Miss Florida 2012: On Education and the Everglades

Miss Florida 2012: On Education and the Everglades

Categories: Blog, Everglades Restoration, Tours

Miss Florida 2012, Laura McKeeman, learning about periphyton in Shark Valley in Everglades National Park.

Guest blogger, Miss Florida 2012, Laura McKeeman

You don’t truly understand the phrase “River of Grass” until you are surrounded by it, engulfed in it and utterly amazed by it. The River of Grass is like the golden hair of a monstrous, ever-changing, always moving, steadily breathing animal. It is vast and peppered with personality.  It may seem like a quiet giant, but the Everglades is an ecosystem in desperate need of our help. 

If it’s hard for you to formulate a palpable connection to this unique environment and the need to save and protect it, spend one day surrounded by its glory. Spend a day having staring contests with lackadaisical alligators and spotting rare birds soaring across the sky. 

The Everglades is the very essence of Florida in so many ways.  Yes, it is the water supply for 7 million Floridians and, yes, it is the largest subtropical wetland ecosystem in North America—but this land is so much more. The Everglades is a vibrant collection of wildlife, plants and water all working together, like a flavorful layer cake of nature’s precious masterpieces, tied together by its lifeblood: water. This is one cake, however, has been sliced into a few times too many.  Water is a non-renewable resource, and the time we have to repair this ecosystem is limited. 

American Alligator, Shark Valley

To save our water, we must take the necessary steps to save our Everglades and save our Florida.

The partnership between the Everglades Foundation and the Miss Florida Organization is one I hope will continue and grow for years to come.  The Everglades Foundation offers Miss Florida a unique opportunity to champion a cause while learning from some of the most influential movers and shakers in our state.

A Little Blue Heron stalking for food.

I have already learned so much from the people who make up this amazing organization. I have gained a wealth of knowledge about the Everglades and the importance of saving it, I have seen true passion for a cause in action, and I have watched how tangible change can be when the proper catalysts are in place. The relationships I have developed along the way though, have affected me the most. I know that I have the support of a truly dedicated group of people filled with immeasurable knowledge that I look forward to absorbing.

As I prepare for Miss America—and January 12this rapidly approaching—I find joy in knowing I can take the mission of the Everglades Foundation with me and speak about it to everyone I meet along the way.  If I can affect just one person by telling him or her about the Everglades Foundation, and express to them the necessity of preserving and repairing this ecosystem, I will have succeeded.  

Looking for Wood Storks in Shark Valley!

After experiencing the River of Grass up close, not only did I come away with my own memories and ties to the Everglades, but also a need to instill a love for our precious ecosystem in Florida’s youth. I have seen eagerness in the eyes of young people when they hear about ways they can make an impact, both now and in the future.

Found them. Wood storks soaring high above Shark Valley.

I want as many students as possible to have the opportunity to experience the Everglades the way I have. I am so excited to open their minds to an environment that is so crucial to their way of life. More importantly, the work of the Everglades Foundation needs to be carried on by future generations—and that begins with education. 

Laura McKeeman
Miss Florida 2012