The first time I set foot on St. Vincent Island, I was a junior at Florida State University participating in International Coastal Cleanup Day. Since I was an Environment and Society student, the natural world was nothing new to me. Still, stepping onto a large flat-bottomed ship, traveling across Indian Pass, and arriving onto the island’s shore was a completely unique experience. Entering such a truly secluded wilderness, I felt a peculiar combination of excitement, curiosity, and peace. With the first step, I knew that being simply a one-time visitor to this place wasn’t an option.

Flash forward exactly a year, and I was recently appointed the Student Representative for the Friends of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. I was responsible for connecting students to the refuge, and specifically, inviting FSU students to the island for the International Coastal Cleanup.

Although incredibly excited for this task, I had to face a challenge.

Some young people are motivated to volunteer solely for academics or their career.

If a student’s only motivation to serve their community is the need to achieve service hours for their resume or for a scholarship, he or she will be more inclined to find a convenient, close, and easy volunteer opportunity.

I love St. Vincent, but I have to admit that commuting from Tallahassee to Apalachicola to clean a beach in the hot summer sun is none of those. Volunteering there is not for the lazy.

However, it is absolutely for those who long for an adventure outside of their daily routine.

It’s for those that want to experience an untamed environment that makes them feel like they’ve traveled back in time, back to before humans sprawled over natural ecosystems.

It’s for those that feel a rush seeing a flock of threatened shorebirds soar above a forgotten coast. It’s for those that are humbled as they walk alongside the tracks of an endangered Red Wolf pup. For students of this sort, nothing compares to St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge.

I encourage not only students, but people of all ages, to experience the beauty of St. Vincent Island. If you would like to visit or volunteer for the refuge, please email stvincentislandfriends@gmail.com.

The refuge will be participating in International Coastal Cleanup Day again this year in September, and we can use all the volunteers we can get. The island thanks you in advance!