From December 3 to December 31, all gifts made to SCA will be triple matched! And in keeping with our theme, SCA thought it would be a great opportunity to highlight our “Trifecta” alumni, and how the number three connects to their SCA experiences.
The Family That Serves Together…
As we invite donors to triple the impact of their gifts to SCA, we highlight Jordan, Matt, and Serah Washington: three siblings originally from Milwaukee. Beginning in 2009, they each served on multiple SCA crews, and Jordan and Serah later led their own crews.
SCA is a Family Affair
While your generosity goes three times as far for SCA, we wanted to showcase ways that SCA has tripled our impact on lives and lands. In the case of the Johnson siblings, the impact has lasted 15 years and counting!
Threes are Wild
Tracy Warner served three times with SCA at three different sites: he was a bio technician at Richmond National Battlefield Park in 2007, a whooping crane intern at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Southwest Regional Office in 2012-13, and then back to bio tech at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge in 2013-14. Today, Tracy is a field office assistant at the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
SCA: What three words come to mind when I say ‘SCA’?
Jordan: Influence, engagement, development.
Matt: Restoration, friends, and memories.
Serah: Pride, empowerment, transformation.
SCA: Which of you has the best SCA story?
Jordan: I definitely have the best story! In my first summer with SCA as a crew member, we were working in Grant Park in southern Milwaukee. It started out as a clear day, but a sudden thunderstorm rolled in. One of our crew leaders, Ryan, jokingly suggested that it would be cool if lightning were to strike in an open field about 100 yards away from the gazebo we were in. We all laughed it off as impossible because the tall trees surrounding the field would make more ideal targets. Not even two minutes later, a bright flash of light and a loud crack accompanied the lightning strike that hit EXACTLY where Ryan had pointed. We all looked at Ryan in shock, only to find him sitting in the lap of one of the crew members where he had jumped in fright.
Serah: One day my crew and I were playing a game of Ninja during our lunch break. Two Mormon elders approached us and asked if they could talk to us for a few minutes. One of my crew members challenged them to a game and said if they won, they’d have 10 minutes of our undivided attention. The elders accepted! After a hard-fought game, my crew ended up winning, but instead of blowing the two men off, we invited them to join us for the rest of our lunch. We openly and respectfully shared food and philosophy and it made for one of the coolest “SCA meets the community” moments I witnessed.
SCA: Time for some fill-in-the-blank: Without my SCA experience, I…
Jordan: Never would have gotten the valuable experience at a young age that propelled me into higher education. I also received a full-ride scholarship from UW-Stevens Point from information I received from someone at the SCA graduation my first year.
Serah: Same here. I worked my way through college paying as I went along and SCA provided a crucial source of income. As valuable as the program itself was for me, it had the added bonus of helping me pay my tuition fees!
Matt: I never would have met the people that I consider lifelong friends and even family.
SCA: OK, how about this? The one thing I’m glad nobody knew about back in my SCA days is…
Serah: I really don’t enjoy camping very much – the main reason I never did a national crew! I’m down for one night, maybe two, and then I’m ready to be back in civilization. That’s another thing I loved about the urban programs. I got to spend all day outside and go home at night.
Jordan: How much I really don’t like spiders and cobwebs. I’m sure I would have been the brunt of many practical jokes involving cobwebs.
SCA: You’ve been through it, two of you have led others through it – why should people financially support SCA?
Matt: Because SCA is a program that helps get kids out and into an environment they would otherwise never experience. I have seen kids who can barely stand to be away from a wi-fi signal find out they absolutely love being out in nature and doing something that benefits everyone.
Jordan: People should give to SCA because it really does make a difference in the lives of the young people involved. For the laughs and time spent with friends new and old, the professional and personal development, and the ecological training that leads to a more environmentally conscious life.
Serah: This program changes young lives for the better. Simple as that. I worked for SCA for six years in various roles and I’ve seen young people absolutely transformed in six short weeks. The work SCA does catapults city kids like me out of our comfort zones, challenges us physically, mentally, and even emotionally at times, and imparts multiple transferrable skills.
If you know, or know of, the Washingtons, you know something is amiss. We admit it. Yet another sibling – Squeaky (real name: Nathanael, but he goes by Squeaky) – followed his older brothers and sister into SCA and served six different hitches between 2013 and 2016. So bring on the Bonus Q&A!
