Senior Stephen Preston strives for a life of scientific awakening
Catalina island dirt kicking up between his sandal clad feet, the salty sea air swirling through his tied-back, sun bleached hair, senior Stephen Preston heads to the docks, readying the canoes for the day’s adventure of exploring the dense island with his Scouts. While maintaining his 4.1 GPA, participating in Statistics competitions, gutting and fixing computers, doing field research on Santa Cruz island, and developing his personal leadership skills through Boy Scouts, Preston spends his time doing what he loves most: being outdoors and learning about science.
Three consecutive summers working at Camp Cherry Valley on Catalina Island, a place where his Scouting knowledge is put to the test for eight weeks while he becomes a “big buddy” to anywhere from six to 60 younger children, can attest to his outdoor abilities.
“We spend days canoeing and hiking and just exploring the island,” Preston said.
Preston also gets to bond with the younger Scouts while lifeguarding and teaching canoeing.
“At camp Cherry Valley, there is something called being a troop friend…in the simplest definition of a friend. You’re there for them, you make sure they are having a good time,” said Preston, who began working there at age 16 as part of his Boy Scouts group.
He regards it as both a wilderness, and emotional growth experience.
“The things you learn at camp are just amazing. You really get to connect to people and learn about them,” Preston said.
He attributes many of his skills as a leader to his summers spent at the camp.
“It really gives me insight into people. There is so much more to them than when you first look at them…you’re surrounded by a million different faces your entire life but you don’t really think, ‘oh, there’s a person behind that face,’” Preston said.
In addition to going to Catalina island, Preston also spent a week on Santa Cruz island, where he helped do field research by measuring vegetation plots.
“I did field research in the interior of the island…on an average day we will go out and measure veg plots for hours,” said Preston, who spent the week with field researchers, PRHS teachers, and other students.
His time spent at camp also opened his eyes to the environmental aspects of the vegetative life and helped develop his love for it.
“Ecology has become more and more important to me. Sustainability, combating climate change, and shrinking my ecological footprint has really become my primary priority…I love the natural world; it’s something worth protecting. I don’t want to have to explain to my grandkids what a giraffe is,” said Preston, who recently gained his Eagle Scouts award by developing a drought resistant garden.
Preston’s friends notice his passions.
“Stephen is strongly in favor of environmental protection… I think GEO has strengthened his concern for the planet’s health even more,” said senior Andrew McGuffin, Preston’s friend and fellow Boy Scout.
Preston took his love of nature and integrated it into his Eagle Scout project, a task that each scout must complete in order to earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout.
Preston, with the help of the city for funding, north county botanists, GEO members, and other Boy Scouts was able to develop a drought resistant garden for the Paso Robles Senior Center.
“We put some Manzanita in there and some Blue Fescue grass…it should only need to be watered once a month,” said Preston, who was able to contact the city council board and receive funding for his project using the communication and leadership skills he developed in scouting.
Preston’s time in nature influenced his decision to major in Biochemistry at UC Santa Cruz where he plans to continue studying the environment and how to reduce his carbon footprint.