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We Did This Together

Northwest Youth Corps first Queer Crew 2017 Graduation Speech

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Queerly beloved, we are gathered here to-gay to celebrate the last day of NYC’s session, but also the last day of NYC’s first Queer Crew’s session. It has been quite the month for us woodsy gays. Being in the LGBTQ+ community bonds us, sure, but now we can say that we have climbed mountains together, braved rattle snake infested canyons together, and have literally been marooned on an island in the Pacific with dwindling food and an indeterminate departure time. Add the normal strain of regular old NYC living, plus the pressure of being the first all queer conservation crew, and you get a family of individuals who can wear hard hats as well as we can wear rainbow glitter, and cut down saplings as well as we can tear down preconceived expectations about our abilities because of our sexualities or genders.

We did this together. In the coming months, as we cross off the days on calendar pages, and in the coming years as we await Queer Conservation Corps, this will not leave us. Incoming queer crews will have their stories after us, but we had the privilege of being the first page. In that, in our work, in our memories, and in our lives, we will take pride.

Ariana and Lee, thank you for teaching us to bash back.

Queer Crew Member, 2017

Remembering Bob Mann

You may know of NYC as a highly successful organization whose existence and significance can be taken for granted. However, when NYC first began, we were led by staff with modest experience––at best––in outdoor education.

Enter Bob Mann, a former NYC Board Member and long-time donor, who passed away recently. Today we honor the life of Bob Mann, a significant volunteer who helped made NYC what it is today.

Born into this world with a passion for the outdoors, Bob graduated with a degree in Education and Biology and went on to earn an Administrative license. He served youth in many capacities, and retired as Director of Outdoor School (ODS) for the Northwest Region Education Service District.

As NYC Founder and long-time Executive Director, Art Pope, reminisced, “I first met Bob Mann when I was hired to run the Camp Yamhill Outdoor School (ODS) program in 1979.  I had exactly zero experience with Outdoor School; I barely even knew what it was.

However, Bob’s booming laughter and irrepressible good humor offered assurance of his confidence in my ability to lead new staff, and run a successful program. He also made it clear that having fun was part of the job, as far as he was concerned.

Bob’s visits were always appreciated. On one particularly noteworthy visit, Bob proudly pulled several large envelopes out of his car and showed us a strange-looking collection of furry, flat-as-a-pancake items that––with a flip of the wrist––worked quite well as Frisbees.  Bob then explained to us staff how rare it was to find a perfect “sail-rat”­­. They were to be found only on highways with heavy truck traffic and could only be collected during spells of very hot, dry weather.  Even now, as I drive a scorching hot section of bare pavement, I think of Bob every time I spot a particularly flat and well dried spot of fur asking to be peeled off the pavement and sent for a sail!”

All fun aside, Bob touched thousands and thousands of lives while he worked for Washington County ESD.  He made sure the resources were in place which allowed sixth grade students to get away from home and discover new abilities while surrounded by young leaders with a love for the natural world.  Bob was also a role model to the hundreds of high school counselors and college-age staff who worked at Washington County’s ODS programs every year.

With Bob’s help and support, Art Pope went on to start Northwest Youth Corps, and when asked by Art, Bob willingly joined NYC’s Board of Directors. For many years, Bob was a source of wisdom and inspiration for our staff and other board members.   We respect his contributions greatly and will miss him tremendously.

After his departure from the board, Bob made regular donations to support our work. Please contact us, if you would like to honor Bob’s legacy with a gift. We are grateful to those generous donors who have already made a recent donation to NYC in his name. Thank you for your support, and thank you again, Bob Mann, for helping to make NYC a reality.

Mazingira Mazuri – “Good Environment”

Frederick Livingstone 2 blog

(Photo above was taken of some group members harvesting “chinisi” (like bok choi) from one of the community gardens)

I’ve been in Tanzania since last February and am living in a village in the southern highlands (with remarkably similar weather to the PNW, we have lots of pine trees). The school year just ended, but I taught an arts/empowerment class at the primary school I live next to and am planning to try out the curriculum I am writing for the country program called “mazingira mazuri” (good environment). The curriculum is partly inspired by SEED, but with a focus on life skills like gardening, water conservation, and HIV/AIDS. I’ve started a few community gardens in the village for nutrition and income and have just started a “mamas group” to make family gardens and talk about child nutrition, compost, greywater, etc.

My experience as a youth and leader at NYC helped me develop a familiarity with and thirst for challenge, which in part motivated me to join Peace Corps. The skills I gained have also helped since much of the technology I use is the same (my hand washing and dish washing setup is straight from NYC) and I am no stranger to a knot, hoe, or even dutch oven here (I miraculously found one at a table in Njombe that sells rejected GoodWill kitchen wares).

