As my blog due dates approach, I welcome the internal evaluation. Most of my weeks seem to pass as a blurred, slurry of work projects: eel shocking, wilderness training, crop tree release marking and inspection, trail maintenance collaborations, migratory bird surveys, Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew projects, saw training, old-growth forest monitoring, invertebrate water sample collection, etc. As an AmeriCorps member serving as a natural resource intern through the Mt. Adams Institute, embedded with the Forest Service, I feel fortunate for the rare experience this position brings. Where else could someone be exposed to so many different natural resource projects? But I digress, blogs give me a chance to fully digest and appreciate the events that I am a part of. Something that is difficult to grasp after a 10 plus hour day of strenuous activity.
From roughly mid-June until the end of July I was given the privilege of leading the Youth Conservation Corps. What is the YCC you say? Well let me tell ya; YCC is federal program directed towards young people, with the intent to develop an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility such as building and repairing trails; preserving and repairing historic buildings; removing invasive species; helping with wildlife and land research; and leading environmental education.
Having minimal experience with high schoolers, I was little apprehensive to take on the task. Thankfully that all changed after the first week of working with, as I called them, “my kids”. The three YCC members this year had a great work ethic and an honest appreciation for the outdoors. I would spend most of my YCC days trying to find the balance between meaningful work and adequate nature exposing lessons. We made it a habit to play tree identification games while accomplishing our project task. By the end of our time together the kids could easily identify most of the tree species we encountered, and we all had our favorite species of tree, Sassafras, Yellow Birch, Poplar, and black cherry (most had an enticing and memorable smell).
My main intent with the YCCs was to expose them to honest hard work, the life of a Forest Service employee, and the awe-inspiring potential of the natural world. Seeing their reaction to new discoveries was the most rewarding aspect of the whole experience. I’m 31 years old and am still captivated by the beautiful intricacies of nature; hopefully I passed that same fulfillment on to the youth.