Commonwealth Journal

Local News

November 7, 2013

SWHS raptor program taking flight

Somerset —

The Southwestern Raptor Rehabilitation Center began more than 20 years ago with the goal of saving and rehabilitating one bird. 
Now the center is set to take flight to a different location and under a different name.
Francis Carter, teacher at Southwestern High School and the head of the school’s raptor rehabilitation program, announced in September — during the club’s always-popular open house event — that she would be retiring from teaching this upcoming May.
But those worried about the future of an award-winning educational program needn’t fear. 
“We’re still going to be here,” said Carter. “We’re still working with kids.”
The program, which has been located on a small parcel of land at Southwestern High School since its inception, is moving off-campus to a 27.5 acre farm off Slate Branch Road, which will pave the way for more educational options for all students in the county. 
Although the club had been open to all students during its tenure at SWHS, Carter said students from other schools were reluctant to participate. Now, with the newly-named Liberty Nature Center’s off-campus location, there is a new push to include students from all schools in grades 7 through 12. 
“Everyone seems really excited about the fact that this will be a community thing, not just a Southwestern thing,” said Hunter Kinney, the assistant director for the Liberty Nature Center. 
The Liberty Nature Center is named after one of the program’s raptors, a bald eagle named Liberty who passed away a couple years ago. Liberty is only one in many raptors the program has worked with, including golden eagles, vultures, owls, falcons, and even a raven at one point. 
“We’re still going to work with the kids at Southwestern, but we’re also going to work with Somerset and Pulaski kids, all who want to participate,” said Carter. 

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