Hi, my name is Ryan Luksys, and I am a grade 11 student at Catholic Central High School (CCH) in downtown London. For the past month or so, I have been on a co-operative education placement with TTLT, and it has been an amazing experience. I have been able to do so many things and learn so much that I would never have been able to do in the classroom. From interacting with turtles, to plant identification and health assessment, TTLT has taught me so much and shown me what careers in the environment sector may be like so that I can plan for my future.
Here I am holding a snapping turtle and helping it cross the road.
Nature has always been important in my life. Whether I was building a tree fort in the woods with my friends, or fishing at the local pond, I enjoyed time spent in nature, so when I found out about the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) that was offered at CCH, I knew that was the program for me. Sadly, that plan fell through because of conflicts with a program I was already in. I had to take another pathway, but I stayed in touch with the ELP teacher who recommended a few co-op placements, like TTLT. TTLT was one of the only organizations that was accepting co-op students, and that turned out to be a huge blessing, because most of the other kids in my co-op class only got to do online placements where they did desk work most days. I am so happy I was able to get out of the house and get my hands dirty while spending time in nature.
I was lucky to have my co-op placement time in late spring when TTLT was busy with lots of projects. This allowed me to experience garlic mustard pulling, trail hazard assessment, turtle monitoring, creating new trail systems, growing native plants for the plant sale, creating promotional posters and social media posts, plant ID and health assessment, etc.
Here are some of the native plants I grew for TTLT's native plant sale!
One thing that made everything twice as enjoyable was the knowledge that I was doing a service to the world that actually made a substantial difference. It was a great feeling to look at a task that took you all day and you put a lot of effort into and think “Wow, that is going to make a positive difference for the people, plants, and animals around here”. As a mere 17-year-old, those feelings are hard to come by, so every moment at TTLT made me feel good about what I was doing. My favourite activities were definitely working with turtles. I mean, who wouldn’t love working with those majestic creatures to help their populations recover.
The team at TTLT needs recognition as a highlight of my experience. They were always willing to teach and were very patient with me if I did not understand the first time. Tim and Luke from the Canadian Conservation Corps were great to work with and learn from. I developed a good relationship with them throughout the placement and I liked our conversations and swapping stories. The always-knowledgeable Rebecca and our fearless leader Colin were wonderful supervisors, always making sure we were safe and taking every opportunity to teach us new things. They deserve all the thanks I can give for making it such a great experience.
With my experience at this placement, I have gained relationships and found a new place to volunteer when I can. I am now sure that I want to get into the environmental sector. Now I can plan to apply to a university for a biology undergrad or maybe start at Fleming College to get some hands-on training. Either way, I can thank TTLT for an amazing time and for teaching me so much about the natural world and about myself.