Summer program in Yellowstone

December 17, 2019

Senior Bethy Hernandez is an admirer of all things nature. She has been attending national parks with her family for many years. When the opportunity to take part in the Youth Conservation Corps summer program, she applied.  

According to its website, the YCC is a “summer youth employment program that engages young people in meaningful work experiences on national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and fish hatcheries while developing an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility. 

Her program took place in Yellowstone National Park, but the YCC offers the same activities in other national parks as well. Hernandez did not expect to be accepted into the program, but it came as a pleasant surprise. 

“My dad had seen something online and he thought it looked like something I might be interested in and he told me that I should apply. I checked it out and it didn’t seem like something that I would be able to get into because it’s very competitive and there are around 600 applicants, but I did get accepted,” Hernandez said. 

She has taken part in the program for the past two summers. In 2018, she stayed for one month. She was then asked back, along with around six others who attended that summer. This year, Hernandez stayed for both sessions as a leader in a leadership position.  

Hernandez recalls some of the activities YCC members would do during their stay at Yellowstone Park. 

“On the weekends we did recreational activities. Especially on Saturday, we would go around the park, and in one case we went rafting, which was really fun. On Sundays we finished up that activity and cleaned up our living space,” Hernandez said. 

The weeks were a bit more rigorous for the teens. While they stayed in dorms on the weekends, the rest of their nights were spent camping outside. 

“We would get up at 6 am and make breakfast on little Coleman stoves. Then we would drive or walk to our worksite, which normally wasn’t too far. We would do a stretch circle and talk about safety concerns on the worksite,” Hernandez said.  

The teens did a different project each week. It was typically a trail project or something of the sort. Hernandez remembers installing bear boxes, which are food storage boxes to keep bears from getting into food. They also did some projects involving social science. 

“We did some visitor use research. We would do a sort of survey or count people at the popular attractions in Yellowstone,” Hernandez said. 

She met some influential and inspiring people during her stay, which encourage her to utilize her leadership skills. 

“The crew leaders were all national park rangers and they all worked really hard to make sure that everyone was feeling their best when they were there and making sure that everyone was able to challenge themselves. I learned from them that I’m capable of a lot. I also met a lot of good friends my age from all over the country,” Hernandez said. 

Hernandez feels that participating in this program has helped her decide what she wants to study in college and do as a career. 

“I was inspired when I was there in Yellowstone. Every Monday morning they have someone come in and talk about their job in the park service and one day there was a man who mentioned he was an archaeologist and he told us about how his job is to survey the land for Native American artifacts before they built anything on it. I realized that his job incorporated my interests of conservation, history and just being outside,” Hernandez said. 

The YCC has helped Hernandez become aware of her leadership skills and see leadership in a new light.  

“I had never been in that role as a leader before. I definitely grew because I looked at leadership from a different perspective. I realized that all of us have different leadership styles and we can all contribute something to making a positive environment,” Hernandez said. 

Looking back on these summer experiences, Hernandez believes that everyone should take part in something like this. 

I think everyone should get an opportunity like this where they’re away from everyone they know and everything they’re familiar with,” she said. “It’s a great way to discover yourself and what you are capable of.” 

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