Guest post by Alliance staffer Katie Babick, Manager of External Relations

On a lovely Friday in late January, I had the opportunity to visit Springs Preserve, home to the Alliance’s Southern Nevada regional affiliate. Jessica Hougen, who runs the regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for Southern Nevada and is the Assistant Curator at Springs Preserve, gave me a tour and told me what it is like to run the program in her corner of the world.

This is the third year that Springs Preserve has been a regional affiliate for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and Hougen has been involved with the program for just as many years.  This year, 591 students participated in both art and writing. Hougen joked that her colleagues at Springs Preserve tease her for disappearing for about a month during “Scholastic Season” while she is handling the logistics of the program. However, she explained that it is worth the hard work because she knows that winning a Scholastic Award will provide valuable opportunities for students in her region.

Apart from learning about the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in Nevada, I was also amazed at Springs Preserve itself. This 180-acre campus is dedicated to the history of Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. A landscape conservationist restored the land to its natural state, providing visitors with a chance to step back to a time when Las Vegas was just a desert, without Elvis-impersonators, slot machines and circus acts. The campus is also host to buildings that are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum Certified, which means that they are entirely green and emphasize sustainability. This is especially important in the desert, where water preservation is so important.

Springs Preserve is part art museum, part natural history museum, part botanic garden, part history museum and part zoo! While there, I learned about the Hoover Dam and land auctions in Las Vegas’ early days, saw an exhibition of art by Bryan Christiansen, photographed some beautiful cacti and even had a run-in with a scorpion (who was safely in his tank!). I’m so happy to have gotten to visit this unusual place in a part of our country that is so different from the Northeast, where I grew up. I’d like to offer a special thank you to Jessica Hougen for being such a knowledgeable and welcoming hostess!

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