Six FIU students, all aspiring writers, have been selected to take part in a six-week Everglades wilderness expedition this fall, leading to the publication of their stories, poems and essays about their experiences in the famed River of Grass.The young FIU writers will join four other Miami area university students on the Everglades Wilderness Writing Expedition, said Sabrina Diaz, the national park ranger leading the expedition. The goal of the program is to engage the students in an exploration of wilderness, self-discovery and environmental writing. “These students will spend the next six weeks embarking on the journey of a lifetime,” she said.
Starting this month, the students will go on three, daylong trips exploring the prairies, marshes and sloughs of the vast South Florida wetlands area that is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve, said Diaz. They’ll also take a four-day canoe camping trek along the park’s remote Wilderness Waterway.
The students were selected after applying to the program and submitting writing samples and information about their physical fitness and career goals. During the expedition, students will capture their experiences in journals, and afterwards their writing will be published in local newspapers and posted to social media sites.
“Their work will be seen by thousands of people all over the world,” Diaz said.
Sandeep Varry, a master’s student in the Global Strategic Communications program at FIU’s School of Journalism & Mass Communications, said he jumped at the chance to add his voice to the long and illustrious legacy of writing about the Everglades. “I not only get a chance to go there,” said Varry, “but I get an opportunity to write about it and create something that will become part of the Everglades history forever.”
The expedition was designed to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, said Diaz. The 1964 Wilderness Act established the definition of wilderness in the United States. Under the act, 1.3 million acres of Everglades National Park was designated The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness Area. Douglas is the famous writer and conservationist whose 1947 book, “The Everglades: River of Grass,” popularized the image of The Everglades as a unique ecosystem worthy of protection.
Bryan Palacio, FIU English major and assistant news director of The Beacon student newspaper, hopes the expedition will help him move toward his goal of one day becoming a writer and photographer for National Geographic.
Palacio said he has already spent quite a bit of time in the Everglades, but the expedition will still be providing him a very new experience. “I’ve never actually spent the night outside, not even regularly camping. I don’t think I even spent a night in my backyard,” he said. “So I hope to get that experience now, and I’m really excited about it.”
The program culminates Nov. 13 with a post-expedition panel discussion at FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus. The panel will include former Everglades National Park Writer-in-Residence Bill Maxwell and the expedition’s student participants.
FIU student expedition members are: Alexandra Mosquera (journalism), Bryan Palacio (English), Alina Rafikova (global strategic communications), Sandeep Varry (global strategic communications), Nicole Zummar (communications) and Zoraida Pastor (journalism and psychology).
In December, Everglades National Park will host a museum art exhibit of the students’ work at its Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center.
More information on the Everglades Wilderness Writing Expedition is available at the project website here: http://www.evergladeswildernesswritingexpedition.blogspot.com