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Youth Program

[Image Description: A MCC member stands on an overlook, looking out at the mountainous landscape. They are wearing their uniform and holding a seed dispersal tool.]

Finding Inspiration Through Service

Crew leader Nicole stands with two youth crew members on the Bison Range

After years of guiding summer expeditions during college, serving as an MCC Youth Expedition leader provided me with challenges and successes that I had never experienced elsewhere. Completing hands-on conservation projects with youth brought a new meaning to leading expeditions for me. Instead of simply recreating in these beautiful spaces, we were learning about their history, contributing to their maintenance, and growing as individuals. 
One hitch stands out in particular. We were working on the National Bison Range with a highly motivated, spunky crew. As usual, it was a great mix of personalities, but this group took the time to listen to others and have meaningful discussions about their differences. They were willing to help with chores at a moment's notice and truly learned how to work as a cohesive team. I saw individuals take on leadership roles and express themselves in ways that they hadn’t felt comfortable doing previously. And I saw the impact that the landscape had on this group who became especially motivated to engage with their community and take on new conservation projects in the future. 
But what really stood out from this hitch was just how transformational it was for one of the participants. While traversing the rolling plains of the Bison Range, they started to consider the path their life was on at the moment. They realized how much they enjoyed the extended time outside and the peace that came with it. More importantly, they pushed themselves to learn about their fellow crewmates. They wanted to hear and understand different points of view which led to revelations about wanting to connect with more people in their daily life and wanting to pursue an outdoor leadership job. When we were debriefing at the end of the Expedition, I remember this participant saying that they were excited to have connected with different personalities and that it broadened their perspectives. They said they learned something new about themselves, the land, or their crew every day and they were able to be their true self. 
This hitch embodied the purpose of the MCC youth expeditions - to encourage youth to become leaders, stewards of the land, and to be engaged in their communities and with each other. It was an incredible journey to see the reflection from this individual and the outcome of them wanting to spend more time in nature, fight for justice, and push themselves out of their comfort zone. Facilitating this transformation and leading other crews helped strengthen my passion for youth development, which inspired me to come back to MCC as a Youth Program Coordinator. This season, I am excited to provide the support and compassion that I felt from my supervisors last season. Most of all, I am looking forward to us all celebrating the joy and achievement that is felt at the end of each hitch, knowing we have had an impact on many young lives.