2010-02-08 10:55:56.000 – Stacey Kawecki, Observer and Meteorologist
Warning:What you are about to read is thoughtful and possibly sappy
I’m in a reflective state of mind. This mind set could be the result of the background music, popular when I was middle school, which has placed my psyche in the past. I remember reading Michael Crichton novels, and relating to the strong, female scientist characters. I wanted to be like Ellie in Jurassic Park, or like Beth in Sphere. I wanted to be a scientist who worked in an exotic place. I would borrow National Geographic magazines from the library and read about dinosaurs, alternative energy, and the ocean. Then I saw the movie Twister, and my focus narrowed to weather, hurricanes, and thunderstorms in particular.
Fast forward through high school and get to college. Believe it or not, I wasn’t totally sold on Meteorology until my sophomore year. I took analytical physics, general biology, and technical writing. I took German, Japanese history, band, and calculus. Finally, first semester of my sophomore year, I took Elements of Meteorology. I was hooked and knew I couldn’t go back. During one of the Meteorology Club events, a certain Rutgers Alumnus gave an amazing presentation on Mount Washington (shout out to Jim Salge!). My childhood dream of being a scientist in an exotic location bubbled to the surface. I had always imagined I would be somewhere tropical or hot, studying animals or dino bones. In fact, even during meteorology class introductions, when my classmates would say they were interested in snow storms and mid-latitude cyclones I would secretly say to myself, why? Thunderstorms are so much more interesting, and tornadoes, and hurricanes! Heck, even boring New Jersey weather was better than winter storms!
I hated winter. I didn’t like being stuck inside, and I didn’t like the cold. Snow was a hassle, not fun (classic mid-Atlantic mentality). But, Jim’s presentation completely blew me away. There were others at the meeting. One fellow had gone into TV meteorology, another worked at AccuWeather, and we even heard from some folks with the National Weather Service. None of that appealed to me. The most exciting prospect was working on top of a mountain in a weather observatory that I had never even heard of; a very cold and windy mountain.
Last semester of college, I came up to the summit for an interview. It was 0 degrees, gusting up to 100 mph, smack in the middle of March. I remember every aspect of that day. I met Ken Rancourt, Alex Pszenny, Brian Clark, Ryan Knapp, Neil Lareau, Tim Markle, and Jim Salge. I ate chicken soup made by volunteer Bruce Hancock. A future congressman came up. We had to take the truck with chains to 2 mile. I nearly sat in someone’s lap for lack of space. Brian Clark gave me a tour; we went to the tower (where I didn’t attempt the parapet in uncomfortable plastic boots). The observers and Ken interviewed me in that horribly nerve-wracking process. And, even amidst the absolute insanity that is Wednesday and nausea inducing anxiety, I fell in love.
A year and a half later, after getting certified to teach, interviewing at a couple of schools, and acquiring 4 graduate credits towards education, I returned to the Mount Washington Observatory’s website. I looked at the opportunities, and they needed someone who had a passion for educating and a background in meteorology. The rest, you know. My childhood dream of being a scientist, working in an exotic location, and being a strong female role model for young girls has been fulfilled.
Stacey Kawecki, Observer and Meteorologist