Written by guest blogger Dan Perez (MA Parks '07, Acadia and Golden Gate '08 and ID AmeriCorps '11) and adapted from a speech he gave at the SCA Idaho AmeriCorps Recognition Ceremony in Oct 2011.
It wasn’t all that long ago that a rag-tag caravan of fourteen cars pulled into this very parking lot, almost six hours after an early morning departure from Boise. The license plates (and airline ticket stubs) said it all: East Coast, West Coast, Midwest and Rockies – in other words, a fairly mixed group of individuals from around the country.
I can’t speak for everyone with regard to their unique situations that led to their joining this fifteen-member crew, but it would be a safe bet that their primary reasons fell under the categories of personal growth and professional experience.
Becoming a member of SCA Idaho AmeriCorps is by no means the only way to pursue these goals. We could have gotten jobs, in spite of the economy, for better pay and without having to uproot our current lives, and not resulting in friends and family expressing mock concern at our spending six months in Idaho "growing potatoes." So the question that remains is, “Why?”
Having pondered this question myself before I got accepted into this program, I can offer some answers of my own:
- I could go on about how SCA has been around for over fifty years, or cite statistics from their website, but ultimately it’s the conservation work and shared experiences with fellow outdoor enthusiasts that keeps drawing me back. Today marks the end of my third season with the SCA, during which I’ve built a 75’ rock and timber turnpike, bushwhacked through the forest looking for abandoned roads, gone backpacking in the Bighorn Crags, and rafted down several miles of the Salmon River with you all whom I’ve gotten to know so well during our time together.
- Moving to a remote location such as Moyer was quite a lifestyle change from living in Boston, but I was prepared to embrace it, forgoing some modern conveniences for what is, hands down, the most amazing backyard I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying during my time on and off work. From the wide variety of landscapes to our shy four-legged neighbors here in the Salmon-Challis, I’ve constantly been reminded that there is more to Idaho than potatoes.
- Having signed onto this AmeriCorps position, I made a promise to get things done for America by serving the lands and people that are the great state of Idaho. This is a chance to give back, to engage in personal sacrifice for the benefit of something or someone other than yourself, regardless of one’s interest or lack thereof for a given task.
These are my own thoughts, but I hope at least the essence of my last point rings true for my fellow corps members. We all have every right to expect – nay, to gain something useful out of our experiences over the last six months, like how to be a leader for a team of your peers, or how to adapt and overcome when faced with a situation that is entirely out of your control – for instance, a forest fire.
But perhaps more importantly, this is a service position, from which – like any experience in life – you have gained as much as you’ve put in; just by being here, fulfilling that promise we all made in Boise, we are now Americans who have volunteered to serve, and even though our time here is done, may we always find a way to serve, and may we never stop asking ourselves, “Why?”
To read more of Dan's adventures this summer with SCA, check out the Idaho Americorps blogs .