Who knew that September is the calm month for the National Park Service youth programs. While it’s been a bit slow there has been lots of office planning time, debrief/reflection periods, and writing up of summer statistics. It’s also been great to be able to take some vacation time after a busy summer. I traveled via road trip to knock off visiting my final nine continental United States and managed to spend lots of outdoor time exploring public lands!
While reflecting on our YMCA Discovery Camps and our Youth Conservation Corp summer programs, I felt so proud of what our team was able to accomplish in eight short weeks! To see how excited the young campers were to receive their junior ranger badges and buddy bisons that we passed out made me full of joy. When hosting our YCC share out event for the park and family/friends of our high school aged employees I was honored to be able to introduce our fantastic team of young people and share with others all that they had accomplished this summer. I’ll now share my proudest moments here as well!
My two highlights of the summer were watching YCC employees go kayaking and taking them on their first ever camping trip. We took some time on a Monday to go over water safety and the how-tos of kayaking. As a group of about 10 we headed out to the Mystic River in Boston and paddled for a few hours. In particular I was extremely proud of one YCC who was terrified of the water and the kayak. We put her in a tandem with an Education Technician who was experienced and while she wanted to go back to shore immediately, she stuck through it, eventually picking up her paddle and having a great time! At the end she even mentioned going again and taking her little brother to teach him.
The second highlight was our end of summer camping trip to Peddocks Island in the Boston Harbor. We had previously taken YMCA campers to the island teaching them how to fish with our partners at Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries and set up tents. However, we learned that none of our high school employees had ever been tent camping themselves, so we set out to camp and complete a service-learning activity. I felt so inexperienced as I’ve only camped myself or with family/friends - never have I had to lead a large group in a carry in/carry out camping trip. I had the full support of my team here which had many experienced campers, thank goodness, and made the trip a great time. We spent one night on the island and of course it poured rain starting at 2:00 am until the time we left around 1:00 pm. Not only did our YCC staff never complain, they embraced the rain, getting soaking wet, and still spent time learning about microplastics and picking up trash off the beach. It was a great trip and I made them all promise they will try camping again in better weather!
I’m so grateful for the experience of being a program lead and am looking forward to transitioning to leading field trips for local Boston Public School teachers throughout the rest of my term.