Tuesday night Caleb received a cash reward to use toward a computer to help him in his college studies while serving in the U.S. Air Force. I will probably be driving him over to the store this afternoon. He was nominated by the Lakeland Chapter for the GFWC – Florida, Youth Leadership Award in the area of Conservation. The nomination included a letter of why this younger person should be considered for the award. I will let the letter speak for itself.
It is with great pleasure and excitement that the GFWC Junior Women’s Club of Lakeland recommends Caleb Mathre for the GFWC Youth Leadership Award in the area of Conservation. Caleb’s sense of commitment, loyalty, and service are truly commendable – he has made, and continues to make, a definite difference in our community and in the lives and habitats impacted by his volunteer efforts.
Caleb possesses tremendous personal conviction and understands civic responsibility. He demonstrates his belief in volunteerism and civic engagement through his actions as well as his words. He has been recognized as Camp Fire Sunshine Central Florida’s Outstanding Youth Member of the Year and is currently serving a two-year term with fifteen other young adults on Camp Fire’s National Youth Advisory Cabinet due in large part to his tremendous accomplishments as a volunteer. Caleb was recently nominated to represent Summerlin High School in the field of Environmental Service in Polk County’s prestigious Silver Garland Awards for Outstanding Volunteerism that take place later this spring. In May of 2012, he was recognized as one of a small, but distinct, handful of student volunteers by the Polk County School Board.
Caleb cares about his community, passionately volunteering his time and energy. He has used his lifelong involvement in Camp Fire, a national, non-profit youth development organization, as a vehicle and platform to harness his desire to leave a lasting imprint by helping those in need and to minimize the footprint society has left on the environment. He has completed more than 1,500 hours of volunteer service since entering high school – with more than one-third of those hours spent specifically on environmental service. He has personally removed extensive amounts of invasive, exotic plants, planted indigenous and Florida friendly plants, created butterfly gardens, worked in organic vegetable gardens, spread endless amounts of mulch and fill, cleared new trails and maintained existing ones, installed signs and fence posts at parks, cleaned beaches, and other tasks needed by the agencies and park systems hosting the service-learning projects. During these many hours, days, and overnights, Caleb has learned how to identify countless invasive plants and how they threaten the ecosystems they decide to call home, the importance of controlled burns, the challenges of erosion control and managing environmentally threatened lands, how to properly use tools and safely complete physically demanding projects, and how park rangers and non-profit staff and volunteers work to balance community needs with available resources.
One of the things that continue to set Caleb apart as a volunteer is his willingness to step into leadership roles – helping others to volunteer and not being content to simply volunteer himself. He has held numerous leadership roles at school and in Camp Fire – each time learning more about the community, himself, and the finer nuances of leadership and motivation. During CF66, a challenging week-long service-learning trip for which Caleb has served as a team captain on three separate occasions, he continually demonstrated his personal resolve when he helped tackle the more challenging aspects of the position – addressing struggling group dynamics and finding ways to inspire individual team mates who did not possess his personal drive and passion to help. By doing so, his impact reached far beyond that of his individual service – effectively rendering the sweat-equity of a group of twelve volunteers instead of the efforts of only a few. Caleb has planned environmental service-learning projects in partnership with numerous Florida State Parks, the national park and county park system, the Nature Conservancy, animal rescue groups, Martin County Environmental Lands, Ocala National Forest, and various non profits of all sizes. He has also included outdoor recreation activities in trips to help expose fellow volunteers to the amazing experiences that can be found out-of-doors. Bio-luminescence kayak trips, snorkeling, outdoor cooking, night hikes, and lighthouse climbs have helped teens connect to the environment, resulting in more focused projects and enhanced long-term stewardship efforts.
Following graduation this year Caleb already has plans to continue to serve. He has already enlisted with the U.S. Air Force. We could not be prouder of Caleb and look forward to seeing all the areas he will serve in the future.
Caleb is truly an outstanding young man and we feel he is the ideal candidate for the Youth Leadership award in the area of conservation.