Homecoming attendees stand on the beach of Lake George's beach. They stand, sit, and kneel on sand and in the background there are blue mountains.

“We built infinity and beyond together!” That was the ending to the closing speech we all collectively wrote on Sunday morning before we parted ways. There is so much power to those words, but it only begins to describe the DDCSP experience and our time at the alumni homecoming retreat.

For three days, over 100 alumni from all the DDCSP programs gathered together at the Silver Bay YMCA in New York. Some people had seen each other just weeks before, but others hadn’t seen each other in years. Regardless of how long it’d been, old friends reunited like no time had passed at all and new friendships were being formed everywhere you looked. It was truly a beautiful time!

The best part about homecoming was that we got to do whatever we wanted to. For some, that meant attending workshops focused on community building, navigating grad school, the future of DDCSP, and so much more. For others, it meant participating in art activities, nature walks, and Dungeons and Dragons sessions. For me and my friends, it meant spending a lot of time hiking, looking for salamanders, kayaking, and playing sports like pickleball and archery. We had so much fun hanging out together and just enjoying each other’s company. The weekend truly provided time for everyone to do what brought them joy with those they love. 

Homecoming was also the first time many of us met anyone from other DDCSP programs. We all came together from different states, schools, careers, and programs and got to meet so many other people with the same passions for conservation, environmental justice, inclusion, and more. We intermingled during meals, activities, and our free time throughout the weekend. We talked about our journeys, passions, and goals, and really got the chance to connect with each other and form new relationships. Personally, I really enjoyed meeting so many people from the other DDCSP programs and learning about them and their experiences.

The weekend was as great as it was because of all the alumni that worked to make it a success. It was so incredible to attend workshops and activities hosted by fellow alumni and learn from our peers. There was also so much effort put into ensuring the retreat was inclusive and accessible for everyone, and the effort didn’t go unnoticed. So many of us were able to gather together to share that special time because of those efforts.

Homecoming is an experience I know I will look back on for years to come. It was full of joy, connection, growth, and value, and I’m so grateful to have been able to take part in it. I feel confident in saying I’m not alone in this feeling!

Circling back to the closing ceremony, I’ll leave you with one more sentiment that encapsulated the homecoming experience: “If it wasn’t for the beautiful, imaginative, creative, inspirational people around us today, the ones that made our journey what it is, life wouldn't have the amount of sunlight that it does.” -Davien Graham, DDCSP Alumni