At the end of May, I returned from Tombigbee National Forest in Mississippi to begin training and orientation with my fellow Youth Crew Leaders. Despite missing the first few days because of the hitch with Purple Crew, the new leaders welcomed me in as we collectively learned and endured through First Aid and CPR training; PowerPoint presentations on Texas ecology and herbicide application; cutting through cedar with chainsaws; and, a fan favorite, paperwork and billing training.
Coming in midway through the training, especially after a long hitch, it was hard to know what to expect. Though I had already undergone a member orientation when I first arrived in January, now I was preparing to run a crew of my own. Besides Dylan, a fellow Field Crew member, there were five people whom I had never met before, including Chloe, the other Arkansas Youth Crew Leader, and there was not much time before the first crew members arrived for their orientation. However, it wasn’t long before my nerves settled, thanks to a day at Alma de Mujer Center for Social Change with John Thoms of the Austin Independent School District. Not only was it a beautiful location and welcome relief from the long hours in the classroom, the day was an opportunity to interact with one another in greater depth as we discussed the importance of earnest engagement with youth (and anyone for that matter). It’s a reminder how much can be accomplished with a nice porch in the shade if you have a group of people speaking and listening to one another sincerely with a common goal. Along with several staff members and Phoebe, a crew leader now working out of San Antonio, we were able to learn new ways of approaching situations we might encounter during the season as well as reevaluating old experiences so that we might continue to grow from them. With John leading the conversation, we were able to draw on his many years working in behavior support and as a teacher to understand how the classroom experience might translate to the field. Even on the verge of splitting off to run our different crews and engage in the larger work we sought to undertake by joining TxCC, it was reassuring to find commonality in experience and perspective between us, knowing that even through differences, interacting with others sincerely and with hope for the best of all, we are able to work together towards tangible solutions. Now, some weeks since then and preparing to head off to Arkansas with Chloe, this is the day I remember most from orientation and a day I am sure I will refer back to as the season goes on. I don’t doubt that others feel the same way. Plus, there was copious amounts of coffee. And Chris bought goat cheese. We ate goat cheese at lunch. Thanks for that Chris.
Ben Schell, Arkansas Youth Conservation Corps Crew Leader