Eighteen-year-olds Katherine Mash and Joe Franckiewicz spent the last six weeks getting up early to do dirty, sweaty work like putting up fence posts and cutting away vegetation.
They both called it the best job they’ve ever had.
Mash of Nanticoke, Franckiewicz of Wilkes-Barre, and eight other local teenagers, were part of the first Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps.
On Wednesday, they visited Seven Tubs Recreation Area, along with representatives from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and The Student Conservation Association to talk about their work.
The state contracted with The Student Conservation Association, a national conservation organization, to run the program. Five groups, including the one headquartered in Wilkes-Barre, performed conservation and land management work across the state. Other groups were based in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Johnstown.
The local group visited several state parks to help with projects. At Nescopeck State Park, they erected a fence next to a children’s play area; at Lehigh Gorge, they cleaned old canal locks; at Ricketts Glen, they cut down maple trees to maintain a meadow area; and at Frances Slocum, they removed weeds, mulched and planted.
When Mash learned about the program, “I couldn’t believe it was real,” she said. With a well-paying job and the chance to work outdoors, “it seemed too good to be true.”
She is heading to West Chester University this fall, planning to major in communications and computer science, but the experience has her considering a change to her studies.
Franckiewicz plans to attend Juniata College to study environmental science. The six weeks he spent with the outdoor corps reinforced that choice.
“We learned why conservation makes an impact,” he said. “I’d recommend it to anyone.”