Planet Captains

RANDOLPH – Students from Randolph Central School were second-place winners at the 25th annual New York State Envirothon held at Morrisville State College, May 21-22. Randolph’s five-member team was topped only by the team from Mount Academy, Ulster County.

Randolph’s Envirothon team members include Andrew Hvizdzak, Megan Steward, Wesley Sluga, Taryn Dechow and Jeffrey Andrews. The team was this year’s Cattaraugus County champions who moved on to the state contest where their knowledge was challenged in five environmental categories: aquatic ecology, forestry, soils and land use, wildlife, and the current issue “Sustainable Local Agriculture/Locally Grown.”

Pat Walker, Envirothon team adviser and agriculture teacher at RCS, said she was extremely proud of the Randolph team and their hard work really paid off. She said 43 schools competed in this year’s state competition.

All five team members are currently juniors at RCS.

Megan Steward participates in Envirothon because it teaches life-affecting issues and challenges the team to think about real-world problems, which they could possibly face in the future. She said the hard work and stress experienced in the competition pays off in the end, especially when the team is able to reach new milestones they set for themselves the previous year.

“Last year, we made it to states and received fourth place. This year, our goal, or at least my own personal goal, was to get into the top three oral presentations and to place in the top three for a trophy,” she said. “Meeting the goals we set for ourselves was a huge, fulfilling accomplishment. I receive self-satisfaction knowing I was able to contribute to a successful team effort.”

Although they work as a team to complete each test, Steward says there is an unspoken competition going on between the five of them. She said they are extremely competitive and strive to not only place well overall, but to also see whose test scores are the highest between them.

“I think the most important thing I have learned while competing in Envirothon is through teamwork and effort, we are able to go places. It teaches us that you can do something if you put your mind to it,” she said.

Steward commented that the team started their Envirothon experience in ninth grade. Without that opportunity, back then, she has no idea if she would be participating in the competition now. Envirothon has changed the way she looks at world issues and the environment through eye-opening experiences that have occurred during the team’s Envirothon journey.

As of yet, Steward has not made plans for her career after graduating, but she knows college and a career in environment are included in that path.

Wesley Sluga said he participates in Envirothon due to both the challenges he encounters and his passion for protecting the environment. He loves academic challenges and the opportunities to learn more information in order to prove his intelligence.

“I get a feeling of accomplishment, but also pride, in the fact that I know more about the environment and how to protect it than I previously did,” he said.

Sluga noted two important things he has learned while participating in Envirothon. He learned that hard work and determination can help people become an expert in any field. Additionally, he has learned that preserving the environment requires mostly common sense with a little bit of guided help from a real expert.

“Envirothon has bolstered my ambitions toward pursing a career that will make a difference in our world – one that will help to save the environment in a multitude of ways,” he said. “I now have a passion for protecting the environment. This passion has been opened to me through Envirothon and I hope I never lose it.”

After graduation, Sluga plans to attend college, possibly Cornell, in order to achieve a master’s degree in environmental engineering. Then he may decide to get a doctorate, as well.

Jeffrey Andrews said he competes in Envirothon because he loves the challenge and the competition that Envirothon presents.

“Problem-solving skills are one of the many skills I have learned and benefited from while training and participating in the Envirothon,” he said.

After Andrews graduates, he plans to seek an agricultural degree – preferably at Cornell or Penn State.

“I always planned to go to school for agriculture, but Envirothon has definitely strengthened and narrowed my career options,” he said.

Andrew Hvizdzak chooses to compete in Envirothon for many reasons. First and foremost, the outdoors and the natural environment have always been a great passion of his.

“What better way to further my interest and understanding in the field than Envirothon?” he said. “Not only does it give me a much more comprehensive understanding of the environment, but it also makes me realize just how important our environment is to everyday life. For me, the Envirothon is a great way to enhance my understanding of a lifelong passion.”

The most important thing he has learned, while preparing for Envirothon, is no matter how hard something may seem, it can always be done successfully.

“Each year, all the tasks presented and required by Envirothon seem overwhelming, but I have found that I’m always able to succeed,” he said. “I think Envirothon provides all team members with valuable skills for life.”

Hvizdzak is unsure which college he’ll attend, after graduating, but he said Envirothon has certainly influenced his decisions for a career path, which is to work in the field of environmental science where he can explore his passion for the outdoors every day.

Taryn Dechow competes on the Envirothon team because she loves learning new things and being active outside of school. She especially enjoys learning about the environment and ways she can help out. She said Envirothon has influenced her life the entire time she has participated in it and she thinks protecting the environment should be more prominent in our society today.

Dechow believes the most important value she has gotten out of Envirothon is friendship. Being with her teammates has really taught her how to work together with her friends, while still learning and having fun at the same time.

“I get to bond more with my teammates,” she said. “We were all friends before Envirothon, but after the five of us became involved, we became very close. Now we are closer than ever.”

Teamwork is the most important thing Dechow has learned from Envirothon. She said team work is what gets her team through the contest. She commented that she is very excited to participate in Envirothon next year and since her whole team consists of juniors, they will go to the contest next year and hopefully win again.

“Envirothon has definitely pointed me toward the career path I have chosen,” she said. “Before being involved in this contest, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but since I have participated and because my category is ‘wildlife,’ it has become very apparent to me that I want to work with animals.”

After she graduates, Dechow plans to attend college to become either a veterinary technician or a veterinarian. She is currently looking at Alfred State College and Delhi State University of New York.

For more information, visit nysenvirothon.net or envirothon.org.