By James River Expeditions student, Summer Adams

The summer of 2017 I took part in the James River Expeditions with the James River Association. I spent a week paddling and learning on the upper James, beginning at Horseshoe Bend and ending at Snowden boat ramp upriver of Lynchburg.

This trip was an extraordinary adventure I will never forget, nor will I ever forget the individuals I met and the friendships I made over the course of the week. During the Expedition I met 9 other high school students from Virginia. Each of us had vastly different backgrounds. This originally was quite daunting for me, considering I am the exact opposite of extroverted. Despite the fact that we were all from different walks of life, we all shared a mutual love and respect for the Earth and the James River.

Immediately, our group clicked. The uncanny chemistry that was evident within our group from day one only grew as the trip progressed. All week we were cracking jokes, telling stories, and expressing our annoyance with the various school classes we had taken the previous year. Each day of the Expedition we learned something new, either from the educators, the other students, or from hands-on experiences. We took part in activities like water quality testing and macroinvertebrate identification. Each day we had a student lead a discussion and learning opportunity that often inspired  deep conversations about human impact on the environment. We also paddled everyday to a new destination to set up camp for the night.

One of the highlights from the trip were our campfire chats. They offered a great opportunity to discover something new about ourselves and our fellow students. Conversation topics ranged from favorite movies to which animal we believed we would be in another life. There was never a dry moment. My time with the James River Association and my fellow Expedition participants has allowed me to grow as an individual. Before I was cautious to meet new people and open up a dialogue with strangers. Though I would not consider myself a newfound socialite, I am more willing to explore new relationships. In addition, this experience has given me greater insight into what I plan to do in with my future.

Before being introduced to the James River Association I had a general sense about my preferred college major and my career path. Afterwards I was steadfast in my decision to pursue environmental studies and any subsequent conservation endeavors.

My advice to future students: look at this opportunity as just that – an opportunity. Opportunity is defined as a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. Take advantage of this experience while you can! The James River Association opens up so many possibilities for students that can prepare us to succeed in the future. Even if you are not planning a career in the environmental field, the James River Expedition will still prepare you for a college and the workplace. I, dear students, leave you with this: opportunities come and go, and if you do not seize this one right now you will be missing out on the adventure of a lifetime!

Applications are open for the 2018 James River Expeditions. Be sure to apply before the March 30th deadline!