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Oregon Youth Conservation Corps Training: Bend

It’s early Wednesday morning as I slip out of a stiff, plastic covered dorm room bed, in a grumblingly and discombobulated manner. A phone alarm rings incessantly on the other side of a thick brick wall while its owner takes a shower, totally unaware she’s disturbing my peace. Sleeping in became my prerogative after learning I checked in a day early; returning crew leaders have a check in time today between two and five. After last night’s incredibly itchy-hot temperatures and a continuous nightmare of a stalker outside of my dorm room, a few extra hours of shut-eye seemed ideal; that is, as long as the stalker didn’t follow me into the early afternoon’s slumber. I’ll never know. I realized how thirsty I was anyway and my Nalgene was nowhere to be found. Where did I put it? Backtracking in my mind, I might remember setting it down as I was getting my room key and this week’s training information.

With five minutes before close, I slide in for the last breakfast call, loading up on some oatmeal and cantaloupe. There are no to-go tea containers and the small cups available are not satisfying my morning tea ritual requirements. In the back of my mind I’m slowly hitting my head against a wall for forgetting my thermos. Scanning the cafeteria, I see somewhat familiar faces and make my way toward them. I sit down. The guy to my left I recognize from last year, the other to my right may or may not have been there. The two young women across from me are new, which I only know from small talk in the girl’s dorm bathroom this morning. Which by the way has a urinal. When I first caught a glimpse of it I panicked, looking around and for a quick moment assuming I was in the men’s.

The crew leaders began to trickle out, making their way towards the OYCC welcome on the East side of campus. I finished my oatmeal while the janitor sings and whistles to himself a few tables away, sweeping and placing folded chairs against the wall. Now and again he hits a rough high note and I see him glance over, perhaps wondering whether or not he should be self-conscious. I pay him no special attention and he relaxes back into his sweet bluesy rhythms. My tea is running dry and I head upstairs to the coffee shop on site.

The young girl serving me has hand drawn eye lashes going up to her brows. It’s less like eyelashes and more like a really awesome piece of art. It’s cool and unique and I tell her I dig what she’s done with them. She thanks me and says she has a genetic condition where she doesn’t grow eyelashes. I lean forward, maybe too close for comfort and squint my eyes, verifying that’s a real thing. It is and there’s something about no eyelashes I think is totally awesome. Maybe because we live in a society where women are gluing crap onto their eyes because that’s what we’ve been told current beauty is, while this beautiful gal is rockin’ the no lash and getting all artsy on us. I think she’s onto something.


We’re on the Central Oregon Community College in Bend, a gorgeous spot in the high desert surrounded by non-stop mountain views. College campuses are one of my favorite destinations. It could be because I spent so many years on university campuses, between University of Idaho, Washington State University and Portland State University. All my senses tickle with delight; it’s almost as if I can feel this is a place where academic studies abound. Knowledge is close by. With every entrance into a building smells ignite memories long forgotten. Chapters of my life lost in the depths of experience resurface and let me read them momentarily, allowing me to remember myself more fully. In these moments I feel greater wholeness.

We’re on the campus for a few days of non-stop trainings, presented by the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps team and Synergo. The OYCC is one of the main partnerships of our school, Columbia River Youth Corps, during our summer program. There’s a video here where you can get more information as to what the OYCC does for Oregon’s youth and in environmental conservation. The work is super powerful and makes a huge different among at-risk teens.

Facilitation of these trainings is mainly through Synergo, a company I’m looking forward to begin working with as soon as we get into August. I’ve already started shadowing with them and just need to complete a specific training before I get more involved. Much of their work includes the installation of zip lines, high ropes and low ropes courses, but also includes group leadership development through these elements, retreats and workshops. That, of course, is where I’m trying to fit in; facilitating such group leadership development and guiding on zip lines. The thought of such work makes me wanna do a little jiggle!

Back to the present. This will be my second summer of work crew, although it’s also what I have been doing all year long. The summer is, in many ways, pretty different than the school year; my crew members are paid, rather than just part of the school. During the school year I bounce between two crews with another crew leader, rather than having seven students to myself. Projects vary between site maintenance on wetlands and streams, invasive species removal, fence building/tearing down, tree planting and more. Over the next six weeks we’ll be tackling these types of projects while typically camping nearby, Monday through Thursday of every week.

Last year, coming in as a newbie crew leader had its rough patches. Lessons were learned. I became more familiarized with tools, the general area of Columbia County and the northern Oregon coast, our sponsors, the projects, and leading a group of teens. My trailer backing skills improved, although some might contest such a proclamation after that huge rock I hit last month. It left a dent in the trailer, but I mean… Come on, it was early. Who can back up a trailer when they haven’t even had their caffeine yet? Am I right? Anyone? …Anyhow, as I said, lessons were learned.

Coming to Bend for these trainings is something I get stoked on. I mean, this is the stuff that gets me fired up. Leadership development? Working with at-risk teens? Environmental conservation? Personal and group growth? Experiential learning? Facilitating games and reflection? You wanna talk to me about the stuff that feeds my soul, this is it. This is my J O B to learn and practice these things and I am way coo wit it.

While this previous year allowed me to get my feet wet (okay, if we’re going to be real I got totally soaked), this next year is the year I get to fine tune my skills. The opportunity to wield the type of intention I was hoping for didn’t happen this last year… I was too overwhelmed with all the other things I was learning and integrating. But now, having my footing figured out, I can finally begin to breathe and figure out better ways to implement my own creative signature on the crew. Better yet, I can develop a structure where the crew itself can weave the type of learning environment where all of them will thrive.

Well, day one down and three to go. I may or may not report on the next couple of days, but I’m eager to keep on digging into the awesome insights, skills and experience those around me here have to offer. Cheers to another day in beautiful Bend!

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