In Oct. 29 IssueBy Kim GrahamTimes Journal Reporter
Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery's Environmental/Outreach Specialist, Amanda Patrick, has a contagious love for the outdoors and people that spreads wherever she goes.
Her energetic approach to teaching others about the natural world is praised across the county, state and country.
"Amanda's energy is one of her outstanding traits," said James Gray, Project Manager WCNFH. "She's willing to put forth the effort to go above and beyond the call of duty."
Patrick's exemplary work in her field was recently recognized by Kentucky Association for Environmental Education (KAEE) who presented her with the Excellence in Environmental Education award.
Each year, this award is presented to the person who exemplifies the highest standards in environmental education in Kentucky.
"Being recognized by her peers is a testimony to the hard work and dedication Amanda devotes to her job," Gray said.
Patrick also worked with the Forest Service to build wetlands onsite at the hatchery.
For her efforts in offering wetlands workshops to expand wetlands education in Kentucky, Patrick received WOW! (Wonders of Wetlands) Facilitator of the Year award.
"I like wetlands education because it compliments what I do," said Patrick. "Coldwater fisheries, like WCNFH, talk about moving water and wetlands are just the opposite."
Since her start at the hatchery 3 years ago, Patrick has built their outreach program from the ground up developing relationships and environmental awareness in the community and throughout the state.
"We're the first hatchery in the country to have this kind of Environmental Education Outreach position for our fisheries program," said Gray.
Some days, the hatchery hosts as many as 400 school kids in programs helping them to understand and appreciate the environment.
Other days are spent instructing educators who receive credit for classes and workshops attended at the hatchery.
"We offer a tremendous amount of professional development workshops for teachers," said Patrick. "It's nice, as a local teacher, to be able to attend workshops right in your back yard."
While organizing and planning programs, Patrick also manages the volunteer run education center at the hatchery.
"Amanda puts a lot of time and effort into this," said Gray. "She's the only full time staff person here supporting environmental education and outreach."
Most people would be dizzy with the quantity of work and the frenetic pace but Patrick has an almost innate ability to juggle it all and have fun doing it.
"She's just into everything," said Shirley Roberson, Health Educator Lake Cumberland Health Department. "Amanda's passion for her job and to reach out to others, quickly established her as a leader in the community."
Patrick's outreach efforts in the community include Let's Go Outside a program targeted to 4th graders and sponsored by the RC Wellness Coalition and Friends of WCNFH.
She also helps plan the 2nd Sunday event to encourage Russell County families to enjoy outside activities with their children.
"We do community level forums as a grassroots effort to get kids involved in outdoor activities," Patrick said.
Her great love is working with people and sharing her joy for nature with others. Just the mention of her name brings a smile to the faces of folks who know and work with her.
"From preschool to senior adults, there's a broad range of folks that Amanda connects with," said Roberson. "Once you meet her, she's family."
In 3 years at the hatchery, Patrick, a native of Scottsville, quickly built an extended family in Russell County.
Word of her jovial nature, willingness to help, and extensive knowledge of the environment spread throughout the county.
"Everything I had heard about her is true," Beckmann said. "She is absolutely a walking book of knowledge."
All the talk has generated interest in the hatchery and promoted the community services offered at the education center.
"Having an environmental person here has given us notoriety," said Gray. "Many people today are looking for information about the environment. They know they can get their questions answered here."
Not only does she answer questions at the hatchery but she also reaches out in advance to other leaders in the community to keep them up to date and better able to serve the area.
"Amanda is so generous and keeps me informed," said Julie Beckmann, Russell County Cooperative Extension Service. "The more I know, the more I can answer questions for people."
Patrick's love of nature and her enthusiasm to share it with others reminds people of their indelible link with the outdoors and encourages stewardship of the environment.
"I think the outdoors is not just about hugging trees," Patrick said. "It nurtures the soul. It helps a person to have a foundation and have a sense of connection to the environment."