It Takes a Community

Tree Raft 062014 100

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


I Am Beyond Grateful


20 years ago today, I was dropped off at Fort Warden state park in Port Townsend to start working with Northwest Youth Corps. 8 weeks of work in the woods I was told, a paycheck I was told, new experiences I was told.

All of that came to fruition, but also such incredible change and self-discovery. What an amazing journey that season and the following four would offer. Now seven years have passed since I decided to come and give back to such an amazing organization.

I look back at all of my experiences here as well as this past week, I can help but smile.

I love this life. I am beyond grateful.

Jeff Olsen

Northwest Youth Corps

Program Manager

The Golden Moments That Shaped Who I Am Today

Blog4-29-14I was a member of the Yellow crew back in either ‘94 or ‘95. Found my old hard hat in a box in the attic recently, just reminiscing.  It has stickers signifying my skills I had mastered, and messages written in sharpie from all of my team members I spent 5 weeks with one summer. Sigh, good memories. We all bonded like sisters and brothers, from all states, and all walks of life. We had written letters and kept in touch that following school year, and then sadly drifted apart as we embraced our high school reality.

Just remembering those long, strenuous days of packing in our tools, lunches, GORP, and gallon jugs of yellow (treated) water. We did trail making, and slash piling, I learned how to use a pick ax and what good, honest, physical labor was all about. I had a sense of pride at the end of the day as I looked back at my work, and how our team help keep the forest safe from fires. The smell of the trees and earth was all around us, and the clear air filled our lungs are we huffed it to and from the work site.  We all wore the same dirty blue jeans, shirts, boots, hard hats, packs, and huge smiles as we walked back to camp each day. The girls and guys set up their separate tent and sleeping bags, made the fire, then dinner, and the best part was eating the dinner we cooked ourselves as a team!

I gained so much in that summer, I learned how to break social boundaries, gained friendships, no longer a self centered teenager, I learned how to be part of a team! I became more respectful of my crew leaders, and appreciative of their knowledge and guidance. I looked forward to weekend mail call, I received a card from my then high school sweetheart, and now husband each Saturday. I realized how much I missed and loved my family, they sent a letter or gift every weekend. I shared the sugar and cool-aid packets with my crew, thanx Mom. Each weekend our crew would go out and explore Oregon’s beautiful playground, one time we even went rafting with all of the crew’s, that was a blast! We would meet in town and go to the laundry mat, go to the market and load up on candy, oh ya. Looking back on those summer days and nights, remembering how tired, yet energized we were setting up camp, building a fire, or learning how to cook out of a Dutch oven, are cherished memories. Those are golden moments that shaped who I am today. The love I have for our mighty Ponderosa Pine tress, the respect and awareness of nature. The can-do attitude toward hard work, the patience and integrity of a team player, and the deep desire to connect with people and community.

Those 5 weeks of summer seemed to last forever, and yet, wasn’t long enough. On the big white bus ride home there was a feeling of bittersweet, as we all wanted to continue on, we missed home. There was loud chatter of the highlights of adventures together, friendships founded, and laughter almost the entire drive back. But then there was silence as we drove into town, thoughts of self reflection, sadness, anticipation, and ultimately a feeling that I was ready to embrace the world with a positive attitude, and ambition that I discovered within myself while at Northwest Youth Corps.


Kristina (Davis) Mae Clarke

Eugene, OR

LDP 2005



Like a benediction, we grow into a smaller language. So many words given up, disremembered, abandoned from tents & saw packs. What use here in the Middle Santiam Wilderness do we have for the word sink? When would we ever utter closetor phone or bank account? These words as unneeded as any third thumb, as unneeded as money or wallet or credit card. Girlfriend becomes little more than a weekend ghost. I give to you TV. I give to you movie theatre. I give to you radio. Do you want more words that these backwoods winds strip away? Take traffic jam.Take fuel pump. Take the 9-to-5. God, take commuting pavement. Take asphaltconcrete. Take, please, we beg of you, microwave. Take power lines. Take nightly news. We give them all away.

Those words, they ache our new memories.

