Northwest Youth Corps first Queer Crew 2017 Graduation Speech
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
This experience meant an opportunity to discover one’s true self without the boundaries that are placed upon us by society.
This experience has been a gateway to self discovery in its purest form.
For many of us life is a cardboard box, a box of social groups, cultural norms, identity boundaries, and restriction of expression. Every now and again the wind blows and the box tumbles head over heels allowing us a brief glimpse of our true nature and the nature of the world around us.
But almost always the box lands open side down.
This program reminds us that we are strong enough to break through cardboard. This adventure gives us the opportunity to separate ourselves from the cycles that dis-empower us. The only thing preventing you from being your true self is the illusion of disempowerment perpetuated by these cycles.
Take a second to reflect on your experience and if you realize nothing else, none of this is possible alone.
-Yellow Crew Member, 2017
A crew both Big and Red
High country whisks them from home
I join. One week. Destined to roam.
Yet something inside me lags behind
Excitement for trails they could find
Weeks go by and I wonder what I miss
Often I did reminisce
Of our frigid days
Of bugles elk and brass
Fireside discussions that made time pass
The final week, final days
All antsy, half crazed
Waiting for the finale
Days and hours tallied
Your rover reunites
5 more days, 5 more nights
And the weeks have shown
Smiles when you used to groan
Your crew is bold
For three weeks
Trails you cut
No more walking. big red struts.
But if you are ever in a rut,
Remember your crew and all this great stuff
Oliver, Fall Youth Corps Camping Assistant Crew Leader, 2016
Northwest Youth Corps has given me many experiences about overcoming challenges. Every day in each moment we face an obstacle, I realize how much we push each other as a crew. All of us living our daily lives as usual but coming together in moments of need, we come together all with one goal in mind and encourage as well as inspire those in our crew to do better.
What I believe I learned is that facing problems together is a privilege- a privilege of responsibility, initiative, and pushing beyond your limits in unison. Being on a crew is like having a family. When one of us comes to a problem, we all face it together. When one of us can’t give it our all, we recognize it as a crew and do what we can to help. This is what I believe I learned about when I came to Northwest Youth Corps.
Unanimous, Orange Crew, Spring 2016
Trail Journal… My writing won’t be so much about “the Trail”. So far, this is our first week. This past week for me personally has meant a lot. We’ve all worked so hard. On Thursday we spent 8 hours working in the pouring rain and on our lunch break, we built a tarp shelter. All of us sat under it and huddled for warmth, in that moment I felt close to myself and the people around me. We’ve spent every day this week hiking through the same forest/mountains with 10-13 tools and huge water containers: digging drains and moving dead trees. But at the end of every day we went home and did our chores together.
After the day of working in the rain, we were all making dinner and lunch for the next work day in the kitchen tent. I looked around and everyone was smiling and laughing. It was beautiful for such a bad day. I think we all came out feeling stronger having gotten through the cold and wet day. Anyways, it’s been great so far, and I can’t wait to see what our crew does together next!
Hope, Yellow Crew, Spring 2016
NYC- I have done this program before, four times actually and each time there is something new and something challenging. I have been on an all male crew once before, this is the second time. Though this time is much more like a job, we have become more like brothers having to live with and work with one another for five weeks. Not all people like this and some leave. Although we hit some bumps, we came together and now hold one another up.
We spent the week clearing an old camp in the City of Rocks, picking up old sticks and logs. We stacked the logs and made them available for future camp fires. The sticks were sent through a chipper and helped lower the risk of fires. And on the last day, we made a new drain on a trail that had not been used in a long time.
We learned to do things better and quicker. We brought each other up and finished more than our project contacts asked us to do. We are a strong crew that will pull through whatever, even all the bad weather that was thrown at us!
Anthony, Fall 2 Yellow Crew, 2015
So far, Northwest Youth Corps has been a great and eventful journey. I have been testing myself to see how far my limits are and how much I can accomplish, even though most of my accomplishments would be with my crew and what we’ve done together. Being a part of this crew and program to make a difference in the world I stand on. It would be great to continue our adventure and share our accomplishments with those who keep an open mind and listen with their hearts so that we may take one more step closer to the goals and challenges we all share.
Casey, Fall 1 Yellow Crew, 2015
I came here to work, nothing more, nothing less. But what ended up happening was a series of friendships; a gathering of people. I learned so much about myself. I learned how to cook, I learned good work etiquette, and I learned how to use tools I didn’t even know existed. When I got here I was the largest I’ve ever been and I leave here today the smallest I have been in years. I didn’t come here expecting a new home, just an escape from my own. I saw over the weeks that we all needed each other, as dysfunctional as we all were. I saw that we all needed to be pushed, not shoved. We all had something to prove to someone back home; even if it was our former selves.
We weren’t always a unit, we sure as heck didn’t start out as one; but today we stand strong together. We were all taken to our lowest points only to be picked back up by one of our own. My lowest points were the hills, but I conquered the hills every day despite the odds. I conquered those hills with the help of my crew, no, my family. I will never forget the sweat, I will never forget the white wall tents, I will never forget the hills, but what is forever sketched in my head are the faces, the smiles, the laughter. I miss you already yellow crew, my family of yellow blood. Thank you all.
South 4, 2015
We stood atop a mountain in the Red Buttes Wilderness surveying all that was before us in the valleys below. We came to peace in our own minds as we tackled the inner struggles both of us had been dealing with throughout the session. We had found our place in the wilderness where no man belongs. Our place in the NYC Family. Before the session began, we were lost. Meandering around town with no vision or hopes for our future.
Through our first three weeks at NYC we began to find clarity and light that would guide both of us in our endeavors to come. We learned how to work as one. We belonged to a group of humble and welcoming individuals, all eager to aid each other in our quests for personal success. Being a part of NYC is much more than earning a stipend check. It is a step towards developing as well-rounded and hardworking individuals. It is a place anyone can belong and feel loved. It is a place where people of all kinds, coming for a variety of reasons can learn, feel safe, and participate in the development of self and others. Yes, NYC is much more than a stipend check; it is a home for all.
Nick and Noah
South 4, 2014
What I have come to understand is that most everything that we do at Northwest Youth Corps is meant to put us into situations that force us to grow.
This program exposes our faults in either the harshest or gentlest manner, depending on your attitude. Then NYC helps us find solutions and from there we rely on the help of our crew, crew leaders, and our own interest in self-betterment.
So many people are here for us, but it must start from within ourselves, or else it is not real and the growth will be temporary and false.
2014, Red Crew Swamper