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Park rangers hook up underprivileged kids at J. Percy Priest Lake Fishing Rodeo

Nashville District Public Affairs
Published June 14, 2011
Park Ranger Robert Davis helps Aniya Young (Left), 8, and Unique Henderson, 10, with their fishing poles during a fishing rodeo held June 14, 2011 at Cook Recreation Area located at J. Percy Priest Lake in Hermitage, Tenn.  The kids from the Hermitage Community Center enjoyed a day of fishing and learned about water safety. (USACE photo by Michael Rivera)

Park Ranger Robert Davis helps Aniya Young (Left), 8, and Unique Henderson, 10, with their fishing poles during a fishing rodeo held June 14, 2011 at Cook Recreation Area located at J. Percy Priest Lake in Hermitage, Tenn. The kids from the Hermitage Community Center enjoyed a day of fishing and learned about water safety. (USACE photo by Michael Rivera)

Children crowded and smiled as they witnessed one of their peers catch a fish. For many of these children, this was the first time they have had the opportunity to go fishing. (USACE photo by Michael Rivera)

Children crowded and smiled as they witnessed one of their peers catch a fish. For many of these children, this was the first time they have had the opportunity to go fishing. (USACE photo by Michael Rivera)

HERMITAGE, Tenn. (June 14, 2011) Park rangers at J. Percy Priest Lake cast underprivileged children to participate in a fishing rodeo here today.  More than 20 inner-city kids in the area jumped at the chance to get hooked up with rods, reels, bait and all the tools necessary to fish.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District teamed up with the Hermitage Community Center to bring kids to Cook Recreation Area and Campground so they could get a taste of fishing and to learn some valuable information about water safety.

“It’s great to get these kids out here,” Park Ranger Courtney Wilson stated. “Many of these kids have never gone fishing so it’s a good change of pace for them to come out here and see what the outdoors holds for them.”

This fishing rodeo differs from the other rodeos held at J. Percy Priest and its sister locks and dams like Old Hickory, which reported over 200 participants at its rodeo June 11. The park rangers at this event wanted to bring out these kids, many who have never fished in their lives, and give them their undivided attention.

While untangling fishing line caught in a rod and reel, Wilson explained why she and the staff at J. Percy Priest Lake sponsor the kids to a day of fishing. “We really like when we get a group of these kids here so we can really try and teach them not only how to fish, but also water safety tips. Plus it’s always nice to see the look on the kids’ faces when they catch a fish,” she said.

“This is my second fish!” exclaimed Marcellus Matthews, 7.  “I caught a Sunfish earlier and this looks like a…”  “That’s a channel catfish, Marcellus, you can tell by the whiskers,” Park Ranger Matt Leftwich said.

As the kids gathered around to look at the catfish and watch as Matthews tossed the fish back into the lake, everyone in attendance could better understand how programs like this positively influence children.

“This is the first time I’ve caught a fish, actually, this is my first time going fishing,” Kabungo Mwonya, 8, exclaimed as he cast his fishing line into the lake.

“I figured out where everyone else is at is where I shouldn’t be at because the fish won’t want to get caught there,” he added.

After a solid four hours of fishing, thunder clouds started rolling in, which caused a prompt end to the day’s activities. Even though the kids did not take any fish home, they left Cook Recreation Area and Campground with good memories, water safety knowledge, and a new perspective on the many different activities the outdoors holds for them.

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