Students and instructors from Roswell Job Corps clear phragmites, a large perennial grass, at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge for an eventual burn by fire crews, Thursday. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Twenty-seven students from Roswell Job Corps volunteered their time Thursday to help with conservation efforts at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The students, ranging in ages of 16 to 23, were from the Home Builder’s Institute construction trades of painting, facility maintenance and electrical.
Robert Gibson, lead instructor for the construction trades, said students helped clear phragmites at Bitter Creek, which had been congested with the large perennial grass.
“In order for the creek to flow freely, we need to get all of that out of there,” Gibson said. “So (the students) volunteered to come and do this.”
“It’s not easy work,” he said. “They’re out here in maybe shoulder-high grass, dealing with the elements. And it’s a little bit cold out here!”
Jesse Trujillo, project leader at Bitter Lake, explained that refuge staff began its Bitter Creek Restoration Project by cutting the grass with weed eaters, and that students raked and piled the invasive species alongside the road for a prescribed burn.
“It’s a great way for outreach,” Trujillo said. “Not only for them to be a part of this restoration project, but to learn the benefits of doing such projects and learn about the environment and how to help it.”
Gibson said most of the students who volunteered are from metropolitan areas like El Paso and Dallas. He said even though his students aren’t from Roswell, all of them have shown a great willingness to help the community.
“They’re excited, they’re really having a good time out here. They’re getting after it,” Gibson said.
“It’s team-building, working together as a group,” he said. “The initiative (is) to help the community with whatever needs they may have. Just rising up to the occasion.
“None of these kids have ever done this before. They come from high-risk homes and stuff like that, so this is all kind of new to them. It shows them that they need to come together as a team and help out no matter what community they’re at.”
Gibson said students have also offered their time and skills to American Legion, Boys & Girls Club and local churches and museums. “We do this a lot. So whenever the community hollers out that they could use our help, we’ll do this type of thing.”