By Morgan Cook (’22)
When a tragedy occurs or an unfortunate situation leads to wrong decision making, it is often difficult for many to break out of a certain lifestyle or find motivation to change their ways. However, for Rodney Stotts, solace came from an unlikely source.
For years, Stotts was involved in the crack cocaine epidemic plaguing America during his youth in Washington D.C. while feeling trapped in a continuous cycle of illegal behavior. It was not until he was finally arrested and spent five months behind bars before he realized how capable he was of changing his life for the better and how necessary it was to do so. Upon being released, Stotts took up a job working for the Earth Conservation Corps, through which he cleaned the Anacostia River. It was here that he discovered his love of nature and in particular – birds of prey. Stotts described that from his first time holding a bird, it was as though he was transported to another place.
After spending more time getting accustomed to the birds, Stotts started a non-profit known as ‘Rodney’s Raptors’, which helps students and other children in lower economic areas to become acquainted with nature and the beauty of life. Stotts rescues juvenile raptors and helps groom them until maturity. His leadership and generosity help at-risk children understand that they too have the abilities to do what Stotts does. By teaching them basic training, including certain vet skills, Stotts hopes to set students up for a career in nature and conservation.
Stotts now cares for several birds in Charlotte Court House, Virginia, where birds of prey and other animals find sanctuary and where schools and nearby institutions are able to visit to learn more about falconry and nature management. In an interview with WUSA9, Stotts stated that “if you look at a young person who’s locked up and [whose] basically future is determined because of a few mistakes that they made early on, you start looking at it like a bird”.
Stotts continues to work on setting those who are trapped free (be they bird or person) and introducing them to the possibilities of life.