Polk State graduate motivated by love of outdoors
As declared by the United Nations, March 3 is World Wildlife Day. For recent Polk State College graduate Wyatt Updike, a passion for conservation, the outdoors, and service were evident from a young age.
Updike, 23, graduated from Polk State with his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice on Dec. 8. Currently in the second part of the application process, Updike hopes to ultimately become a game warden for the Florida Wildlife Conservation (FWC) Commission.
“Hunting and fishing has always been something my family loves,” he said. “I love nature. I want to ensure conservation and that resources are there for the future.”
Although he comes from an agricultural family, Updike has always had an appreciation for law enforcement. He was an Explorer with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for two years while he was a student at Frostproof High School. Being a game warden, he said, is a way to combine those professions.
“I’d feel like I was making a difference by protecting people and the environment at the same time,” Updike said. “My family has really supported me. This is something I always wanted to do.”
When Updike was young, his grandfather David Updike managed large pieces of agricultural property. The two were often together.
“He loved to turkey hunt, and he loved to fish,” David Updike said of his grandson. “Because I managed a property, we interacted with FWC a lot. Wyatt was quiet as a youngster, but he must’ve been taking it all in.”
A 2018 graduate of Frostproof High School, Updike previously earned his Associate in Arts from Polk State and finished with a cumulative 3.71 grade-point average. Many in his Criminal Justice courses were law enforcement officers looking to move up the ranks at their agencies. Updike said one thing he learned things from his classmates was the importance of community involvement and giving back.
David Updike thinks his grandson will do just fine in that regard. He recalled a time when Wyatt Updike was a teenager and the two were eating lunch together at a fast-food restaurant. Unprompted, Wyatt Updike left his seat because he noticed a man in a wheelchair approaching the entrance and held the door as the man made his way in.
“That’s just the kind of person he is,” the grandfather said. “He’s just always had a heart for service.”
Service is becoming something of a family tradition, David Updike noted. Wyatt’s brother Robby Updike is currently a lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
“He and his brother are the first two in the family to go to college,” David Updike said. “I couldn’t be more proud of any of my grandchildren. They’re all good kids. They all kind of pull off each other and make each other better. I hope Wyatt sees his dream through.”
One key way that Wyatt Updike thinks he can make a difference is through educating others. Those breaking laws and regulations, he contends, often do so because they’re unaware those laws exist.
“I love seeing mountains, I love the beach, but it’s mostly the wildlife that I love,” the recent graduate said. “There’s a right way to go about hunting and fishing. There’s a reason there are limits and particular seasons for hunting. I like that there is a lot of educating that you can do as a game warden.”