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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