Kazi Njema,

-Frederick Livingston

Teens and Trails 2 2007, North 3 2008, Backcountry Leadership Program 2010, Swamper North 2 and Cycle Oregon 2011

Frederick Livingstone blog

(This photo shows the road from the primary school (where I live) to the main part of the village)

A Mini Rocket for Dani Rictor

Dani Rictor
From: Holly Schnee

To: Dani Rictor

Wherever our spirits go when we pass…I hope its ready for the epic cosplay explosion that it’s about to experience!

I have you and the rest of Yellow Crew to thank for where I am today. I wouldn’t have been inspired and empowered to embark on this crazy life adventure if it weren’t for the friendship that pulled me from a dark space so many years ago. Thank you. I still wear my yellow crew pride each day. I bleed yellow…no matter where I’m at in life. My roots are yellow.

I have been loving your recent posts. Your next big chapter in Idaho. You just got your new apartment keys on Friday. You got a new job at AT&T. You were breaking away! Im honestly angry at the universe for stripping that away from you. You deserved this new opportunity…but…I refuse to honor you with negativity. You are worth much more than that!

I’ll assume you’re the reason why the clouds were spectacular today! I mean, darn son! They’re awesome! Even right now as I type this! So thanks for that! I can see your artistic talent much better now!

I’m hoping to launch a mini rocket this weekend for the kiddos in my Astronaut class. I’ll write your name on the wings. :)

You’re also #52 on my gratitude countdown. (52 days till my next surgery) I’m grateful for the time we spent together; on and off the trail.

Thank you Dani for sharing part of your life with me. May we cross paths again some day.

RIP. 

Alumni Pride!

When I was packing for the Peace Corps, I knew I had to bring something from my time at Northwest Youth Corps. My work boots? No, too bulky, and I didn’t want to sacrifice them to the wet climate of Panama. A work shirt? Nah, I could always find cheap shirts down there. Then I realized what it had to be – my canvas work pants. They were my first double-front pair, a rich golden brown, purchased especially for NYC. Stiff and snug as I walked nervously into the first day of training, trying to look tough and confident.

As I slipped the faded pants off the hanger, I felt their soft, broken-in pliability, hard-won over those three months in 2010 and proudly worn since. Like badges the pants bore little nicks from tools and small black stains from chainsaw oil. I poked three fingers through a rip over the left back pocket, poorly patched.

I thought about the phrase I’d seen everywhere in the Peace Corps’ ads: “The toughest job you’ll ever love.” Had the person who wrote it ever had a job like the crew leaders at NYC? Because that’s exactly how I would have described my summer as a rover for South 2.

I’d barely been to the West Coast, and never to Oregon, when I stepped off the train in Eugene. A light drizzle misted me as I walked down the unfamiliar street with my backpack, feeling excited and alone and nervous. I was 21 years old at the time. I was full of heart and idealism but also plagued by anxieties and low self-esteem, something I tried hard to hide.

Looking back on that now, I’m reminded of touching down in Panama three years later, feeling the wall of hot, humid air hit me as I exited the airport with the 47 other fellow Peace Corps trainees I had just met. Still with much of the same idealism and heart, but a much stronger, more confident woman than I’d been at 21, thanks in part to my experience at NYC.

As any NYCer knows, there are a dozen stories I could tell from that summer, but I always seem to land on the second week of our first session. My crew leader Jyoti and I were given a backcountry assignment in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness of southern Oregon, with an eight-mile hike in. For extra support we had a gentle giant named Patrick from Corps Respond. I took for granted then how Patrick and Jyoti and I all interacted as equals. NYC makes that space.

As it was only the second week, most of the youths weren’t in great physical shape yet, nor were Jyoti and I at our peak. We were all still learning the ropes, so it took a million years to get backpacks packed and adjusted. Jyoti and I suited up with an ambitious amount of weight on our backs and saw packs in front, feeling like pretty B.A.* ladies. We all set out on what would be a grueling hike under the hot sun in an exposed burn area, strong wind making us eye the dead, blackened snags warily.

This was most of the youths’ first attempt at backpacking, many with boots that had only seen a week’s use. Needless to say there were blisters, sore muscles, and general discomfort within the first few miles. We trekked and trekked, Jyoti and I trying to keep chipper and encouraging, though I know I at least was also fighting my own physical limits….Later we reached a meadow where the trail disappeared. The kids rested beside an abandoned shack while we three leaders looked for the trail.

We finally found the trail and hiked along as darkness approached, hoping the end would be around any corner (later we’d find out it was actually 10 miles in total). But finally, we’d just about run out of daylight and the crew was exhausted. We had to stop and camp for the night. We ate cold hot dogs in the dark. Spirits were low, and though Jyoti and I tried to be cheerful, it was hard to hide our own dismay. I learned a lot from Patrick’s awesome attitude that night, and all that week. After all, no one was hurt, it wasn’t raining, and the world wasn’t coming to an end. It was just a situation to be dealt with in the best way available.

