“It was hot and rainy,” frowned Breyon Brown, describing her first SCA summer at Harper’s Ferry. “But,” the Washington, D.C. high school senior quickly added, “it was well worth it.”
“Living in a city, you don’t think much about parks. There’s a lot of concrete,” she notes. “With SCA, I learned how to camp, Leave No Trace, how to work with my hands. I never thought I’d build a trail or a fence.”
Breyon is returning for her fourth SCA hitch in the Conservation Leadership Corps, a unique initiative pioneered by SCA and now active in 15 cities across the U.S. The Corps engages diverse high school students in a continuum of outdoor service learning that gradually builds from weekend activities to extended summer projects in the members’ home communities. Through the experience, members develop a powerful connection with nature.
I am more aware of the environment and our impact on it,” Breyon declares. She says she now recycles and tries to use less of everything from electricity to plastic bags.
Davon Yates, another D.C. senior, has also re-upped with SCA this year. Last summer, he cut bamboo and rehabbed trails at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. “It was hard work, but that made it more rewarding,” says Davon. “When you work for free, you get more out of it.”
As a returning Corps member, Davon looks forward to mentoring the first year students. SCA, he says, helped him “elevate my maturity level and develop a more disciplined attitude."
"It’s leadership. This is how I can pass on what I’ve learned and really make a difference.”
Through SCA, young city residents like Kendria Johnson are discovering their place in nature’s network and that “wilderness isn’t off in Virginia somewhere. It’s right here in the city."
"SCA opened my eyes. If we don’t start [to conserve the environment] now, it’ll get worse, or destroyed, or lost,” she warns.
Through the final days of winter, and on through the spring, Breyon, Davon, Kendria and many others will make that start. In the process, they will become better friends, better leaders, and better stewards of our earth.
“A lot of the stuff I used to use,” says Breyon, “I don’t need anymore. My life’s become simpler.” Pausing for a moment, the young woman who’d earlier groused about the steamy downpours at Harper’s Ferry offered a new perspective. “I appreciate natural things now, like the weather – even when it rains.”
Photos, top to bottom: Breyon Brown, Davon Yates, Kendria Johnson
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