Matt Skogen remembers clearly his first encounter with Conservation Corps, on the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth, and how pivotal it was for his life. He was a biology student in 2008 when he learned about the Corps at a job fair and was immediately taken by the idea of working with kids outdoors. That summer he worked as a crew leader with Summer Youth Corps and saw what a powerful thing it was to get kids outside, and outside their comfort zones, working with a diverse group of people in places most of them had never been. Skogen switched his major to education that year, and returned to SYC for three more summers, serving as a wilderness crew leader, assistant director and assistant cook.
Most meaningful to him was not one particular experience but the many times he thought to himself, “This is what life is really about; helping the environment and making this great experience available to all of these kids. It’s unlike any program around.” He also saw in a very immediate way how dedicated the community of support was for the Corps. First, after a garage fire at the SYC basecamp destroyed all their tools, and then during the 2011 state shutdown and storm that devastated the camp, he found the outpouring of support surprising and impressive.
Now in his third year of teaching middle school science, Skogen loves his classroom, coaching cross-country skiing and working with students after school on video production. His SYC experiences confirmed again and again that education was the right place for him, and he is grateful for the many life-changing experiences he had in the Corps.
Photo: Matt Skogen in the Lava Cast Forest, one of the interpretive sites at the Newberry Volcanic Monument in Oregon.