April 11, 2008 – Laurel Brannick, the education specialist at V.I. National Park on St. John, has captured an Environmental Quality Award, which honors individuals and organizations who have contributed significantly to improving the environment during the prior year.
The awards granted by the Environmental Protection Agency every year around Earth Day.
"She's great with the kids. She's dedicated and her main goal is the kids," Keshema Webbe, life scientists at the EPA office in the Virgin Islands, said.
Brannick's supervisor, park Interpretation Chief Paul Thomas, said that besides doing her job, she's willing to assist non-profit groups and government agencies. He said she also gets involved in other community endeavors such as the Audubon Society of the Virgin Islands.
"Laurel is super," he said.
Brannick was surprised to win the award.
"I'm just here in my little cubicle doing my job," she said.
However, Brannick, 46, works hard at what she does. She's the person who accompanies school children on field trips to the park and who's in front of their classroom explaining what they'll see on those field trips.
"I like that I get to be outside most of the time and get to work with all different ages of children," she said.
She said that last week, she took a group of Montessori first and second graders on the Reef Bay hike and did a marine field trip with two high school classes from Ohio and Maryland spending spring break on St. John.
Brannick said she's always learning something new. She said that sometimes the kids see something unfamiliar.
"I go back to the office and look it up," she said.
She was officially named to the post of education specialist in 2007, but had been doing the job for about two years.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Brannick moved to St. Thomas in 1991. After a year of working here and there, she landed a post as a park lifeguard, eventually becoming the head lifeguard. After three years on the beach at Trunk Bay, she was sick of the sun, so she moved into the Interpretation Division.
She's been in Interpretation ever since.
Brannick holds a bachelor's degree in physical education from Brooklyn College and completed credits for a master's degree in sports management. She taught swimming in New York City and on several different lakes.
She took scuba diving lessons while living in New York, but had her first taste of the tropics when she came on vacation to do her open water dive, a certification requirement.
She's married to Marc Bigrigg. The couple has one son, Denny, age 2.
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