The National Eagle Center (NEC), Wabasha, Minn., has been chosen to be a recipient of a $5000 2011 Take Me Fishing grant. The grant award was received through the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) in partnership with the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF).
“We are extremely pleased with the national scope and reach of our new education grantees,” said RBFF Education Task Force Chairman Charles Holmes. “The Education Task Force is thrilled about growing RBFF’s education grants program and getting kids and their families out on the water to experience all the wonderful hands-on opportunities that the new grant recipients are offering.”
Take Me Fishing is a national initiative to grow participation for recreational boating and fishing for youth ages 6-15. The program as presented by NRPA and RBFF allows local agencies an opportunity to reconnect kids with the outdoors, provide education on environmental conservation and highlight the benefits of angling and boating as a lifetime sport.
Grant award winners for the ‘Take Me Fishing’ program were selected based on criteria such as past program participation, demonstrated outcomes that engage youth in outdoor programs, demonstrated ability to provide an inclusive program, and ability to deliver resources to underserved populations within the community. Each agency that was selected will receive resources to benefit the program.
“I am very excited to introduce youth anglers to the Upper Mississippi River through fishing and canoeing,” said Heath Sershen, NEC’s eco-tourism planner. “With this grant we intend to make access to river based activity participation less difficult through community partnerships and programs.”
Sershen has previously worked as an independent trout guide in the Driftless Region and is seeking a Master’s degree in Outdoor Education from Winona State University. He is working closely with Bucky Flores, NEC’s Associate Director of Program Development, to administer the proper use of the grant award.
“Throughout my association with Heath, I have known him to be an avid fisherperson who has a passion for sharing his vast amount of knowledge about the subject,” says Dr. Lorene Olson, Winona State University Recreation, Tourism and Therapeutic Recreation Chair. “I believe all of Heath’s professors in the Recreation, Tourism and Therapeutic Recreation Department at Winona State University would concur with my assessment of Heath’s love of fishing and his desire to introduce others to this leisure pursuit. We sometimes lightheartedly joke with Heath that he can find a way to connect fishing with every class project and/or assignment. “
Sershen has developed and implemented programs that introduced hundreds of Winona State students to fly angling. He has also been a volunteer with Project Get Outdoors, which engages at risk and underprivileged youth with the outdoors. He says that one of his greatest accomplishments is providing canoes and paddle routes for over 100 paddlers in one day at Winona’s Prairie Island boat launch.
“What can I say? I have a passion for the outdoors and fishing that runs deep. I understand that there are barriers to the outdoors that limit participation to outdoors activities. This understanding allows me to identify those barriers in the community and to find ways to engage and include participants that may have otherwise never recognized the Mississippi River as a leisure resource,” says Sershen. “I love guiding strangers to nature based discoveries.”
Take me Fishing programs through the NEC will begin this fall. For more information contact Heath Sershen, firstname.lastname@example.org, 651-565-4989, or visit the NEC on the web, www.nationaleaglecenter.org.