In the morning, one of our kids woke up with his muscles so cramped he could barely move. The others nursed blisters and sore necks. We gathered our things and hiked the two last miles to the campsite. The crew collapsed in the meadow in relief. Jyoti and I wished we could just let them rest there, but after a few minutes and a snack, it was time to put in a full day’s work.

I can still see the faces of every kid on that crew. That week they whined and moaned and did a lame job on the trail some days. They all nearly quit. But they got through that week and the rest of the session, and by the end we could easily see they’d changed. The girls in particular had cultivated confidence and toughness. I hope that continued to serve them after they left.

I’ve found many parallels between NYC and the Peace Corps. The people end up mattering to you more that any project or end product. What you think beforehand will be the hardest part never turns out to be. It’s the unexpected that arises to push you far beyond what you took to be your limits. Personal growth and human connection are the most precious things we take away.

I loved my woods boss and co-leaders more than any other group of people I’ve met in my life. Tough and kind-hearted, steely in the face of trouble and hilarious in moments of calm, selfless and, at times, aggravating. They liked me for exactly who I was. They saw all of my good qualities and also pushed me to grow. My B.A. female co-leaders inspired me. And I loved watching the girls on our crew grow into their own budding B.A.s, wielding pulaskis and cross-cut saws as well as or better than the boys. There was so much space and opportunity made for that to happen….I never felt held back or judged by my gender at NYC. Of our four crew leaders, two were male and two female. We in turn created an environment of gender equality for crew members, with the same high expectations for everyone.

I can’t give the NYC experience to the girls in my community here in Panama. But I can treat them equally in the classroom and outside of it. I can encourage them to take a leadership role in our youth group. I can engage them in conversations about gender. And every day, I try to be a good example. I walk places by myself. I plant and harvest crops with the men. I speak my mind and look men in the eye. I also cook and clean and dress up for parties. I make arts & crafts. I garden. I coddle babies and toddlers. I have a college degree. I am a teacher and a leader. Wielding my machete with the men in the fields, I wear my sombrero and long-sleeved shirt and rubber boots…and my NYC work pants.

*B.A.: A way to say “bada$” without swearing. Often used by NYC crews. Also alludes to getting your B.A., or bachelor’s degree, in bada$ery.

Lauren Schwartzman, Environmental Conservation Volunteer, U.S. Peace Corps, República de Panamá

A handful of places

This week we worked with a botanist from BLM removing invasive species from the shore of Floras Lake. We primarily pulled European Beach Grass and Canadian Thistle. We also helped our contact (the botanist from BLM) monitor native plants. Plant monitoring consists of counting individuals of a plant population as well measuring the plants and recording their status as either reproductive or vegetative. The species we counted were rare and experiencing habitat loss as a result of the invasive species. First, we searched for Wolf’s Evening Primrose, a tall beautiful yellow flower; second, we counted Dwarf lily; and finally, we measured and counted a rare species of plant that only grows a handful of places on the planet, Silvery Phalicia. I also spent a lot of time asking our contact, Tim, about the various plants in the area. NYC has consistently provided us with exposure to professionals in the conservation, Forest Service, botany and biology worlds.

~ Sverre

Yellow Crew – 2014

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NYC’s Outdoor High School

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This June, I graduated from the Outdoor High School (ODS) at Northwest Youth Corps. I would like to enlighten you about a very good schooling opportunity that I am familiar with.

The Outdoor School is for youth, from freshmen to seniors in high school, from many backgrounds. In my three years there, I have met many different people that look for a different experience than public schools have to offer. Youth who go to the Outdoor School get hands on learning about the environment. ODS also gives youth an opportunity to graduate a year early with a traditional diploma.

Some of the teachers have non-traditional ways of teaching to challenge the youth. The teachers can relate to youth who have had similar experiences so the teachers can understand their learning needs. For example: the principle, who is kindly nicknamed “Billy Goat” for his goatee, gives a lot of valuable advice in certain situations. Most of my predicaments there were solved with his wisdom!

I didn’t like public school and I wished that there was an alternative school that was like the Outdoor High, but was for middle school students. I found out about the School from a counselor from my local middle school in Eugene, Oregon. She had said that the school required a referral from the district and/or a counselor. I was thinking to myself, “What? You need to have a referral from the home district in order to go to a cool school like that?!?” I was astonished that I needed such a powerful presence to accept my referral just to go to a small school. I was nervous since I was put on a 15 person waiting list, but in the end, I was one of the three students who finalized their decision to go to that school.

