Hello! My name is Merscedez Ruiz. I was born in Chicago but moved to Springdale, Arkansas when I was only three years old, so many of my childhood memories were made here in the Illinois River Watershed. I am currently a senior at Springdale High School, so I only have a couple of months to go until graduation! These past few years have gone by so fast. After high school, I plan to go to college and study either international business or business law.

Merscedez Ruiz first day of work 2016

IRWP intern, Merscedez Ruiz

I have played tennis my entire four years of high school, with two of those years as team captain and number one ranking. I’ve seen many good friends and teammates come and go from the tennis team over the years, and now it’s actually my turn to graduate and move on.

In my free time I enjoy hiking; it always feels so calming to experience the beauty of the outdoors, especially at sunset or on days with pretty clouds. I also enjoy canoeing, although I’m not an expert—I have fallen into the water a couple of times.

11401090_10153062693634121_3515364388291984262_n

Fishing Derby 2015 – Merscedez’s first visit to the Watershed Sanctuary

One afternoon in the summer of 2015, my family visited the Illinois River Watershed Sanctuary during an outdoor event with a fishing derby, canoeing, and archery. We went on a nature hike around the lake (we had no idea how steep that hill was!) and persevered until the end. We went inside the Watershed Learning Center to take a break, and fortunately, that is where I met Dr. Delia Haak, Executive Director of the IRWP. She asked us what we thought of the Watershed Sanctuary and the event. I told her I wanted to come back again, so she offered an opportunity to intern at the IRWP summer camps. I’m very glad I accepted because I got to work with great people, and this internship turned into additional opportunities.

Merscedez Ruiz

Merscedez helps with an icebreaking game during IRWP’s summer camps, 2015

When the summer internship was over and school started up again, I was offered an opportunity by Springdale High School’s J.A.G. (Jobs for Arkansas Graduates) program. The program was given a grant for two students to intern at local companies or organizations, so I proposed a semester-long internship with IRWP and emailed Delia about the possibility. Needless to say, here we are! I am truly blessed to have come across the IRWP. It’s a great place to work and has provided me a new understanding of my home—the Illinois River Watershed.