by Melissa Barton, ’06
There are dozens of cases of the children of SCA alumni following in their parents footsteps in SCA. But here's a story of a parent following his children's lead.
Back in 1978 when Larry Driver was 27, he moved onto 80 acres of land in the Arkansas Ozarks with his brothers and their families. Larry took a year off from work, got himself a how-to book on building, and with his wife, built a house. This year, Larry will be leading his first SCA crew.
Rachel Driver (’04, ’05) remembers helping her dad move rocks, cut down trees, and build cabinets as a child. These early experiences helped prepare her for the Student Conservation Association, first as a Massachusetts Parks AmeriCorps intern and then twice as a crew leader.
“Both of my parents are teachers. I grew up thinking it was normal to have that drive to want to learn and educate people,” Rachel says. “After I graduated from college, I wanted to work outside and work with youth, so SCA was perfect for me.”
Mass Parks is one of SCA’s team-based programs, with members living and working together for ten months. Rachel spent her first five months in elementary schools, incorporating environmental education into the curriculum. The second part of the program consisted primarily of trail work.
“About two-thirds of the way through her stay, my wife and I went out and saw what she was doing,” Larry says. “We were really impressed with the experience and the people.”
Rachel’s experience with Mass Parks led her to serve twice as a high school crew leader, the first time clearing trails in southern Virginia and the second time leading a backcountry crew in the Great Smoky Mountains. “It was much more of a leadership challenge, dealing with six kids who may never had been out there, who had never been in the wilderness and maybe not even away from home,” Rachel says. “It was much more difficult physically and mentally to be responsible for six other bodies rather than just for myself.”
Her second crew was more prepared to be in the wilderness, but staying in the backcountry for 28 days with a food drop once a week was still a challenge for everyone.
“You kind of start out showing them how to do everything and then step back until they're totally self-sufficient,” says Rachel. “We had this itty bitty tiny girl, and the day we gave her a sledgehammer and let her smash a rock to pieces was great. Even the tiniest member can do wonders with tools if you know how to use them.”
After hearing about Rachel’s experience, her brother Lucas (’06) found a biology internship with SCA. “They both came home and said ‘Dad, you’d love this!’ because of how much I like being outdoors and working hard,” Larry says. “As a schoolteacher, and being about to retire, I was looking for a new experience to keep me vital.”
This summer Larry will be leading a crew of six students with Alissa Agres (’05, ’06, ’07) in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota. The crew will be maintaining trails, protecting the prairie from encroaching pine trees, and working on other projects. Larry feels his experience as a teacher and his outdoor and building skills have prepared well for SCA. “I’m just older than everyone else,” he says. “Most crew leaders are between 21 and 25.”
“I’m so proud of what a wonderful person Rachel is. Working for SCA has brought out some of her best characteristics, her leadership and strength,” Larry says.
Maybe someday, Larry wonders, he and Rachel might be SCA’s first father-daughter-led crew. Until then, Rachel is busy with the 50th Anniversary Alumni Council, while Larry looks forward to spending his summer outdoors, working hard.