by Lillian Bloch, ’04, ’05
If you ever meet Martaz Johnson, you’ll like him. Martaz could be the SCA poster boy. He follows through with passionate ideas and values others who do the same.
He admires people he meets through SCA for this very reason. He notes, “They’re not just crunchy granola types out there wearing crocs and doing trail work.”
But he admits that when he first signed up, “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.” Martaz was born and currently lives in Pittsburgh. He had heard a presentation about SCA at his high school, and ended up joining only because his girlfriend at the time asked him to do it. As a result, Martaz found himself in a Pennsylvania forest, standing in the snow. And thus he began his forest journey with the Conservation Leadership Corps program in Pittsburgh – feeling cold and nervous (and maybe a little excited).
As he started to work, he began to warm up. Then he met people from other high schools, and really liked them. He also liked his crew leaders and discovered he really enjoyed being outside.
Based on that experience, he decided to try it again. So one of the first times he flew on a plane, it was to join a national SCA high school crew in the North Cascades in Washington. He says he thought about all of those things that he liked and made it through the flight only to fear, “What if this sucks?” But Martaz took a chance and, once again, really liked his crew leaders and his crew and REALLY liked being outdoors.
When he talks about visiting a crew member at her home in Wisconsin and his decision to join the SCA Massachusetts Parks program after high school, you can hear his excitement. As he lived and worked with the other members of the program he was exposed to conversations about organic foods and recycling and came to understand why people are passionate about these issues. Now they are important to him too.
He says that SCA has helped “improve my life, period.” He admits that he made some poor decisions in the past and that it is because of his SCA experiences, working with different people in different communities, that he now knows how to make the right life choices.
Martaz is proud to have been a part of improving communities outside of his own so everyone can enjoy the outdoors. But he is active in his own community as well. When we spoke, he was planning to participate in a local Latino Health Fair and his first thoughts were how he might get SCA involved.
I asked what he thinks most influenced him in his SCA experiences, and he answered without hesitation: “the people.” Besides the positive influence and great memories he has from crew leaders and crew members, he especially commented on people in the SCA New Hampshire office. When he went there for the first time this summer he was surprised that people knew who he was, and he still keeps in touch with some of them.
Martaz has some strong opinions about helping SCA grow. “Brag about it!” he says. He knows from personal experience that if people don’t talk about SCA, others won’t have a reason to join.
Martaz notes he had no idea that a friend from his high school wrestling team, Malik, was involved with SCA for many years and currently works in SCA’s Pittsburgh office. Not only was this a surprise, but Martaz is convinced that he would have joined SCA sooner if he had known what his friend was “secretly” doing after school. So when I asked Martaz what he wants people to know about him, he wanted me to let everyone in on his “secret” life with SCA.