I had the honor of being this year’s Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew leader for the Eleven Point Ranger District on the Mark Twain National Forest. It was one of the best times I have had so far during my internship. Being able to take a group of teens who have never met and from different backgrounds, and teach them conservation of our beautiful forest and work ethics they can carry with them throughout their professional careers was just amazing. Though we had a couple days of tough times, like any other crew, they were one of the best crews I have been in charge of. I think the best part of working with the YCC was being able to watch them go from that nervous awkward stage of not being sure of themselves in the beginning, to watching them take the initiative and be comfortable in their role within the team and their work ethics exceeding anything I expected. I am happy to announce one of my teens has taken a wildland firefighting apprenticeship opportunity, which he will leave for in the spring. Another has plans to continue on in college taking forestry courses to achieve his dream of working with the U.S. Forest Service. The younger two plan on re-applying for next year’s YCC internship, to help them gain more experience and help build their resumes. I couldn’t be more proud of them all.
Some of our duties included working on all of the sites located on the western side of our region on the Eleven Point River. We did regular site maintenance in recreation: mowing, weeding, tree trimming, leaf blowing parking lots, cleaning and making sure facilities were stocked. At McCormick Lake we cold patched the road that had been washed out and ruined from last year’s flood, helped in the construction of a primitive bathroom for the campsites, and removed a damaged bridge that was unsafe for public use. At Markham Spring Recreation Area we helped the hosts maintain the campground and day use areas for the season. At Markham we also constructed and installed two shower benches and removed an unsafe bench and installed a new one around the bubbling spring. At Ripley Lake we cut a new path for the public to use. At Boze Mill we helped in the demolition and removal of an unsafe canoe launch. Lastly, we installed new fire pits, grills and information boards at Watercress and Pinewoods Recreation Areas. Though it was a very hot summer, there was never any complaint; the ambition to do their best and willingness to learn drove this YCC crew, and they enjoyed every day.
Once my YCC crew’s time was over, I was able to work on the Surprise School house project. The Surprise School house, located at Turner Mill in the Mark Twain National Forest, was built in the late 19th century. It became unsafe last year when the flooding moved the school house 6 feet off its original rock foundation, tweaking the building and bowing out some walls. I worked with the HistoriCorps team, Forest Service personnel, and other volunteers to stabilize the school building with interior and exterior bracing. We removed deteriorated framing and flooring and installed new concrete piers within the foundation to make it safe for public use. It was three weeks of hard work but the end result was wonderful to see.
Coming into this internship I didn’t know what to expect, all I ever knew was to work hard and prove your worth in a company for people who hardly know your name. Being acknowledged for the good work that you do and running into people who know you, based off of word of mouth and accomplishments you’ve done, is the best moral boost you could ever ask for. Being able to enjoy the people you work with and enjoy the work you do makes it so much better and you feel as if you belong. This internship has opened my eyes to new possibilities and I can only hope that one day I will be a part of the U.S. Forest Service family.