Tag Archives: youth education water issues Florida

A River Kid Grows Up – Connor Murphy

My interview with Connor Murphy is part of  “A River Kid Grows Up” series. Connor joined River Kidz at ten years old, today he is twenty-one and attending the United States Merchant Marine Academy in  Kings Point, New York. Connor grew up in Stuart, Florida, and is the son of Dr. Frank and Mrs. Ellen Murphy. It was wonderful to speak with Connor. It was clear that River Kidz and the waters of the St Lucie River very much affect how he views the world today.

JTL: “Hi Connor. So great to talk to you again. Please remind us, how did you became a River Kid in the first place?”

Connor: “Well, really, it was Mrs. Nichole Mader. She visited the Pine School and really pumped up the organization. A lot of my classmates got involved, so I started going to a lot of the rallies. I was in fourth or fifth grade which makes my nine or ten. Now I’m twenty-one. I  remember so many of the events.”

JTL: “I remember first meeting you when you were part of the group that advocated against House Bill 421, a bill that would have allowed the state to preempt the power of local governments to pass fertilizer ordinances. Something very dear to me in the protection of our waters.”

-A young River Kid, Connor Murphy, sits directly below Martin County Commissioner, Sarah Heard, holding a sign, advocating against HB421, 2012.Connor: “Yeah, I remember that one and a lot of others. Especially the ones at the Stuart Causeway and the St Lucie Locks and Dam. I remember, once, in Downtown Stuart there was an army of us Kidz bringing oyster shells -for spat- to St Lucie River – in bags. We brought loads of them. You can probably still see some of those bags with oysters on them today.”

-Connor, far right, listens to Senator Bill Nelson at ribbon-cutting. During this era, Martin County and others received 4 million dollars in federal grant monies to put toward oyster restoration of the St Lucie River, 2012.-Connor, far left, and fellow River Kidz, haul bags of oyster shells to the St Lucie River for oyster restoration, 2012. (Photos taken from cover of Stuart News) JTL: “Connor, were you connected to the water before joining River Kidz”

Connor: “Absolutely. I went to the U.S. Sailing Center in Jensen Beach since my youngest years and I worked there over the summers. Also, I fished, went kayaking, and camping. Everything revolved around water. At the height of River Kidz, I remember the U.S. Sailing Center was considering shutting down camp because of the blue-green algae that had contaminated the river- mostly – from discharges of Lake Okeechobee. This had a big effect on me.”

JTL: “Connor explain how you decided to take your Merchant Marine life path?”

Connor: “So, I was sailing as a sport for a long time and I had learned a lot about water issues from River Kidz. The sailing world is a very small, close-knit group. I made friends from all over the county and the world really. As I got older, I thought I would go into the Coast Guard Academy. But one of my friends went into the Merchant Marine Academy, and invited me to visit. I immediately fell in love. I loved the location! I got there on a snowy day; the snow had just begun to fall. It was really nice. I can’t say I wasn’t cold, but it was really beautiful to see. I got to meet a lot of the midhipmen. I met the sailing coach. I just loved everything about it. I just loved the opportunities they told me I could have. Every box was checked, and I knew I wanted to go there.  So as soon as Congressman Rooney nominated me, I could apply, I got in, and I immediately accepted my  appointment.”

JTL: “That’s exciting. Connor, honestly,  I don’t know that much about the Merchant Marine. For example, is it co-ed now?”

Connor: “Yes. Eighteen to twenty percent women.”

JTL: “That’s good. I’m sure it wasn’t that way when I was a kid. What is your education like?”

Connor: “Our education, right now, engineering and navigation, is split up between campus and at sea. So last year, I was sophomore, and I went out to sea on a commercial shipping vessel. I was a cadet, a midshipman. When I got on board, it was a  culture shock for sure. You really don’t know what to expect  until you’re r on the ship. You look out the window and see the giant containers being being moved on and off…”

-Cadet Connor Murphy at sea-Cargo ship, Ft Lauderdale-A beautiful sunset at seaJTL: “Where did the ship go?”

Connor: “My ship went around the east coast of the United States. We stopped in Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Northfolk, Virginia. Later, Ft Lauderdale and Belliston, Texas. Then the ship traveled to northern Europe: Antwerp, Belgium; Hamberg, Germany; and then we stopped in London on the way back. At this point, I’ve crossed the Atlantic four times.”

JTL:  “Wow. What about simple requirements? Do you have to wear a uniform?”

Connor: “On campus, I wear a uniform. On the ship its standard work attire but there is no set uniform.”

JTL: “Was there ever bad weather? Did you ever get sea sick?”

Connor: “Well, there were heavier seas in the North Atlantic. It definitely got a lot wavier! The ship was really rolling. It was really cool just to see how big the waves could be. It was wild. The waves  made the ship look so much smaller because they were so much bigger.”

JTL: “Do you have any type of motion sickness, like me? What do you see when you are at sea?”

Connor: “No. I do not have montion sickness. I’m lucky. What do we see? Well, I have this really cool video. We were in the very middle of the Atlantic where you expect no life, or anything, and we saw this dolphin riding the front wake out in the middle of nowhere. I took this video as far from land as can be!”

JTL: “Incredible! A friend visiting you from your River Kidz days. Connor thank you so much for your time today. Before we close is there anything else you’d like to share? Maybe something you would say to the next generation of River Kidz?”

Connor: “I do. I have to say that something I’ve been thinking a lot more about lately. My whole life, I’ve been really into salt water aquariums. And because I grew up in Stuart where the St Lucie Inlet was often full of polluted discharge water, and this water was flowing over and destroying the nearshore reefs -well, through all that, I realized how much coral we’ve lost. This gave me a sense of how easy it is to lose a coral reef and how hard it is to get it back. Keeping an aquarium teaches about water quality- testing the water for PH and other components. One learns how important it is for the water to be stable. I think if I were ever to start an organization, it would would be an organization to grow corals to restore the reefs. I know people are working on this and I think there should be more of this. I think this would allow more kids to get connected, to see the coral improving, and work to grow it back. This would inspire kids to get involved, like River Kidz got us involved.

When I was a River Kid, in the moment, I didn’t know the entirety of what was going on. But now that I’m older, I can really see its importance. River Kidz and sailing helped me understand the value, the worth of our waters, and I still love these water today.”