My first year there at the Outdoor High School was a big life changer; it was to be too good to be true! I had grown up going outdoors and camping. I enjoyed the camping part of ODS, especially when we got to spend half the time in the field and half the time in a classroom. We got to know our peers and our teachers a little better. Basically we get to live like one big – somewhat – happy family out in the woods for 5 – 8 days 4 times during the warmer months of the year; and during the cold months of the school year were spent outside in what we call a “service learning” environment during the day. For example, one day we would be on a science field trip to water treatment plant, another day will be working on a landscaping project in a local park, and we also had lessons in the Laurel Valley Educational Farm which is located on Northwest Youth Corps’ campus. The classes were small, usually about 15 per class. There were 2 – 3 AmeriCorps volunteers in the classes along with the one teacher for each major subject: Language Arts, Science, Social Science, and Math. The AmeriCorps volunteers taught some elective and literacy classes; like yoga, film studies, art, and foreign language.

My second year was a big shock. There were fewer kids than last year, and that meant less graduates walking and getting their diplomas. But the same things almost happened every year and a lot of the old kids returned with new students to meet and opportunities to make new friends. The AmeriCorps volunteers were different, but some of them returned and were hired as teachers.

My last year was a whole new world. I was really close to graduating and I had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get things done. Since it was my junior year, I had the option of graduating a year early. I took that opportunity along with another student. At the end of the year, there were fewer students for various reasons. The school offered many challenges that were too difficult for some students, but I accepted the challenges that the school offered and prevailed!

But I buckled down and got my work done, and I graduated with a (almost) 3.0 GPA.

Now I am here, at my desk, interning at NYC and typing my years for this blog entry you are now reading. I can succeed with the right tools and goals; I can surpass my learning abilities and actually achieve higher goals that were set for me a long time ago when I was young.

Words of Wisdom

May the class of 2015, ‘16, ‘17, and ‘18 never give up their goals and dreams. They better not if they are to be successful…

The road to graduation is a challenge, but they have to challenge themselves in order to reach their goals.

For they are our future teachers, scientists, etc…

They are our future, our hopes, and our dreams.

May the Future be with you!

I would also like to give thanks to these people/organizations for helping me through this:

~ Northwest Youth Corps for creating an environment that helps youth succeed

~ The staff of The Outdoor High School for helping me challenge myself when I wasn’t challenging enough

~ Oregon Youth Conservation Corps’ for providing scholarships that helps youth so they could go to college

~ Steve Moore for helping me push through the homework

~ And my mother for helping me in the times when I needed it most

~ Tyler Meligan, MCR Intern and Outdoor High School Class of 2014 graduate

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Things Changed For Me

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Before I signed up for Northwest Youth Corps, I was headed down the wrong path. I knew that if I didn’t change myself I would ruin my life and end up in trouble with the legal system.

NYC taught me how to be responsible by teaching me how to be more independent.  I had to wake myself up every morning, work without any supervision, and make sure that I was doing the best I could to help myself and my co-workers. NYC helped me help myself, by teaching me discipline and how to be responsible. I got to work on hiking trails, build a bridge, and I got to be in the backcountry for 5 weeks. It was peaceful, no electronics, no cars, it was a great experience. I had never done work like this before and I really enjoyed it.

After I came back from NYC things changed for me, I am a lot more responsible, hardworking, and independent. Community Works started helping me stay out of legal trouble. Community Works is a program that helps teenagers get back on the right path. They take minors cases from the court and make a plan to apologize to the person they wronged, and help themselves stay out of trouble. If the teenager does not follow the plan or stick to their word then they have no choice but to give the case back to the court. I think that what they are doing is great and it can really help some teenagers stay out of trouble. I was really lucky that I had the support of my family and other people to help me change myself for the better so I could stay out of trouble.

I have some idea of what I want to do after High School, I either want to go straight to college in Hawaii, do a program called Leap Now where you get to travel in Europe, or do a program at The College of San Mateo called Electrical Power Systems.  I found out about Leap Now from my school, and the same with the program at College of San Mateo. If I go straight to college, I want to take classes on Environmental Studies, or design.

I am really thankful for Community Works and Northwest Youth Corps. I hope that someone will read this and will be able to relate to my story, and in someway this will help them.

-James

Signing Off

Ryan 2 Blog

Dear Fellow NYC’ers,

Today being my last day and all, I wanted to write all of you and thank you. Thank you for all of the hard work you put in here at this wonderful organization. Thank you for being so kind to me over the last 4 years. Thank you for going above and beyond to help give the youth of today a chance at succeeding within something special. Thank you for all of your patience. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to help you make a difference. Thank you for helping guide me along the way. Thank you for everything.

I will miss all of you, and I can only hope that NYC will always have folks like yourselves, giving it all to make so many strangers lives’ so much better. I will be staying in touch, and look forward to coming back and seeing all of the amazing progress you all will make in the coming years.

Ryan O’Sullivan