How Yellowstone changed me

During the first week, my group installed check dams, which prevent hiking trails from eroding.

My life changed in one month. A month filled with caring for the environment, meeting new people, and challenging myself in ways I have never been challenged before. Unlike a lot of my friend’s first jobs, mine was spent in Yellowstone National Park, 1529.6 miles from home, as an enrollee of the Youth Conservation Corps. Going into this job, I thought I was going to help preserve the environment, little did I know it would significantly change me as well.


The first of many challenges started June 11 at 7am in the morning, when I board my first flight alone. I had to figure out things by myself, which I have done before, but seems much scarier when a simple mistake, like not having the right gate to your flight, could cause so many problems. Worried about my next connections,  I spent my first flight watching the screen displaying the progress of the airplane. Every centimeter it moved on that tiny screen on the back of the seat in front of me, I witnessed. I was met a lot of new faces once I reached the Youth Conservation Corps campus, where I would be staying for the next month. At first I was hesitant to meet so many strangers. But I soon started bonding with a lot of people from all over the country.


We were often put in situations where we had to talk to public about Yellowstone. In this picture, Haveman talked to a woman about many different aspects of the National Park for over an hour.

The next couple weeks moved fast as the staff threw us into training and then into our first official work week. I learned a great deal about myself in the time I spent in Yellowstone. Most of the work we did was physically demanding. I swung a lot of axes, peeled bark off of a lot of logs, hauled a lot of heavy dirt bags, and dirtied a lot of work shirts. It taught me that not only am I physically stronger than I thought, but mentally as well. I had to endure a collection of hot and sweaty work days, never allowing the heat to impact my attitude towards the others in my work group. I started showing leadership: not waiting for someone to tell me what to do, I would tackle the task immediately as it presented itself. If a coworker was struggling with carrying a log, I would help. If someone needed to hike back a mile to grab a tarp, I would volunteer. No longer was I a girl who was afraid of losing my seat in an airport to go get food, afraid to make a wrong decision leading to more issues. I was now someone who confidently completed tasks, and when I made a blunder, I recovered and learned from my mistakes.


My experience at Yellowstone working for the Youth Conservation Corps allowed me learn about myself and the environment around me. I learned how to be a leader and let my walls down to meet new people, with whom I still keep in contact months after the program ended.