Bridger Stewart and Brad Ely, both graduates of Vernonia High School, spent time this past summer as part of the Northwest Youth Corp program. The following is their account of what they experienced.
When I was in my freshman year of high school, a friend of mine had just returned from a session at Northwest Youth Corps. He told me all about the program, what they did, where they did it, and all of the amazing people who ran the crews. It sounded so cool!
The following Summer I was able to become a Corp member and had a blast. When you go out for a session, you are placed on a 12 person crew of likeminded individuals who have the passion and drive for conservation work, such as invasive species removal, trail restoration, and some fencing projects as well. It’s eight to ten hour days, sunshine or snow, swinging a tool to help shape a new section of trail that people will get to enjoy, all because of you and your crew.
After my first session I was immediately hooked, the lifestyle of a trail dog was the life for me. Granted we only got a shower once a week, didn’t have any electronic devices, and had no cell phones. I know that all sounds very scary for some people out there, however, as soon as you give up these luxuries for a measly five weeks, you become more in tune with the things around you, like the awesome people you’ll meet, the beautiful things mother nature created, and you become more of a grounded person in my opinion.
This summer I was given the opportunity to work for them again as a BLP member. BLP stands for Backcountry Leadership Program, which is made up of the people who stand out on the front country crews and who are chosen to become part of BLP the following year. My crew was a very interesting bunch, a lot of people you would never have guessed would have gotten along so well.
For five weeks we built trail reinforcements and did general trail maintenance at 9700 feet in the Sawtooth Mountain Range in Idaho. It was truly a breathtaking moment when we would wake up an hour before daylight, hike to the tallest ridge next to our camp to go to work and watch the sun rise. I’ve never seen something as beautiful as I did on those days.
For anyone that truly enjoys the outdoors, doesn’t mind doing something hard, but extremely rewarding, and has a drive to become a better person, I highly recommend this program. Oh and you get paid for it too, with an Americorp scholarship to go along with it.
So if you want to get out into the woods, swing a tool, meet some awesome people, and get paid to do it, go to www.nwyouthcorps.org.
My experience at Northwest Youth Corps (NYC) this summer was a very interesting one. For those who don’t know, NYC is an opportunity for youth between 15 and 18 to get outdoors and learn about nature, create/maintain trails and remove invasive plants, while earning an educational stipend. You can apply for different sessions, determining when and where you will work. I was put into South 4, the session taking place in southern Oregon the latter half of the summer and got paired up with 9 other kids in Red Crew who came from as far away as New York. I didn’t think that I would come to enjoy their company as much as I did. On weekends we rejoined the yellow, green and blue crews to camp and take recreational trips to nearby points of interest like Crater Lake.
We started our first week on an island close to Eugene brushing out an old dirt trail. It felt slow because of all the new experiences I was having (like getting up every day at 4:30 am), and it was also our most difficult week overall, with nine wasp nests and 104 degree temperatures. The second week, we pulled a ton of knapweed and sweet clover on logging roads. We also had an incident where our cooler was briefly stolen, prompting us to change campsites. The third and fourth week we built a trail to Opal Lake, a nice little lake a few hours away from Eugene. We also found a throwing axe in the woods, which was really cool. The fifth and final week was spent pulling English ivy off of a hillside.
At the end of my trip, I realized that I had connected to all of these people on a very personal level. We worked, laughed, and lived together, and it drew us very close together. I may have liked some more than others, but I will miss them and the experiences that we shared. I learned valuable life skills and that I can push through difficult situations while working to keep a positive mental attitude. I really benefited from the structure of the program emphasizing personal responsibility and individual growth. I definitely learned to appreciate many of the things that I take for granted at home, like time to relax and a hot shower each day. I also learned that mayonnaise does not actually NEED refrigeration.
I would recommend NYC to anyone who is willing to put in the physical labor and long days in exchange for a unique experience where you can find new friends, see new places, and discover parts of yourself.