Another New Partnership, Another Impactful Adventure
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
by Mary Williams, YouthWork Team Leader and Member Support
I begin each season at YouthWork with an immediate and immense level of respect for our new Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) members. I feel this way (strongly) because regardless of how amazing the Youth Corps experience is, it can be quite the step out of one’s comfort zone. I participated in several YCC programs as a teenager, so I know from experience the fluctuating and unforgiving waves of excitement and discomfort that can accompany this adventure. This summer, a group of young adults from Detroit not only took this leap to join but did so knowing they would be hundreds of miles from home for most of their summer-- gaining service experience and making a difference throughout Northern Michigan.
SER Metro-Detroit, the organization we partnered with, recruited select individuals who were connected through their program and seemed interested in our positions. Five venturous individuals (Jayden, Alicia, Christina, Azteca, and Shanya) and their encouraging leader, Alexis, decided to check it out. We had the privilege of hosting their team while facilitating unique skills in a service setting, making this partnership mutually beneficial and an exciting new adventure for everyone involved.
During their 8 weeks with us, the crew served at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Chippewa Run Natural Area (Empire), Twin Lakes Park (Traverse City), Maple Bay Natural Area (Traverse City), Hiawatha National Forest (Munising, Upper Peninsula), River Raisin Battlefield Park (Monroe), and spent time serving their own community in Detroit. At these locations the team groomed trail, built trail, removed invasives, cleared and restored historic structures and historic views, washed historic Great Lakes boats, painted spaces, uncovered hidden amphitheaters, mulched baby trees, and participated in many smaller projects. Shanya, who was always eager to learn new skills, remembers how she “learned how to work a Weed Wacker and how to build a boardwalk. It was nice seeing the work we did after it was done.” In these areas, the crew also managed to see a ton of natural landscapes and the wildlife they harbor. Alicia, a lover of animals, mentioned how much she liked “seeing baby vultures in a barn we were working in!”
Throughout the entirety of their experience, I was continually impressed by the crew’s drive to explore. Even after a full day of service, they emanated this sense of adventure, finding new recreation spots and everything they had to offer. One especially outgoing member, Christina, mentioned how she “enjoyed seeing all the waterfalls in the UP.” Another member, Shanya, said “something I really enjoyed was seeing all the animals in Traverse City. The cows, the horses, and on our last day we even saw a bear! I also enjoyed all of the beaches!” Some of our staff, as northern Michigan residents, have yet to see a local bear, so finds like these were exciting for everyone!
Youth Corps days can be long and taxing, but this team always managed to push forward. Through challenges and many forms of newness, the crew persevered and grew as a team. Alexis Brown (Youth Career Coach, BA Sociology & Urban Studies), their admirable and compassionate Team Leader, said this of their time: “The best part of the whole experience was watching my crew grow and become more comfortable with the work and the environment. Some of them went from not wanting to swim in the lakes to spending hours in the lake and continually asking to go back. I watched my crew use tools they’ve never seen before as well as tools they may have seen around the house. Another great part was seeing them begin to understand the positive effect the work they were doing w
as having and would have on the community and environment.”
Witnessing these unique and strong individuals navigate such unfamiliar professional and personal terrain was the most wonderful way I could have asked to spend my summer-- the youth stepped far out of their comfort zone and absolutely soared. This partnership also created an environment for youth from different communities and backgrounds to serve and grow together. This dynamic was pivotal and aligns beautifully with our program’s ongoing goals. I am beyond grateful that the experience played out as well as we envisioned and hopeful that we continue these intentional partnerships.