provided by CWC helped me grow in confidence. As I went through each of my projects, I felt as though my capacity grew in terms of understanding, efficiency, and the ability to carry out more components individually.

I could not have anticipated the many ways in which this fellowship has made a difference for me moving forward. Not only has it helped me develop professional skills and exposed me to the field of environmental restoration and enhancement, but it has also engaged me with the Santa Cruz community and our watershed in a way in which I had not previously been connected. I am extremely grateful to the Coastal Watershed Council and each member of the team having made this experience so positive, memorable, and motivating as I continue my studies.

Reconnecting to the San Lorenzo River

Just a stone’s throw from the Coastal Watershed Council office is evidence of Anna’s connection to the San Lorenzo River. Like so many students over the years, Anna first connected to the river back when she was a student in Kathleen Crocetti’s Mission Hill Middle School art class. Anna and her classmates drew, designed and installed mosaics inspired by the agriculture in the Monterey Bay region on the Soquel Avenue bridge. Today, Kathleen’s classes still continue to mosiac the San Lorenzo River, from the river’s bridges, to the promenade across from the Trader Joe’s parking lot and the incredible mosaic trees that mark the start of the Riverwalk at the Tannery Arts Campus. As Anna participates in CWC’s summer fellowship program and is considering what her career might look like when she graduates from UC San Diego, it’s clear how projects like these not only have transformed the Riverwalk, but have transformed the people who help create them. Next time you cross one of the river’s bridges take a look at these beautiful mosaics, consider the talented youth who created these pieces and ponder how transforming the San Lorenzo River can transform your community.

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