A great and lasting experience.
Although I was getting paid to camp with total strangers in the wilderness for six weeks, asked to dig borrow pits for trails, hike miles into the mountains, and eat what looked like an unknown species in my meals, I never thought the experience would completely change my outlook on my life. My summer job was like none I have ever experienced before, I was taught how to lead among my peers, work in a team, and realize just what I was capable of. My summer experience with Northwest youth corps has been the most memorable time of my life.
We were told to pack our basic necessities, under garments, toothbrush, and boots. I had no idea what was in store for me and figured I was as ready as I would ever be. What they did not tell us is that we would actually get used to our natural odor, and accept everyone for who they really were. (Stinking or not.)
Doing this turned out to be really easy. I was able to be my self, without always wearing a smile on my face. There were times I wanted to breakdown and give up like when we had to hike five miles up the Steen Mountain Wilderness with a huge and heavy backpack on our backs. The sweat was pouring down my face in the blistering hot sun and all I could think about was a nice cold bottle of water, but all I had to drink was the warm water in a two- gallon jug that I shared with 10 other people. Many of my experiences made me realize how many things I personally take for granted.
As the first two weeks went by it seemed I was getting used to waking up when the sun rose, putting on my work outfit and boots, and looking forward to another days
Work. Each typical day we would hike to our worksite, remind ourselves of the safety precautions, and start our job whether it was sawing down branches that were in the middle of trails, making slough piles, or taking down barbed wire fencing. Each task seemed more challenging but thankfully I had a crew of people who I could ask for help when the going got tough. I learned that sometimes you cannot do things on your own and it is okay to ask for help. The relationships I built through my experience became unbreakable. One night, when we were camping backcountry I remember waking up to feel the rain drops splash on my face, our tent had forced itself out of the steaks it was under and was waving in the air like a flag getting ready to be knocked down, the boys from my crew woke up and helped us stake it back in the ground. They were willing to lose sleep and warmth in order to help us. I think that was when we realized just how much closer we had gotten. We became a family of dirty, stinky, tough teens.
I became more confident in myself. On the weekends we went to different campgrounds and met up with other crews who had in their own way gone through what we had. However, there were till kids who just did not understand how much they were growing and maturing through this job. I was able to confront those kids who were doing wrong and really just step up to the role of being a peer leader. When people needed help I was willing to be there, I just wanted to show the others that there is always someone who can help. There were prizes some people won each week for being a leader and during the second weekend, I was given one and I was just so shocked that it was me because I did not realize people saw me as a helpful person. I was really excited that I could make a difference to teens my own age.
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The six weeks soon came to an end, and yet I was not ready to go home but I was eager to share my experiences with others and just use what I knew to my advantage. When I got home my family saw how different I was, they said I was more open, confident, and more willing to work. I did another session of this job as soon as I got back. This experience was not just something I did and then went home to be who I used to be, I carry this experience with me and use what I learned from it. When I went to the second session, it was a little bit different because I was able to go home everyday, but because I was experienced in the job, I was able to help the fresh faces I saw on my crew with tasks they were not familiar with, whether it was how to use the tools properly or just the advice of not wearing make up unless you wanted your face to melt off. Though these are more physical things I learned, I also learned to respect my crew leader and my crewmembers and just really work hard and work efficiently.
My experience with northwest youth corps was like no other. There were many things I learned like, teamwork, trust, maturity, and working hard. Being on my own was a new and different experience but it prepared me for my future. Summer ended but my memory and what I learned I will always remember.