Sabiha Miahjee has been part of the Eagle Eye community since she was six years old and a participant in our Learn About and Eagle Club programs in Boston. This year, she graduated Somerville High School and started attending Boston University. She wrote us a reflection on how her relationship with Eagle Eye has influenced her life and outlook on herself and the world. Read her story below.
I was first introduced to Eagle Eye Institute at the Margaret Fuller House, my after-school program in Cambridge (I was 6), where a couple of charismatic Eagle Eye staff guided us on a field trip to Appleton Farm.
I moved away from Cambridge after that and moved from place to place within the greater Boston area, eventually landing in Somerville, where I joined the Mystic Learning Center (MLC), aka the coolest daycare ever. It took a while for me to adjust to another city. I had to get used to a new neighborhood, enroll in a new school, and make new friends. After several months of trying to figure it all out, one day I look out the door at the Mystic, and lo and behold, a familiar Eagle Eye staff enters. I immediately beam at an old, familiar face.
In the following years, I fell in love with being apart of ‘Eagle Club’ at the Mystic, as we ventured into the outdoors, namely hiking in the Middlesex Fells, canoeing on the Mystic River, and camping at Ponkapoag Pond, all of which were first-time experiences for many of us. I had never gone camping before Eagle Eye – roasting marshmallows and sitting by a campfire only happened in movies up until then.
Eagle Eye programs are so valuable because they allow youth to tune out the addicting, yet boisterous, sounds of the city, and explore the uncharted territory of nature. They experience new activities like going on their first hiking trip, walking in snowshoes, camping for the first time, learning how to garden, and taking out their first kayak or canoe.
The incredible mentoring moments I received from Eagle Eye staff helped me to engage with my community, as well as open me up to even more adventurous activities. When I was 10 years old, an Eagle Eye staff helped my friend, Darien, and I apply for a grant from Katie’s Krops, so that we could grow fresh vegetables in the Mystic community garden plot, and give them out for free at the Somerville Mobile Farmers Market. This grant granted (pun intended) me the opportunity to fly down to South Carolina for a few days for a Katie’s Krops Camp. I received the opportunity to go on my first plane ride, make garden beds, and cook freshly harvested vegetables with other youth. This was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had.
Eagle Eye brings cool experiences to youth, especially youth of color, allowing them to connect with nature, and learn about the natural environment. As a brown girl who grew up in low-income areas for all of her life, I realized very recently how limited my access and relationship with nature would have been, had it not been for Eagle Eye. The ability to enjoy outdoor activities without the constraints of income or transportation is an enormous privilege many families have. Enjoying nature and acquiring environmental literacy isn’t as accessible as we may think. That’s why these programs are so special to youth and youth development, and why they were so special to me. I was forced to step out of my comfort zone, pushed to explore, and became excited to learn. Many urban youth, especially low-income youth, miss out on opportunities like this, without the kind of outdoor programming that Eagle Eye provides.
The summer before I entered eighth grade, MaJa and Anthony invited me to stay with them at MountainStar Forest for a week. I slept in a tent in the camping area with MaJa the whole week, and basically bathed in the pools in the stream. I was getting the ultimate experience. I remember not being too excited about eating solely plant-based foods when I was used to eating meat practically everyday, but I was pleasantly surprised about how delicious vegan food can be. I always had fun making vegan pizza, and my favorite desserts were MaJa’s chocolate mousse and zucchini muffins.
Every morning, we meditated in the tipi, and although I wasn’t the best at clearing every racing thought in my head, it was a nice way to start my mornings. It’s a practice that I still keep with me whenever I feel stressed out, helping me focus on what I need to in the moment, instead of pondering about what I need to do a month from now. I regain control of my thoughts, allowing me to bring awareness to the present.
I also loved that I was fully offline, because there was literally no service to tempt me to check my phone, and I noticed a shift in my anxiety levels. I didn’t know it was happening at the time, but I was deepening my connection to nature, and consequently, I felt stronger connections between my mind, body, and soul.
Spending all of this time with MaJa and Anthony, I realized just how special Eagle Eye is. To be part of an extended family, run by the most thoughtful people who work diligently to make sure they offer quality outdoor programming for pre-teens, teens, and college students, is an enormous privilege.
As I am now graduating Somerville High School this spring, I am considering what to study in college. Although I am entering as undecided, I’ve been gravitating toward studying environmental systems, sociology, and design. Eagle Eye has been a huge factor in shaping my academic interests, as I am interested in food and climate systems, communities, and studying abroad to explore different environments. I admire Eagle Eye’s vision to bring environmental awareness to youth, and I’d like to leave high school setting out to improve access for others, as well.
Eagle Eye has witnessed my growth from adolescent to teen to young adult, and in time, it will witness the rest of the unfolding of my life. It will always be a part of me.
Sabiha Miahjee, March 2021