My first SRI Deployment
By: Liz Coll


2020 What a year it has been… As an 18 year old going on 19, I have faced many challenges. In the beginning of the year, at about the end of January I was introduced to Soul River by my high school's Environmental Resource Manager, Leigh R. She helped me go on a school backpacking trip that summer. I fell in love with backpacking and living outdoors. When she told me about Soul River and the opportunities they offer, I was amazed. If I wanted to be a part of their organization, I had to act fast and I did! I signed up and scheduled an in person meeting so we could get to know each other. I got accepted, Oh was I ecstatic! SRI got in contact with me and informed me of the deployments I was scheduled for.

Then the pandemic hit! Soul River had the hard task of postponing all of the deployments and letting the participants know. I waited on the edge of my couch, they reached out via email in May. They informed all participants that they were working on a new plan that would follow the safety guidelines of the pandemic. This made me very worried that all the deployments would be canceled and postponed until next year. 

As time went by and infection rates went up, SRI had to make some more difficult decisions. They decided that any upcoming deployments would be held virtually and all the future summer deployments were to be determined. On June 27th - June 28th, I participated in my first SRI deployment from the comfort of my home. 

Even though the Gila River deployment in New Mexico was shortened and held virtually, we made the most of it! Marianna the Soul River Field Educator gave all the youth a research topic to present and a volunteer veteran as a mentor. My mentor's role was to advise me on how to organize the information that I had collected for my presentation. I was very nervous to present. 

The two days that we had for our Gila River deployment were great. Yes, it would have been awesome to be out on the Gila River, developing great connections with everyone. Even though the deployment happened virtually it was still awesome, I learned a lot. I was able to overcome my nerves, learn how to do a presentation virtually and I learned alot from everyone's presentations. I made connections that I will build on in future deployments, I also have a bigger community that I can reach out to for support! I couldn’t be happier to be a part of such a unique, creative and welcoming community. 

Thank you SRI for letting me grow and learn in so many ways and thank you for welcoming me into your community!!