February 21, 2014 By 

 lives on a lake in northern Vermont and serves as a professor at Norwich University. He is the co-editor of The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre, an anthology that delves into the questions surrounding creative nonfiction. To read more of Sean’s poetry, creative essays, and poems, please visit his website.

Things Changed For Me

Blog 2

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.


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

LVEF Garden


This past summer was the first year that the Laurel Valley Educational Farm has had summer interns. It was very successful and made not only the summer fun and productive but we were also extra prepared as we moved into fall and winter. The interns gained experience in every aspect of farm, from the exciting side- planting and harvesting, to the mundane and tedious side- weeding and clearing paths. One of the interns tried some vegetables for the first time, while another intern got to hone her cooking skills, preparing interesting lunches with our produce for us once a week.

There was a wide variety of personalities and skills but we all got along great and enjoyed working together as a group when the task called for it. I got to share my knowledge of gardening with interested and eager learners and I grew in my ability to communicate a concept or task more clearly. I visited an interns home garden she put in after her summer here and it looks great! Having interns in the garden was a very rewarding experience!

Lane Wallick

Garden Coordinator

Sounds of Melody & Malady

Jeff LDP Blog pic

Over the few weeks I’ve dedicated to NYC, & under the many conditions that have challenged my metal, I’ve become accustomed to the litany of surprises and the fortitude to face the issues as a team and a decider. I consider myself in the wilds debt: I see the progress and impact this conservation work and I consider myself an ally to the wild. I consider myself lucky to have ambled & ached across another auspicious and arduous assessment. Submitting to the whims and woes of a community like this was indeed daunting. I was reluctant to pledge my time to living in measure that intimidated my routine and network of accommodations. But I am not isolated out here on the trails; I have a circus of chums that I’d never considered as a true benefit to my hard work. I’m discovering muscles and sinus that I’d never asked, and developing what my voice is in a productive community. There are cold nights, no doubt, full of sound and flurries, signifying an icy awakening, but my curiosity and direction are aglow. So consider these subtle and stressed sounds of our shared labor.

Sounds of melody & malady.

Sounds of folly & friends.

Sounds like…

the brutal blurb of a water baby back being shuffled off strained shoulders.

Sounds like…

the stiff necked cartilage crackles of distant felled ponderosas buckling at the knees and topping over with dramatic gusto like a gunned down henchman in a grainy old western film. Or, the viral vexation of an impromptu trail song, bellowing with whole-hearted and heinous off key enthusiasm. Or, the march of slumber-eyed crew members schlepping their still snow soaked rain gear over beautifully exposed turf… The sultry hiss of a morning tin pot of boiling creek water and the enticing, caffeinated promise it brings… the dawning cacophony of crepuscular campsite creatures bustling in stereological anticipation of the nights parade… the alarming scrape of a hazel hoe as it unearths a microwave sized granite rock; newly commenced to the surface elements and sworn now to a mountain side oath for another epoch… the muted mumble of oats and raisins in our collective breakfast jowls, masticating with muscle memory and embolden bellies. I’ll not soon forget these sounds that I’ve earned on this crew. I’ve earned the right to know its worth fighting the good fight; and return home with these relics from a conservation family, safe and sound.

Jeff Payne


Being Part of a Team

K-Falls Blog pic

While working with NYC this summer I have learned many valuable things, many of which will help me later on in life. One thing I learned that I know will help me in life is teamwork. Being a team is working together and helping each other to accomplish a common goal. I’ve learned not only how to work in teams but individually also. I’ve learned that you’re not necessarily always going to enjoy or want to work with others around you but you have to put your differences apart to get the job done.

Another skill I have acquired is how to properly use different tools. I learned the proper way to stand when using things such as grubbers, what you can cut with loppers and what you’d need a hand saw to cut through, and that you can use a McCloud for raking and cutting. I was also introduced to and learned how to use a t-post puller.

Another thing that I’ve learned that no good ever comes from treating others negatively, even when others are treating you poorly. Instead of stooping to their level, kill them with kindness. I am very thankful for all of the opportunities I have had while working this summer! I have enjoyed working with and getting to know my crew and crew leader.  


OutDoor Oregon

Klamath Falls