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LU students partnered with San Francisco parks

LU students in San FranciscoEdward Doan, Luke Nguyen and Naomi Raczkovi, honors students in Lamar University’s Reaud Honors College, travelled to San Francisco June 25-29 to participate in “Partners in the Parks–Golden Gate National Recreation Area,” joining nine other students from across the country. The experience was co-sponsored by the National Collegiate Honors Council and Tacoma Community College.

The students’ trip was funded through a $1,000 grant from the Reaud Honors College. Raczkovi, a sophomore nursing major at Lamar, says she is, “so grateful to the Reaud Honor College for helping her fund this trip.”

Doan, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, said, “The whole idea behind Partners in the Parks is to engage undergraduate students into understanding the relevance of national parks as well as the correlation to what we’re learning in our classes.” While in San Francisco they  “studied the relationship and effects of the national parks on the growth of the city of San Francisco, as well as how San Francisco grew around the various parks that were set aside.”

Edward Doan in Muir WoodsNguyen, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, said of the relationship of parks and cities that “although San Francisco has a large population, it houses many national parks within and near the city.”

“Although we’re an urban civilization, where we build huge cities around the world, there’s beauty we need to preserve,” he said.

While they were there, Raczkovi said they, “enjoyed the views and tours of the Maritime National Historic Park, the Marin Headlands, Muir Woods National Monument, Fort Point, Alcatraz, Sausalito, North Beach, Coit Tower, Sutro Baths and the Golden Gate Bridge.”

The students participated in two service projects, one in Muir Woods, and the other on Alcatraz Island. In Muir Woods, they “cleared out an area infested with forget-me-nots, an invasive species that poses a threat to the native plants of these woods.” On Alcatraz Island, the group participated in recycling compost and planting. The group also participated in an exercise to  “discuss the ramifications of creating a city that is currently serving as a national park.”

The trip participants took positions either as developers looking for potential housing markets, or local citizens and ecologists wanting to preserve the area. Doan realized that the argument isn’t as black and white as it may seem. “The argument for the developers was that, preserving land is important, but isn’t helping and giving the people a place to stay more important? And the counter-argument was the nature aspect and would the housing really be affordable considering San Francisco’s median income?”

Nguyen saw one difference in the aspect of life in San Francisco compared to Port Neches. In particular, living in “a town that has the residential area separated from business is quite a drastic change because driving everywhere to do errands is the ‘norm’ in Port Neches.”

His favorite moment of the trip was in Muir Woods when their ranger guide “told us to be silent, to hear nature. … It really was great, hearing the creek, the birds chirping and just seeing huge Redwood trees. It felt like the epitome of a national park.”

Partners in the Park Golden Gate groupRaczkovi specifically spoke about one expedition where they took an, “intriguing tour of the Red Wood trees in Muir Woods. The information we received from our park ranger tour guide was both fascinating to hear and amazing to see in person. I would highly recommend it to anyone who comes to San Francisco.”

Doan said, “My favorite part of that trip would have to be seeing how an entire city lives so drastically different from where I’m from, yet the functionality of both places is still the same.” 

“There’s always more than what meets the eye,” he said. “Whenever a situation presents itself there’s always going to be something you fail to consider. So, it’s always important to discuss it with a group of people, especially with groups of people that have different perspectives than your own. When you do that, you can prod at something at more angles and you’re able to see the situation in its entirety.”

“I truly still cannot believe I had the opportunity to do all these things and to see the sights I saw, but the memories will always be appreciated! The San Francisco Partners in the Park was such an extraordinary experience and a trip I would do over again if I could,” Raczkovi said.