April Turner is a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill junior on a path to a medical degree. But the summer between her freshman and sophomore year, she became an environmentalist.
Courtesy of a Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation grant, the Greensboro native teamed up with Sound Rivers as an intern and got an introduction to the environment.
“It was an internship that piqued my interest, because when we think about health, we often neglect to think about the role the environment plays in health. I wanted to explore more of that connection of humans and the environment and vice versa,” April said.
That exploration came in variety of ways, from managing the Washington and New Bern offices to getting out in the field, taking water samples and testing for bacteria.
“What didn’t I learn?” April laughed. “For starters, I got to learn more about the environment and how we interact with the environment. I’d never really thought about, if there is fecal bacteria in the water, you don’t you have to ingest it; dermal interaction is enough (to affect health) … I learned to work with volunteers and read samples. I learned how to connect and engage with the community, for sure — especially with Swim Guide. I worked on translating everything to Spanish and increasing our outreach to the Spanish-speaking community.”
Of Colombian descent, April learned to speak Spanish as a child, but translating words associated with Sound Rivers’ work was a new experience.
“It’s something I want to use in my career, but prior to Sound Rivers, I never got to explore the language of environmental health,” she said.
A summer spent living in Greenville, working on the waterways of the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins and taking advantage of opportunities to get out and interact with the natural world has had a lasting impact on the future doctor.
“The importance of the Sound Rivers is not only to improve the environment, but to teach the community about it. It’s made me much more conscientious: am I wasting water or using it efficiently? Am I doing what I can to clean up the waterways or the roads or am I adding to the problem? Sound Rivers tries to make people understand the ‘why’ of it, and when people understand the ‘why,’ that’s when they want to take part — that’s when they want to help protect this wonderful place we call home,” she said.