As a surprise for her birthday a few years ago, Andrea (Koemptgen) Sherwin received gifts of Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) swag, including a logo watch and sweatshirt from the early ‘90s ― when she served in the Summer Youth Program. Her wife had contacted the Corps to track down the relics, knowing the lasting impression Andrea’s three years of service had made on her life. During her summers as a crew member and youth leader, then serving on the inaugural wilderness crew that spiked for eight straight weeks, she loved the sense of camaraderie that pervaded the base camp at St. John’s Landing in St. Croix State Park and the beautiful locations and sense of adventure when on spike. And she loved feeling strong and fit and productive as a contributing member of a crew, which boosted her confidence and sense of (teenage) self. At the start of each summer, she remembered “getting [her] MCC confidence back.”
Andrea’s favorite project at base camp was weed-whipping the border of St. Croix State Park during a week of really nice weather. She loved the fast, rhythmic pace of the work, covering several miles of park border each day. On spike, she remembers a favorite project building stairs and doing timber stand improvement at Crow Wing State Park with an “all youth leader” crew. They really bonded that week when their van got stuck in a massive mud pit on the Munger Trail. Without anything but shovels and logs, they spent three hours digging before successfully freeing the van!
In the 20 years since Andrea helped dig that van out of the mud, her life has moved in many new directions. Her outdoor work now consists mostly of mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. And her free time is happily filled raising a baby and toddler with her wife. In the latest twist, she has returned to the Corps, albeit inside, and has found that today’s crews do much of the same work she did, at many of the same locations. After 15 years working in corporate settings, she is happy to be back. “I feel so fortunate to have found such a wonderful, unexpected opportunity to rejoin the Corps as their human resources manager,” she said. “Even though I’m not strapping on my steel-toed boots anymore, it really does feel like I’ve come ‘home’ after all these years.”