The Environmental Corps Ethic

As a relative rookie to the practice of cutting down a tree, it would be easy to mistake the superficial simplicity of the actual process for dishonor or disrespect. It takes no more than a second for that tree to meet the ground, yet, for me, I cannot fathom a more ineffably reverential moment in time. I joke often about getting to play lumberjack to people who want a more concrete explanation of what I do and it comes as no surprise, in a culture that is somewhat beginning to capitulate to the whims of an environment that tires of our wasteful fickleness, that I am met with disapproval for eliminating from the landscape a general embodiment of good and majesty that is a tree. Yet, from the moment I began to listen to the voices at AYW who continue to teach me the particulars about all the facets of my job, notably the tree felling, I have never met a group of people who venerate the outdoors and instill that attitude in their proteges as effectively. The acute focus and scholarly attention to detail involved in our job at Bastrop State Park is an extension of the devotion of the staff. Being the aforementioned newcomer to this arena, it is rewarding to see that a job with rough-edged connotations can inconspicuously be as technical and comprehensive as it is. At a certain point, all the little things we do to pass the time, be they as grandiose as cutting down a loblolly pine or seemingly insignificant as digging into clay-ridden soil, organically coalesce into a sense of pride, enjoyment, and esteem in my work that has been unmatched by anything else I have ever done and may ever do. Sometimes it seems so simple to others, no more and no less than manual labor, but the uninitiated have yet to stand in my shoes and see how the cumulative effects of our work are an amalgamation of a lot of passion for the environment that we live in and share with others. It combines to create an everlasting, concrete appreciation for every gear in the machinations of the natural world; both for me and hopefully for the incognizant hiker who rightfully pays little mind to a bridge built, by our crew, with wood from a tree that possibly fell at my hands. That need to perpetuate admiration for our parks and, by extension, nature itself, namely by providing an outlet for such excursions, has been fostered in me since the day I joined up and will be something I hope to impart on others indefinitely.

John Hernandez, Bastrop State Park Restoration Crew Member

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Parents of E-Corps

In Environmental Corps I have the privilege of working with many colleagues that inspire me with their work ethic, perseverance, and optimism. I am most impressed by the E-Corps members who show up with a smile on their face, put in a hard day’s work, and then go home to their second job- being a parent. E-Corps parents know how to build trails, run chainsaws, and change diapers. When they show up to American YouthWorks on time and prepared for the day, I know that they got up early to get their child ready for preschool as well. I am impressed by their dedication.

When asked about their personal goals, they ubiquitously state that they are not only in E-Corps because they care about the environment; they are also here to make a better future for themselves and their family. It’s a physically and mentally demanding job, but there are undeniable perks to being able to support their families with a steady wage, work towards graduation, and earn a scholarship for higher education simultaneously. I love speaking with them about their plans after graduation, and it is always exciting when they talk about wanting to continue conservation work as a career in the future. In addition, they help inspire the next generation of environmental stewards, as they often take their kids to site on the weekends to hike and see what they’re working on.

They are great crew members, and they really understand how to help make the crew love each other like family. They are great parents because they are a great example for their kids; they work to help the community, and embody the mission of AmeriCorps- they get things done for America! As a crew leader, it is pleasure to work with young men and women that not only fulfill their responsibilities as crew members, but also inspire all of us to challenge ourselves to aim high and fulfill our goals, in spite of hardship or obstacles. The parents of E-Corps show us all that with intention, hard work, and a positive attitude, we can all achieve success.

Madeline Enos – SLA Crew Leader