This summer, I participated in environmental service work with an organization called Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. RMYC focuses on engaging younger people in the outdoors more. It inspires them to use their strengths and teaches responsibility, community, environmental work, teamwork, service, and experiential service. The participants work on developing healthy lifestyles by working on meaningful community service projects. The projects focus on protecting habitats while still maintaining outdoor recreational amenities.
To get a position in Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, you must apply and then get interviewed, which I did over the phone in February 2020. I was asked questions such as “Why are you interested in working at RMYC” and “What kind of work have you done in the past”. I was asked questions about why I thought I was qualified to work there and what community service I had done before. After waiting nervously for about 2 weeks, I received an email on my birthday telling me that I had been accepted to work at RMYC during the summer.
I worked in a 2 week session. The first week was Monday-Friday and I would go to work at 8:00 am every day and get picked up at 4:00 pm. My crew leaders told us at the beginning of the week that they would later in the session give us all an evaluation of our work. They told us to work hard and to focus so we could get good scores. My crew’s first project was to walk through downtown Steamboat Springs and clean out trash, weeds, and dead leaves from all the grates at the bottom of the trees. Some other projects we worked on during the week were cutting down willows that were flooding a neighborhood, planting willows near a creek that was recently built, picking up a lot of trash, and helping clean up a walking trail that another RMYC crew previously created.
Working in town was a little bit stressful sometimes because it was very crowded and we were required to wear masks because of the Coronavirus. While working in town, I had a few people come up to me and some of my coworkers to say thank you for what we were doing. There were also a few people that came up to me to ask “So, what kind of trouble did all of you kids cause that you’re being punished for?” Whenever I was asked this, I was kind of shocked that they would just assume that we were being forced to do this work as a punishment. When this happened, I would just calmly tell them that we had actually all volunteered and been interviewed to be here and do this work. The people would look at me and say something like, “Oh! Well, good for you kids!”.
The 2nd week we camped while working on our project. My crew was working in the mountains with the forest service to help build a mountain biking trail. Our job was to dig all of the boulders out of the trail, rake and pull out weeds, shape the turns, and flatten and pat down the surface of the trail. During my 6-7 hours of work each day, we enjoyed a beautiful mountain view.
On the first morning, I knew that it would be kind of chilly but I was not prepared for it to be as cold as it was. We all woke up while it was sleeting and some people woke up to snow on their tents. Each night, one of the crew leaders would work with some of the kids to make everyone dinner. Some of the meals we had were chili-mac, walking tacos, curry and rice, and burgers. Every morning, my friend and I would wake up first with one of the leaders and make breakfast for everyone. I was mostly in charge of making sure the fire was going which was fun. During the two week session, our crew (mostly the boys) got a lot of injuries including throwing up, a broken arm, a bloody nose, and one of them blacking out from banging his head on a rock. They were such silly boys!
My crew was made up of 13 people in total with 2 crew leaders, 8 boys, and 3 girls. It was a little difficult to make friends because all of the kids except for one of my friends, knew each other from school. I feel like I made friends with most of the kids by the end of the week, but I especially became friends with the two other girls. For the whole two weeks, I felt pride each day when I was told almost daily by the crew leaders that we were doing such a good job and thanked us for listening and working hard.
I was really nervous about my work evaluation. On Wednesday of our camping week, my leaders told us they would begin giving evaluations, so I asked one of my leaders, if they could do mine first so I could get it out of the way and not feel nervous about it anymore. On your work evaluation, you’re given about 10 different scores based on things like how well you worked with the crew, your leadership, if you wore the proper safety material, and how hard you worked. On each score, you get a number from 1 to 5 ranking you on how well you did in each of those categories. When my leader showed me the scoring paper, I looked at him shocked. The page showed that I had gotten a perfect 5 on every score on my entire evaluation. My leader explained to me why I had been given these scores and that they hadn’t been planning on giving me anything to improve on, but last minute they decided to say that I could improve on being myself more and being more confident. I understood why they would say this because I also thought that I could have been a little more confident when talking to my crew members. When I went back to work with my crew, I had a very large smile on my face because I was so happy. I was very proud of myself, and was happy that my evaluation had gone much better than I had honestly expected it to go.
Working with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps taught me many things and showed me a lot about myself. I learned that it is okay to have fun at work, as long as you are still getting your job done and working hard. RMYC also taught me that in order for you to accomplish things and earn respect you need to be respectful to others, yourself, and to work hard. During my session, I learned that I have to keep myself focused otherwise I can’t get anything done and that it is important to have self-discipline. Working helped me be much more responsible, and I learned that I can be a good coworker. Rocky Mountain Youth Corps pays each worker for their session and I wanted to make sure that I earned my money instead of getting paid for not really doing the work or not working hard. While working at RMYC for about 7 hours a day for two weeks, I earned about $750. I plan to use the money to save up for a car.
Working with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps was a life-changing experience that taught me many life skills that I will use in my life. It was my first time working and I’m so happy it was my first job. I am incredibly grateful I was given the opportunity to work at Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and I hope to do it again next summer!
If you’re interested in learning more about RMYC, you can follow this link to their website.