When the Dallas Geological Society (DGS) formed its local YP group last year, one of the initiatives that was strongly encouraged was community outreach.
YPs are in an excellent position to perform community service. For the most part, our backs and knees are still in good shape – but more importantly, since YPs are making the transition from school to the work force, they make excellent liaisons between young/future geologists and the professional geoscience community.
Additionally, community service events provide a “change of venue” for YP networking and publicly recognize those who participate.
Simply put, we have found that community service events are as beneficial to our YP group as to the people we have served.
I grew up in central Iowa. As such, I always understood that hamburgers and corn don’t just come from the grocery store.
However, there aren’t a lot of outcrops where I come from, so it took a lot longer for me to develop a fascination with rocks and understand that there are a lot of things that don’t just come from the store.
Throughout my entire grade school curriculum, I only remember one chapter on geology, which came in fourth grade. Coincidentally, it’s the only test I remember failing. Geology seemed so distant. I had never seen a mountain (or even an outcrop!) except on TV, and all the rocks I had ever seen looked pretty much alike to me (in other words, they looked “like a rock”).
I’m pretty sure if a geologist had spent just an hour with us explaining why studying rocks was important (and, even more exciting, if he/she had told us how the rocks we found were each unique!), I would have passed that test on the first try. After all, who can impart more passion about a field of study than a geologist discussing rocks?
Alas, in my hometown, geology and geologists were both in short supply.
Now that I’ve graduated from school, I enjoy being able to give back to teachers and share my passion for geology with students. And I’m certainly not alone in my thinking or experiences. I’ve met many geologists who share stories similar to mine, including YP members Nicolas Guerrero and Mandi Beck.
This past year, a local teacher contacted the DGS asking if there was a local geologist who could visit his classes. Nicolas and Mandi jumped at the opportunity to help out and spent an entire day at the school discussing with multiple classes the driving mechanisms of and structures created by plate tectonics, the importance of index fossils like crinoids and trilobites, the properties and uses of a large variety of mineral samples and, of course, questions about dinosaurs.
“It was a wonderful experience and a great opportunity to give back to our community and share our passion for science with the next generation,” Guerrero said.
In addition to giving back to local schools, community service projects provide YPs with an alternative to after-work mixers. A major benefit of a Saturday morning/midday event is that it draws interest from YPs who may be either unable to attend or disinterested in attending weekday after-work socials.
We participated in one such project in cooperation with the Texas Ramp Project, and it was a rewarding experience for everyone involved.
Incorporated in 2006, the Texas Ramp Project has built over 5,300 wheelchair ramps for low-income, homebound persons and has chapters all across Texas.
In a single Saturday morning, with assistance and instruction from Texas Ramp Project organization volunteers, we were able to build a ramp for a woman who could no longer safely navigate the steps exiting her home. We were done by lunch – and needless to say, we all left with a sense of accomplishment and an appreciation for our own self-reliance.
There certainly are no shortages of volunteer opportunities – and these are just two examples of service projects available to YP groups.
In addition to the impact made on the community, service events are an excellent way to bring together students, YPs and experienced professionals.
It seems most student organizations require community service hours, and many veteran geoscientists enjoy participating in or sponsoring such events. For our build-a-ramp project, DGS members were eager to supply any additional tools needed and DGS readily covered our drinks and snacks.
Most, if not all, are familiar with the warm, heartfelt feelings that come with volunteering with charitable organizations.
However, there is more for YP groups to gain than individual satisfaction.
These events positively promote the YP group and its affiliations – and encourage event participation from a wider spectrum of AAPG and affiliated society members.