by Amy Swanson, Supporter

I grew up in a small blue-collar town outside Philadelphia. Most families had both parents working to make ends meet, and some lived in poverty. If college was a goal, then a scholarship was needed. I had a passion for science that started early. In elementary school I wanted to know how things worked. In junior high I wanted to be with beakers and Bunsen burners. In high school, when we did actual experiments, I couldn’t get enough. I never knew how that would play out for college, but I knew I had to keep my grades up and hope for some type of scholarship.
In high school, we had few chances to take advanced classes but luckily my senior year, I enrolled in Advanced Biology. There were only a handful of us, some because it looked good on college applications, some to help with scholarships; I was there to fuel my expanding passion for science.

In 1993, our biology group went to The Wetlands Institute (TWI). I had never spent more than a couple days at the beach, so I was extremely excited for this trip. I had never seen a marsh, or smelled that distinct smell or knew how many exciting creatures lived there until our group stayed in the Institute dorms and explored every day. I literally submerged myself into learning about the marsh when I sunk while seining and needed rescuing. Those nights were the first time in my life that I saw a tide come in, and the reflection of the moon off the water, and fell asleep to the sounds of the shore! I can honestly say they were the best days of my senior year.

There was no way my family could have afforded this trip. I now know it was because of a scholarship fund awarded to my school that I was able to go on this amazing journey. It was because of donors and supporters to this wonderful organization, that a child like me, one that didn’t grow up with a lot, was able to experience a new level of science and wonder which then pushed me into selecting a biochemistry major in college.

When I met my husband, he had vacationed in Avalon for years, and took me to that beautiful island on our first vacation. One night we drove to Stone Harbor and all the memories came flooding back about my adventures to TWI and I recounted them to John. He became very interested, which then started our joint passion for the Institute. John has adopted a horseshoe crab for Valentine’s Day and surprised me with tickets to the Summer Celebration via a sponsorship. I was just a kid, from a small town, with a passion for science, and 25 years later, my husband and I are sponsoring an event for an organization that gave me such good memories. It was, and still is an incredible feeling.

The Wetlands Institute sparked something in me at a young age, and that passion is still there. I hope more kids get to experience the magic of this special place. You never know where your life will end up, but seeing this come full circle for me has been an amazing experience.

Thanks for the memories Amy, and these photos of your class trip. If you have memories or photos to share, please send them to