Monthly Archives: July 2014

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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10 Pieces of Advice

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10 pieces of advice for a Crew Member starting their first session:

  1. Abundant amount of moleskin (easy remedy for blisters)
  2. Drink tons of water, even when you don’t want to. It will benefit you in the long run.
  3. A journal and a package of pens (they run out quickly)
  4. Long johns (certain parts of Oregon can be very cold at night)
  5. Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) there are going to be a lot of days where you feel fed up, tired, weak; you have to push yourself and stay positive. Just take 30 seconds to breathe.
  6. Pace yourself – don’t push yourself to hard though, you will get overwhelmed and exhausted easily at WORK. Even if you’re behind everyone, who cares? It’s better than breaking down and crashing.
  7. Good communication between yourself and fellow Crewmembers and CL (Crew Leader) is very important when it comes to getting tasks done at work or any kind of activity.
  8. Put others before yourself – as you’re hiking that 1 mile to the worksite and back every day, you’ll be thinking about how bad your feet hurt, how tired + frustrated you are – just remember that you’re not the only one feeling that way. Fellow Crew members feel your pain. Go out of your way to respect others too.
  9. Don’t whine or complain too much this refers to #8 too – it’s important to keep a positive mental attitude and PUSH yourself through your own toughest CHALLENGES. This doesn’t apply to surviving NYC, but in life too.
  10. Step out of your comfort zone and band w/ your fellow CM/CL – you’ll be living with them for 6 weeks. Make the best out of it and most importantly, have fun at appropriate times. =)

Written By: Kayla

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Notes from the Field – 2014

Week 3

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This week the Golden Boys went deep into Nature. They hiked about four miles to Trinity Summit, where they set up camp and took advantage of a small Forest Service cabin. They worked on clearing house and hiking trails where massive logs had fallen across the trail with a cross cut saw. The Trinity Alps were breathtakingly beautiful, with her high peaks scraping clouds and her grass meadows offering healing peace. The Golden Boys also saw what is known as the Center of the Universe for the Karuk People: where the Salmon and Klamath River come together.

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It Takes a Community

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It takes a community

Last week we took our final group of teenagers climbing 150 feet up into an old-growth tree. Each Outdoor Ambassadors Trip brought something new to each individual; getting into a harness and ascending into an old-growth tree, snow-shoeing, learning about the Pacific Crest Trail, and what opportunities exist on public lands. For one youth from Milwaukie, Oregon, the Outdoor Ambassador trip on June 22nd 2014 was his first trip into a forest.  “This is just all very new to me. I’ve never been around so many trees,” he says, wide-eyed.

Getting into the forest is something that I had taken for granted. As a child my dad would take my brother and I out into the woods about once a month;  pointing out trees and plants, teaching us how to stay warm and dry, and how to walk on soft, uneven ground.

I’ve learned a lot over the past 10 months serving an Americorps term with Northwest Youth Corps and the Willamette National Forest.  I’ve learned a lot about our public lands, their uses, their controversies, their locations, and the many different careers involved. I’ve met many wonderful, passionate people at both organizations who have dedicated their lives to studying, protecting, and managing the land that we are blessed to live on.

As a Community Outreach Liaison, my role at both organizations was to connect diverse, urban communities with the forest; whether for recreation, careers, or just general awareness.  I struggled a lot with the word “outreach”, and how it conjured up notions of, “hey  you  people, we have something that you should know about and you probably need our help.”  I think that notion is pervasive amongst many agencies and organizations that are predominately white and middle class and trying to connect with communities of color and other diverse communities. This notion of “outreach” also ignores the fact that access to the outdoors was not historically, nor is it currently equal across race, gender, ability, and income. Furthermore, numerous studies show that while people of color support environmental issues at a larger percentage than the general public, that they are vastly underrepresented in natural resource and environmental organizations and agencies.[1]  Having had access to the outdoors my whole life as a middle-class, white person with no disabilities, I was humbled by my own ignorance about how far we have to go in creating equal access to nature.

Humbled, and hopeful. As a part of my service, I became involved with the Forest Service’s Civil Rights unit, a group of folks that are part of the Forest Service’s Cultural Transformation effort.  The Cultural Transformation mission is to:

-Better understand, represent, and reflect the diverse citizenry we serve;

-Place high value on inclusiveness in our workforce where all employees are treated with the utmost respect;

-and to leverage our unique talents and diverse perspectives to simply be the best we can be.

Indeed, if we want to make sure that our organizations are serving the multicultural populace, we must have multicultural organizations and teams.  Outdoor Ambassadors would not have been successful without the collaboration between local youth and community organizations and multiple outdoor organizations. With funding from Merrell and Outdoor Nation, and a collaboration between the NAACP of Eugene Springfield, Juvented FACETA, Youth MOVE Oregon, The City of Eugene Parks and Recreation Outdoor Program at the River House, Northwest Youth Corps, and the Willamette National Forest, we held three fun and educational field trip for 29 youth. You can see a video summary of the project here.

So, instead of “outreach”  let’s focus on how we can  connect with one another.  Let’s connect AND listen.  Let’s find ways that we may be perpetuating the dominant power structures created during our colonial history, and explore new ways of sharing power and ideas in a multicultural society.  Let’s work together to make sure that all people, regardless of gender, race, ability, or income can access and enjoy nature.

~ Sara Worl, Americorps member

Fore more information about diversity in the outdoors, check out this article by Marcelo Bonta and Charles Jordan.


[1] Bonta, Marcelo, and Jordan, Charles. 2012. Diversifying the American Environmental Movement

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