By Nicole O'Brien
CFS welcomes guest blog writer, Nicole O'Brien, of the YouthWork program, to share her experience as YouthWork member.
YouthWork is a program of CFS that began as pilot program in February 2018 with just 7 youth. The pilot was successful and CFS was awarded an AmeriCorps grant in the summer to continue the program and build the program, with over 150 youth participating. YouthWork allows youth to develop important job skills and experience while exploring their strengths, aptitudes, and interests. The program helps youth and young adults gain an appreciation for the ecosystems that surround them and for the needs of their community. They learn that they have a voice and a stake in the future—their future.
We appreciate Nicole taking the time to document her adventures. In this installment she describes attending the YouthWork summer kick off and orientation event that occurred last June. For more information about YouthWork, visit our webpage.
The birds are chirping and the sun is blazing as I make my way into Gilbert Lodge at Twin Lakes Park, eagerly anticipating the start of a new term at Youthwork. I find myself in a spacious oak den. The den features a high ceiling with beams on either side. I am greeted by Crew Leader Adam Smith. “How are you?” he asks me. Then he says, “Thanks for coming.” I nod at him with a smile. I look around at my surroundings. Tables are set up to sit our forty plus members for the next few days during information sessions. These would include what it means to be an AmeriCorps member, environmental hazards, and a first-aid rundown.
Within minutes, the sound of a piano filled the air. The sun shines through the window. I smile and feel content with life.
Apart from our indoor information sessions, two major events take place while I was present. The first occurred when we all gathered in a circle in the shining sun to cover the "leave no trace" mentality led by our Crew Leader Coordinator, Rick Magee. Before discussing “leave no trace” we all went around the circle, introducing ourselves and explaining our role with YouthWork or which crew we belong to. “Leave no trace” means exactly what it implies. Once finished at a site, leave no evidence anyone was there, outside of the service in progress.
Before I left for the day, I decided to strike up a conversation with one of my co-members, Alex Washburn. “My name is Nicole O’Brien, what’s your name?"
“Alex,” he responds.
“Underwood?” I ask with curiosity.
“Washburn,” he replies with a smile.
"I may interview you tomorrow,” I inform him, as I zoom to my car.
The second most important event for me took place the second day. Rick had each of the crew leaders meet with their members, outlining expectations. Initially, I went outside to listen in on the Newaygo crew, but I went inside unable to find their crew leader, Deb.
“Are you ok?” asks my colleague, Jeremiah Smithinggell, as I make my way through the door.
“Yes, I got it.” I assure him,“Thanks.”
“How fast does that thing go?” he asks, as I make my way to the deck to listen in on Adam’s conversation with his crew. The wind brushes my skin as I listen intently. Afterwards, I make my way back into the lodge.
“Jeremiah,” I holler.
“Do you want to see how fast my chair goes?” Before I knew it he is standing right next to me.
“You got yourself a cool rig.” he says.
I’m thankful I had this opportunity. With the type of service I do it is nice to establish a personal connection with my co-members so that they are more than just names on a sheet of paper. I seldom have the opportunity to establish a personal connection with my colleagues because they are often busy on service projects.
I interview members throughout the day, and I asked the Upper Peninsula crew leader, Tyler Rosemergy “What is your motto?” He responds "Send It!" I really like this motto.
I asked Tyler Fender, a previous YouthWork member, "What is the hardest task you've completed with YouthWork?" He recounted a project where he and his crew members had to carry wood a grueling two miles back and forth to build a boardwalk along a river.
Throughout our group meetings, Bill Watson, our program director, was quick to remind members, “Don’t forget your boots!” I’m certain my colleagues will be using those boots for some challenging tasks this term. Those of us at YouthWork have been through a lot of adversity. We are ready for anything. Just like Tyler eagerly stated, "Send it baby, Send it!"