My name is Drew Racioppa, a senior at St Lawrence University. In my 21 years of life, I have really come to value the education of experience. I realized as a teenager that to help change the world, you have to see it. You have to feel the water, see the birds, learn the language, bake the bread. I became obsessed with communication and how people from different cultures interact. I have studied mangroves in Kenya with the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute and worked on the highest continuous peak planting native mamane trees on Mauna Kea in Hawai'i.
I worked with a NGO called KUPU in the Big Island of Hawaii during the summer of 2022. "Kupu" loosely translating to growth or persistence, was the theme of the entire summer. Not only was I able to apply and interview for the job 10,000 miles away, but I was trusted to come into a home that was not my own and given an opportunity to learn and grow along side my colleagues and friends. The HYCC Program I was a Team Member for was in partnership with the Americore, so I facilitated a group of three members through eight different locations of conservation on the Island. We completed trail-work, planted native and removed invasive species, hiked trails to learn about plants, and camp in these locations to get fully immersed in the Aina. Yes I was a leader but I was being taught so much from my members who were all born on Island, that some days I felt the student and them the teacher. We met amazing, hardworking, individuals who loved the Island and the land and would teach us not only the scientific history, but the cultural as well. I have never been to a place that feels such a deep cultural connection and respect to the land they reside. This internship further sparked my passion for deeper understanding of love to this world and I am so lucky to have been a part of it