A collective sigh of relief, exhaustion, and satisfaction of a job well done was heard the evening of February 1 as Sound Water Stewards (SWS) volunteers finished putting away tables and chairs, removed signage, set classrooms back in order, cleaned up, and walked out the door of South Whidbey High School, concluding the 26th Annual Sound Waters University (SWU). This was the final act of a nine-month process of creative planning and team work of dedicated SWS volunteers, class and keynote presenters, and incredible community support. An analogy of gestation and a labor of love is unavoidable!
SWU is the largest and most longstanding education and outreach activity of SWS. During its 26-year history, this event has been hosted at various locations on Whidbey Island in Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Langley. It has outgrown previous venues and has been hosted at South Whidbey High School the past six years, thanks to an agreement with the South Whidbey School District and support from Island County and many other local business sponsors.
Residents of Island County and the Puget Sound region attend this one-day university to learn about our natural environment and its inhabitants, our role and impacts, and how we as individuals may take action to care for this place we call home. The day of SWU is initiated with a rousing keynote address, followed by 60 different classes offered throughout the day by local experts who volunteer their time and expertise!
The popularity of SWU has grown over the years and SWU 2020 enjoyed a record participation of nearly 680 registrants, over 50 exhibitors, and countless volunteers who worked behind the scene to make this event another success. With reliance on bring your own coffee cup or water bottle and onsite lunch sold in recyclable or compostable containers, and assistance from WSU Waste Wise, the whole event resulted in 6.6 pounds (3 kg) of trash.
SWU also is the primary fundraising activity for the SWS organization, supporting its trained volunteers working for a healthy, sustainable Puget Sound environment through education, community outreach, stewardship and citizen science. The net revenue from SWU 2020 was a record breaking $40,000! SWU income helps provide the underpinning of our nonprofit organization’s ability to meet our growing needs and help us meet our mission!
South Whidbey High School has been reserved for Saturday, February 6, 2021. Planning starts this month, April 2020. Stay tuned for emails informing you about our progress and invitations to join us! We will be reaching out to all SWS members, including new recruits, to join the scores of volunteers who dedicate their time and experience to host SWU. We are a fun group and get excited to have members joining our SWU Steering Committee!