By Wah Wah
Most teenagers would prefer not to work in the summer but would rather have fun with friends. However, in 2011 I found a job that I enjoyed with the Conservation Corps Minnesota Summer Youth Corps. The job required me to leave my family and travel around Minnesota for two months, making the environment better. This was my first time away from my family as well as my first time camping, and it was a challenging yet positive experience for me. We removed invasive species, cleared and built walking trails, built fire pits and learned how to make a positive impact on our environment. This job helped me to develop new skills and appreciation for my environment.
After my time serving in the Corps, I joined the Corps’ Youth Advisory Council. As a YAC member I help research, evaluate and plan activities such as service projects for our Youth Alumni Reunion. We meet on the first and third Mondays of the month at the Corps central office on the West Side of Saint Paul. We are now developing a website that will feature stories we write about the youth programs and program participants.
For one of our projects last summer, we interviewed individual youth participants three times during the summer: the initial interview was on their first day, the second during the middle of their session and the third on their last day of the program. We wrote about their experiences with Conservation Corps and what they have learned along the way.
From my interviews, I found that being outdoors and trying new experiences was one of the top reasons they were excited to join. One of their challenges was being surrounding by people from different backgrounds. The Summer Youth Corps employs 135 youth that come from diverse places in Minnesota. Most of the youth learned about the Corps from their communities, friends or online. They were very excited about meeting new people and working on natural resource projects in parks and trails in Minnesota. Many of them hoped to travel and camp in different places this summer.
Something I found interesting during the interviews was that they were very nervous and excited about becoming part of the 2012 Summer Youth Corps. It appeared to me that they really wanted to work with the environment. I was very surprised how much they enjoyed talking with me about their experiences and what they hoped to do.
My sister, Dah Dah, was in Summer Youth Corps last summer and was one of the people I interviewed. Working with nature and being outdoors was one of the things she was excited about. She said choosing to be a part of Conservation Corps Minnesota was her best decision of the summer. She hoped to visit the northern part of Minnesota during her session and she was very excited!