When whales die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean. Suddenly, they are no longer whales, but feeding grounds for a multitude of organisms.
“I know it’s kind of gross,” said 17-year-old Gwyneth M. Welch. “But essentially a new ecosystem is born from this one animal’s death. And it was really morbid and kind of disturbing, but I actually thought it was really interesting and kind of beautiful. ...
“I just realized how much was out there and how we are obstructing some of the wonders that are out there.”
This may not have been the beginning of Welch’s dedication to the environment, but it was the spark that lit a newfound passion for the cause.
So what’s she going to do about it? Well, WWOOF of course.
Shortly after this soon-to-be Conval Regional High School graduate walks across the stage, she will hop on a plane with her sister bound for Europe, where the two will spend 10 weeks working on an organic farm as part of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF.
Volunteers help out on a farm, and in exchange hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles and sustainable practices.
“She’s always had a desire to explore and learn about cultures and other lands — this is a total immersion,” said her guidance counselor, JoAnn S. Fletcher.
Welch, who lives in Hancock, said she hopes the opportunity helps give her confidence and prepare her for her studies at the University of New Hampshire at the beginning of next year.
Last year, Welch decided she was done with high school and was ready for a new challenge.
“I always felt like I belonged in the class a year ahead of me, and actually my triplet brother is in the class ahead of me,” she said. “And last year, I just kind of felt ready — ready to get out there and do new things.”
But she was only two years into high school. So, she started taking online classes, lots of them. Welch estimates she took about 10 extra classes during the school year and summer through the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School. She built up enough credits that she is able to graduate a full year early.
At the same time, she said she was a little apprehensive about being a 17-year-old college freshman.
“I think WWOOFING allows me to take a deep breath without taking tons and tons of extra classes,” she said. “And it’s also a broader learning experience.”
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