NMHS Unlimited Film Productions Helps Prepare Mississippi Student for Professional Success in Global Environmental Sciences
Planet Forward, a powerful educational program of George Washington University, is made up of diverse college students from across the United States. It teaches, celebrates, and rewards environmental research and the storytelling component of sharing related successes. The organization, founded in 2009 by Frank Sesno, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, empowers and engages a new generation in this global conversation through education, media, and storytelling events.
Wilma Mosley Clopton, Ph.D., president and CEO of NMHS Unlimited Film Productions in Jackson, Mississippi, was invited to speak at the 2016 and 2017 International Planet Forward Storyfest events, held in Washington, D.C., where she presented each time on using film as a tool to give students a voice. Each year, in her role as professor and mentor, Dr. Clopton brings deserving college students whose educational studies and goals align with those of both the research efforts of Planet Forward and of NMHS Unlimited Film Productions. Last year, Dr. Clopton brought Harrison Watson, a 20-year-old biology major at Jackson State University.
“The opportunity to work with Frank Sesno, former Washington, D.C., CNN bureau chief and founder of Planet Forward, has been quite exciting!” says Dr. Clopton. “Because of his efforts, students like Harrison Watson and people like myself have the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the world’s leading change-makers in environmental science. Through this collaborative, hope continues for a more sustainable world.”
“Planet Forward is an immensely important organization,” says Harrison Watson, “because of the sheer courage that they have to discuss topics of environmentalists, sustainability, and conservation at a time where it is trendy to discuss those matters, but not too trendy to get to the meat of the issues plaguing our environment and those responsible for it.”
As part of its mission, Planet Forward led a student storytelling expedition to the Amazon in Brazil, and Watson, along with a small group of other students, was selected and spent three days immersed in the Amazon, where he studied and experienced the jungle environment. As participants, they were each tasked with using that time to create a story to share with others.
“He met scientists and storytellers, students, and astonishingly accomplished experts,” said Frank Sesno. “Harrison learned and he contributed, and it was an absolute pleasure to have him with us. At dinner one evening, I asked each of the students to talk to the others about the stories they were working on. Harrison spoke about the sounds of the forest – the birds, the insects, the monkeys, the wind – the voices and sounds that make the orchestra of nature. And he spoke about how each of those sounds, rich and diverse in its source, contributes to the whole, and how each reaches our ears in the same way. His message was moving and brought spontaneous applause from the group.”
Understanding the emotional power of storytelling, and seeing the determination and potential in her student, Dr. Clopton and NMHS Unlimited Film Productions helped fund Watson’s trip so that he could gain this once-in-a-lifetime educational experience and leverage it into a platform for his future career goals.
“Dr. Clopton was a professor of mine during my freshmen semesters, and she invited me to work on a project for submission to a contest hosted by Planet Forward,” recalls Watson. “So, had it not been for her, none of this would have been possible. I’m unbelievably grateful for that. She has been a huge advocate of my progress these last couple of years, and I hope that she continues to be there for whatever my next steps may be.”
“It’s a bit difficult for me to say what was the greatest takeaway,” Watson says of his Amazon experience. Though, he leans to the answer of the relationships he was able to form. “There, we got to know one another very well, and I met people who have already opened doors for me.”
Some of those opened doors for Watson include being invited to Yale University for graduate school and connecting with a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has been reading his writings and advising on how to refine his writing skills – all of which can be extremely valuable to his future.
Since the Amazon expedition, Watson has been intentional in his educational and experiential endeavors. In fact, he interns with the Peace Corps and is heavily involved in university research programs on campus and internationally as well as with the esteemed NOAA CCME (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems) program. He also serves as a student correspondent with Planet Forward, a valuable role that provides him with exclusive media and storytelling training and additional educational and networking opportunities.
While currently a junior and still determining his exact career path as he finishes his undergraduate education, Watson does know one thing is certain: he will be pursuing a Ph.D. degree in an area of environmental sciences.
“Harrison Watson is a superstar,” adds Sesno. “He is so smart and so thoughtful and so aware of himself and the world around him. He and others like him personify our hopes for the future, the bright young minds that will help us navigate through our human journey.”
In line with the mission of NMHS Unlimited Film Productions, Dr. Clopton continues to seek out ways to further enrich and shape the lives of young men and women in Mississippi. “I remain excited about the opportunities Planet Forward provides for youth and will continue to do everything within my power to see that young Mississippians have an opportunity to participate,” says Dr. Clopton.
Read more about Harrison Watson’s Planet Forward experience in the Amazon, in his own words: https://www.planetforward.org/idea/sounds-of-the-amazon-a-lesson-in-coexistence-0.
Visit www.planetforward.org for more information on Planet Forward.
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