Student Wildlands Adventure Program (SWAP) 2018
Cleveland State Community College recently welcomed students from New Mexico as part of the Student Wildlands Adventure Program (SWAP).
The SWAP program is a student exchange program that allows students to gain experience in other parts of the country at little or no expense to them.
During last year’s SWAP, students from CSCC were able to travel to New Mexico to learn about and experience first-hand the ecosystems throughout Northern Mexico, and this year, the students from New Mexico came to Tennessee where they were able to experience Tennessee’s forests and water resources.
The SWAP program originated from an idea from CSCC Associate Professor Robert Brewer and Daryl Ratajczak, former TWRA Chief of Wildlife, now a Wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico.
Ratajczak said, “This really opened up a whole world to these students from New Mexico, not just with the natural resources, which are vastly different, but also meeting and talking to people. There is just a huge diversity of people that we have here.”
Ratajczak continued, “We always want to make sure the host site really goes out of their way to show them something that they don’t normally see. So, coming from the southwest, we knew this visit needed to be water-based because there are so many beautiful rivers and streams that they don’t have the opportunity to see in the southwest.”
Some of the week’s activities included trips to the Hiwassee Refuge Cherokee Removal Park, Aquatic Organism Passage on Sina Branch, Cades Cove and the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area. Students were also able to snorkel in Daddy’s Creek and the Conasauga River and go rafting down the Ocoee River.
Chris Redd, CSCC Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries student, said, “I’ve gotten to interact with several of the New Mexico students on a personal level, outside of hiking, working and doing our daily activities. It’s been nice to talk to them about where they come from and how this is so different culturally.”
According to Brewer, programs like this set Cleveland State apart from others schools in the region.
Brewer said, “First and second year students simply do not have opportunities like these anywhere else! This is something they might expect to do at a senior level institution at the graduate level, but they are getting this opportunity now as freshmen and sophomores.”
The first year, the SWAP program was funded by a grant from Cleveland State, but this year’s program was funded by a Youth Engagement Grant from the U.S. Forest Service. In addition, there were still other major expenses that were covered by generous donations.
“We collected $4,000 from donations to pay for all of the food and other expenses,” stated Ratajczak.
All of the dinners were made from venison collected from the CSCC Wildlife Society’s research from last year. SWAP participants were able to enjoy venison spaghetti, meatloaf, tacos, vegetable soup and more from the meat Brewer processed.
The FWF program is a transfer program that allows students the opportunity to work with professionals from several state, federal and private entities during their first two years of college. During their time in this program, students will be able to explore the variety of jobs associated with the Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries field.
CSCC is the only two-year school in Tennessee with a student chapter of The Wildlife Society. Membership in this student chapter allows students to meet with and compete against senior institutions. It also allows students to meet with and discuss their future with advisors from senior institutions.
For more information on the SWAP or FWF programs, contact Brewer at (423) 473-2342 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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