I can’t always tell the difference between youth and wisdom. Or at least that’s how it felt last week.
I had the pleasure of speaking to several groups of sixth-graders at Sheridan Junior High School Thursday. They wanted to learn about Sheridan Community Land Trust, specifically in order to understand why someone would want to support our nonprofit. The kids are learning persuasive writing and will choose a nonprofit to a write a letter in support of and submit it to the editor of The Sheridan Press.
I had 10 minutes to present to each small group, so I opened with the same question to warm them up: “What do you love most about Sheridan?”
The first group answered: Mountains. My horses. Open spaces.
The fact that you can see for a long way without houses. My ranch. Hunting. Elk. Fish. Historical stuff.
Seeing wildlife when you’re outside. All the nice people. Riding my bike.
I thought, “Well shoot! This is easy. We do what we do for them!”
The next group was bigger and restless. One girl walked in, stuck her head beneath the desk and kept it there the whole time.
Same question: “What do you love most about Sheridan?” Same answers.
And this was how the morning went. Without hesitation, each group rattled off the same answers. The first was always mountains — followed by animals, outdoor activities and general warm feelings about the people who live here.
I realized right after the first group and the first question that I could learn as much from these kids as they could learn from me. I kept the questions coming.
“How many of you have been to Red Grade Trails?” Many hands shot in the air.
“What happens in your mind and heart when you’re out on the trails? What are you feeling?”
“Happy.” “Grateful to be outside.” “When I see elk, I get hungry and want to hunt them.” “Freedom.”
“Why do you think it’s important to have a thing like Red Grade Trails in a place where your favorite things — all the things you told me earlier — exist here naturally? Why would we feel the need to add something?” This is a hard question.
“So that people see what we love and don’t want to take it away from us.”
In that moment, a moment that happened over and over again throughout the morning, the simplicity of the answers stunned me. And the way they aligned with the mission of Sheridan Community Land Trust stunned me just the same. We work to preserve open spaces, working ranches, wildlife habitat, healthy rivers and streams and historic sites, while expanding non-motorized recreation opportunities to connect people with the places they love.
Plus, my own answers happen to be the same as those of the sixth-grade kids and equally aligned with the SCLT’s mission. I feel so lucky to work for such an organization — and so lucky to have such an organization exist in the place I the love most.
And I feel lucky to have you — the community that has rallied behind our work and our home.
In this season of giving, we can feel your support of SCLT more than ever before. Plus, one of our treasured board members — one who has been with us for more than eight years — offered to match all gifts to SCLT until Jan. 15, up to $50,000.
So here’s my pitch — my letter to the editor — with help from my new sixth-grade friends: If you love mountains, your horses, open spaces, the fact that you can see for a long way without houses, your ranch, hunting, elk, fish, historical stuff, seeing wildlife when you’re outside, all the nice people who live here and riding your bike, there’s a pretty big opportunity to make a lasting impact on all of this with your donation, especially before Jan. 15.
Check it out: www.sheridanclt.org.
Katie Belton is the director of marketing and community engagement for the Sheridan Community Land Trust.