Tara’s Meadow was proud to partner this third week of June 2022 with two colleges and multiple Beaver Island Community Organizations for a FABULOUS Youth Mentorship & Sustainability Week!
Fifteen young folks from two institutions (Grand Valley State University and North Central Michigan College) joined us to explore how they can help make this a more resilient and sustainable planet. They did this by thinking globally & acting locally, examining local sustainability solutions in the historic and resilient Beaver Island community's Lake Michigan. GVSU's brightest met up with NCMC's students and associates for a full week of programs supported by Tara’s Meadow’s Beaver Island Sustainability Initiative. These programs included terrestrial invasive species management for effectively remediation of harmful exotic plants; smart energy choices for a dependable and affordable low carbon future; and conscious honoring and protecting water as we celebrate the island’s resilient Anishinaabe and Irish cultural roots.
Students spent the entire week learning about and pitching in with projects for the Beaver Island Historical Society; the Terrestrial Invasive Species management program; doing Island Culture, History and Ecology tours; and finally lending their skills to an Imagination Charette envisioning Sustainable Community at Tara’s Meadow’s Education & Retreat Center (where tiny off-grid shelters include a geodesic dome, an Amish-built Cabin, and a potential future Tree House).
The week’s activities built towards a finale on June 25 with Saturday’s annual Beaver Island Sustainability Fair. The Fair opened with an Anishinaabe Water Blessing, an Irish Cairn Ceremony, and an Urban Garden Walk. This was followed with a Traditional Whitefish, Corn Soup, and Fry Bread Feast; Fun Educational Games, raffle winnings, an environmental award, and presentations on the 3 Pillars of the Beaver Island Sustainability Initiative (local foods, smart energy, island culture and ecology.) The Fair ended with Dark Sky films and fun at the Donegal Bay Pavilion.
Throughout this whole experience, students engaged with island representatives and experienced leaders in the fields of sustainability, environment, and culture, both in small groups and in 1-on-1 settings. Many of these young folks are now working on future internship ideas for their eagerly-anticipated return to the Island, with projects that will benefit the whole community. One young Anishinaabe student was surprised and excited to discover that she has historic family roots on Beaver Island when she read George Anthony’s book, The Elders Speak. She now is dedicated to a return to work on bringing more of her people and culture back to the Island. We are proud to say that mentorship works!
Students wrote us heartfelt notes reflecting on finding guidance, warmth, and wisdom from their elders and inspiration from their peers. Here are just some of the messages we've received:
"Thank you so much for sharing your ideas, life, and space with us. You have made an incredible impact on all of our lives. Until next time!" - Claire U.
"Chi-Miigwech for all you do for Beaver Island and the Anishinaabe Community. I'm so thankful we've met. I hope to see you again soon. Much love." - Eryn
"Thank you for being such a wonderful guide for our first time on the Island. I feel lucky to have met you and to have been a part of your vision for Beaver Island. Thank you for your kindness, and I'm going to take everything I've learned back to the mainland with me." - Lilia
"It was amazing learning from you. Thank you so much working with us and helping us connect to the community that is Beaver Island, we had a life changing experience, and I don't say that lightly! We will all be back soon!" - Will
One of our goals at Tara's Meadow is to reintegrate the generations in meaningful ways so that they can share their inspirational gifts with each other. On the mainland the generations often separate and drift apart, interacting only in brief and more superficial ways. The traditional culture on Beaver Island, however, remains more holistic, often with close interactions and genuine affection between the Island’s youth and seniors. So this is the perfect setting to model co-mentorship between the generations, with warm sharing between youth & elders (during our Cairn Ceremony, for instance).
Thank you to the many individuals and organizations who pitched in to make this week fabulous -- something special for youth and elders alike!
Charlevoix County Community Foundation,
Beaver Island Chamber of Commerce
Beaver Island Historical Society
Beaver Island Association
Terrestrial Invasive Species Administration
Beaver Island’s Dark Sky Project
GVSU’s Environmental Studies Program
NCMC’s Environmental Studies Program
For decades, tracker and author Jon Young has been mentoring children and adults in practices to build community and connect with the natural world. His insights were featured in Mother Nature's Child. Here is his description of mentorship, and how it is often the most invisible teachings that are the most powerful.