Student Spotlight: Recreation Major Derrick Charo
Derrick Charo is a Class of 2023 Recreation & Leisure Services major in the Department Health, Human Performance, and Recreation, and as a Park Ranger Intern at Mother Neff State Park, he is learning to steward multiple ecological systems.
Derrick decided to attend Baylor University after visiting the campus, saying “I could see myself here. I could see myself in the green and gold.”
As for his choice of a Recreation major, Derrick says, “It was really gradual.” He initially came to Baylor as a Pre-Physical Therapy student, but after visiting the Career Center and taking Recreation classes, he became a Recreation major and developed an interest in park systems.
In his internship with Mother Neff, Derrick has a wide variety of responsibilities and is “getting a taste of everything.” He works at park headquarters some days, goes on ride-alongs with park police officers, and is currently working on a short video introducing the park to visitors.
Derrick also works on park maintenance, which includes both daily maintenance and larger projects. “Mother Neff is going through a transition period right now,” he says, since a log jam in 2021 caused overflooding on the Leon River, which flows through the park. “There were a lot of historical buildings down there, and that was the original park. So, once that flooded, they had to move uphill to where the headquarters and new campgrounds are.”
Through working in a state park, Derrick is able to see the active role humans play in preserving nature. Each park has its own ecological system, and Mother Neff has three ecological areas: prairies, cedar forests (with a river bottom area), and limestone bluffs. Currently, Derrick is involved in a prairie restoration project, removing invasive trees.
“They all need to be maintained and kept in their area,” he says, to keep the park from being overrun with invasive species. “That way, when people visit, they can see what a natural environment of prairies, cedar forests, or river bottoms is supposed to look like.”
This active work to conserve natural environments also ties into Baylor’s Christian mission for Derrick, as “God tells us to be stewards of the land...It’s not about leaving nature alone—it’s about being good stewards. You have to have your hand in it to make sure that things are working the natural way.”
Finally, Derrick notes that conservation is important not only to people in Recreation or Environmental Sciences, but to any field. “Conservation and preservation are important in almost every career path you can have now. It’s something you have to be mindful of in all walks of life. If we can do that, we can make sure the environment is still here for generations to come.”