In the summer of 2017, I decided to do something spontaneous that I’d never thought I’d sign up for. It all started in the spring of 2017 when Darian Lightfoot (helps run the ASL (American Sign Language) Inclusion Crews, love love love her, by the way) came to present about NorthWest Youth Corps at my school. I was hesitant hearing about it at first, but I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. So, I grabbed my laptop and started the application process.
After I applied and got accepted, I started to get more and more nervous. It mentioned..a full 5 weeks with no electronics allowed (which I was totally fine with), once a week showers (I like to be clean), and working with the environment (lopping trees, making water culverts, making trails and widening them, and so much more) for 8-9 hours a day..that didn’t sound like me at all.
The first day of camp, my mom drove me to Wenatchee, Washington for orientation day. I was really nervous. Luckily, two people that I know went to camp with me..Masyn Gleffe and Terrance Price. Masyn is a brother to me, and and I knew Terrance growing up since we were kids, so I felt better that I at least had people I knew there. Once we got signed in and everything, we met other crew members in the ASL Inclusion Crew. The best part? Everyone was Deaf. Including the crew leaders. What does that mean? No communication barriers. Everyone knew ASL, so I became more excited than I was nervous.
The first two weeks, we worked in Astoria, Oregon. We lopped trees and invasive plants to bring back a type of butterfly that once lived there before the invasive plants took over. At the end of the two weeks, we lopped a total of almost two acres of plants and trees. That’s insane, right?
So, back up to the first day of camp (orientation). We learned how to set up big tents (one for the boys and one for the girls). They taught us about the sort of chores that need to happen during the 5 weeks, so here’s a short explanation. The chores we had to do were filling up water tanks from the river and putting drops of bleach in it to become drinkable, washing dishes using four tubs (one with cold water, warm water along with soap, warm water, and one with warm water along with bleach). It’s a four step process. We also partnered up each week to rotate chores. There was also a breakfast, lunch (making sandwiches for work), and dinner chore. The rotation of chores would be for example: another crew member of mine named Anna and I signed up on Monday to make lunches for work the next day and fill water tanks, another pair would make dinner that night, another pair would make breakfast for everyone the next morning and everyday each pair would have a different set of chores to do. There were also chores such as cleaning the van that took us to weekend outings, cleaning the food storage bins, and wiping the table.
The last three weeks of camp, we went back to Wenatchee to work on the Iron Goat Trail on a mountain. We carried heavy tools there and back everyday for a total of 6-8 miles per day. It was a mountain/forest area, so tons of hiking was involved. I enjoyed that. We built water culverts, widened trails, made trails, got rid of invasive plants, collected 30 tons of rocks to make pathways, and collected a total of 30,000 tons of soil to cover the rocks. There were lots of other things that we did as well. It was hard working in almost 100 degree weather in long sleeve shirts, jeans, work boots, hats and gloves for 8-9 hours per day. It taught me a lot about perseverance, patience, and flexibility. We were able to accomplish finishing our project at the Iron Goat Trail by the end of camp. We all celebrated by doing a runway walk with our favorite tools!
On graduation day, we all got our checks for $1,500 and a completion certificate. The people on the crew was the best part, we all became family. It was a hard-working experience, but it taught me so much about myself and how sometimes stepping out of the box is good for me. This experience is something I will never forget. It also taught me that nature is so important to pay attention to. People often don’t realize how effective we are to the environment. We need to make a change for the better.