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.


A Home for All

Noah Steward and Nick Jones blog

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

Blue Crew

South 4, 2014

From Within

Noah Perrson blog

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


Dirt Movers, Earth Changers


My heart goes out to all the 9 to 5’ers in the world, cubicles all to themselves. The feeling hits me seeing the Sisters silhouettes in the near distance on the morning commute, or when finally fitting a boulder into place. I am so grateful that rather than pencil pushers, we are rock carriers, dirt movers, earth changers who of course only matter in their context- a crew, a program, an ecosystem.

We are a technophilic society collecting material possessions and Facebook likes. I am collecting gravel in an effort to create a balanced place to stand.  And once that is done, we return to camp to learn and eat and sleep- but who knows, come tomorrow, what roughness needs smoothing; what path needs following to fix a thing or two before the storms of winter come.


Crew Leader, Fall 2014

Go Blue – Deaf and Hard of Hearing Crew!


This is session #2 for me this summer. Every day it was hard work but I did a good job and it was a great experience. On the trail every day, I worked with my blue crew and we supported each other as a team working together. I learned new skills and gained job experience when we worked on different projects. This was an awesome job and I liked visiting new places and meeting new people at the weekend sites. I made many new friends on my crew.

There are three deaf people on our crew this time and six hearing people and the deaf people can do as good of a job on the projects as the hearing people can do. The deaf people have legs, hands, eyes- everything they need to do a good job just like the hearing people. We proved that the deaf CAN WORK and do anything the hearing people can do. At the end of the session we all realized that we did it and we were very proud. That is why deaf people should work for NYC; we had a really good experience and learned to work very hard as a team. The deaf can do this job and I can do any job. Go Blue Crew!


Blue Crew, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Crew

2014 Youth Corps

DHH Crew

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


NYC’s Outdoor High School


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



10 Pieces of Advice

South 2 Kayla

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

South 2

Notes from the Field – 2014

Week 3

Yellow Crew

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.

Picture for blog