Two WPHS students participate in the 24th annual Rotary Chesapeake Bay Conference

Students and their counselors participated in the 24th annual Rotary Chesapeake Bay Conference including WPHS students Jeanna Roane and Abby Zwerner.

Sixteen high school students-including two from West Point- from ten Virginia schools participated June 23-27 in the 24th Annual Rotary Chesapeake Bay Conference. The program blending fun, fellowship and education, exposes participants to several diverse areas of the Bay in a quick study of the importance of the vast resources of the nation's largest estuary, the problems it faces and need for preservation.

The event is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Gloucester with cooperation of other Rotary International District 7610 clubs which sponsored rising sophomore and junior year students from their communities' schools attending the conference. Past programs have varied in locale and subjects covered but the yearly focus is unchanged. Joshua Junker, the Gloucester club's conference chairman, said "it strives to help new generations of young people recognize the value of the Bay, the issues faced and the challenges of preserving its resources for future generations."

Through field trips students visit commercial seafood operations, talk to independent pound net fishermen, hear of recreational, commercial and other economic values, study underwater geology, value of sea grasses and wetlands, regulatory issues and problems of pollution.

In recent years, the Monday-to-Friday conference has been based at Christchurch School in Middlesex County on Virginia's Middle Peninsula. Following registration and introductory activities, students received canoe training at the Rappahannock River waterfront of the Episcopal School's 125-acre campus. Tuesday, the group began three days of field trips with visits to a seafood plant near Urbanna and a shoreline visit to Dragon Run, watershed of ecological significance, running through four Middle Peninsula counties and flowing into the Piankatank River.

Students travelled to Reedville in the Northern Neck's Northumberland County, well known for its Fisherman's Museum and as location of Omega Protein Inc. a major Atlantic Coast menhaden fisheries firm. Here students also had the opportunity to meet and talk to independent pound net fishermen before moving on to what many cited as a highlight of the week, a ferry trip to remote Tangier Island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. An overnight stay on Tangier allowed students to meet residents and discuss island issues, explore the island, visit its museum and learn island history. The group returned to Christchurch late Thursday afternoon in time for a waterfront cook-out and crab fest followed by preparations for a group presentation Friday morning prior to departure for home.

The Gloucester Rotary club recently received Rotary International's Significant Club Achievement award for the creation and organization of the Chesapeake Bay Conference.

Students and their Rotary Club sponsors this year included: Ryan Alfalaij and Diana Haemer, Alexandria/Annandale; Jack Spall, Bull Run; Selena Hubbard, Caroline; Ian O'Donnell and Rachael Breving, Charlottesville; Sarah Gresham-Beamer, Patricia Foley and Alexandria "Allie" West, Gloucester; Joshua Wallace, Petersburg Breakfast Club; Jeanna Roane and Abigail "Abby" Zwerner, West Point; Kevin Strickland and Tyler Moorhouse, West Springfield; Isabella Hyden, Woodbridge; and Moises Romero, Mount Vernon.