SCA: Squeaky, give us three words for SCA, if you please…
Squeaky: Responsibility, impact, invigorating.
SCA: What do you recall most fondly from your SCA days?
Squeaky: I was part of an SCA hybrid crew that camped in a national forest for two weeks. The learning process for crew members who hadn’t left Milwaukee before was quite comical. Cooking, cleaning, and keeping tents closed to block out mosquitoes was always a challenge that involved many laughs.
SCA: If you could return to any of your six SCA hitches, which would it be?
Squeaky: That one. I would return to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. There was a trail that we started late in the second week and we never got to finish it. There was a large Buckthorn tree root that we were removing but had to leave before finishing. That’s never a good feeling to leave a trail unfinished.
SCA: Why did you keep coming back to SCA?
Squeaky: Because it provides young people an opportunity to challenge themselves in pursuit of work experience and professional skills. The ability to work well in teams with a hierarchy is so necessary for people to learn, and SCA does it in a fun and engaging way.
SCA: Do you keep anything on hand from your SCA days, any mementoes?
Squeaky: I have a picture frame with my crews throughout the years. I keep them because each summer you learn and shape yourself alongside various other crew members. The pictures spur many endless memories when I see them and it always makes me reminisce.
I know what you’re wondering, reader: does a fourth Washington signal a last-minute, quadruple-your-impact opportunity?
No. We only held back Squeaky to fit our “trifecta” theme.
But please don’t you hold out – support the next generation of conservation leaders now and triple the impact of your generous gift to SCA.
Sarah is founder of Wild Rose Education, where she works to advance place-based education and civic engagement through authentic learning experiences that connect people to the land. Sarah believes in democracy, loves wild places, and strives to create opportunities for others to shape the future by participating in public life.
Ben is living in Kansas City and raising two kids with his wife. They make time to work in the garden, to go camping, hunting, and fishing. They try to get out to enjoy as many parks as possible and always try to remember how much work went into each hiking trail!
Megan, the youngest of the three, followed her siblings’ SCA footsteps, which led her to an amazing career in natural resources law and environmental dispute resolution. Megan also went on to marry another SCA alum, Nick Mustoe, a forester at Fishlake National Forest in Utah.
In keeping with our “triple” theme, we asked the three for three words that come to mind when they think of SCA, and here’s how they responded:
Sarah – Opportunity, growth, and real professional experience.
Ben – Service, adventure, friendship.
Megan – Personal and professional exploration, rewarding risks, adventure.
In explaining their intersection on adventure, Ben recalled seeing a moose at Isle Royale National Park. Megan noted a close encounter with a bear. “We were working in the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area,” she says, “when a black bear came into our campsite. We all stood on the picnic table and yelled at it to go away. After it explored our site and found nothing – because were super bear-aware – it went away.
The three siblings all confess to holding on to some unique keepsakes from their SCA days. “I have a plaster cast of a mountain lion footprint I made right after the snow melted, and before the spring opening of trails, at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park,” Sarah states.
“I have a Delaware Water Gap Recreation Magnet currently on the fridge and an NPS volunteer patch, which is now a coaster. They help me remember my experiences yet weren’t too bulky to move.”
“Just a few photos and several enjoyable memories,” adds Ben. “Meeting many different people with different points of view from across the country, who all wanted to give their time and energy to something larger than themselves.”
Megan agrees. “Meeting like-minded people from around the country who also cared about natural resources and public lands, had a volunteering spirit, and enjoyed responsibly recreating outside,” she says.
Beyond the memories, Sarah says she still carries with her an important lesson. “When I did my SCA internship,” she notes, “I did something outside my normal routine. I took off the spring semester of my junior year in college and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Today, I work to give myself permission to avoid the ‘routine’ whenever it feels like it could possibly lead to amazing things.
“With a bit of mentoring, opportunity, encouragement and public lands to grow on, young people can become the amazing people they already are. I learned so much as an SCA intern – it was a time of independence and allowing my wings to open and me to soar.”
In keeping with our “three” theme, we sat down with Tracy for a three-question interview:
SCA: Just curious: did you keep any mementoes from your three SCA internships?
Tracy: Oh, yes. First, there’s my lucky SCA bandana. I gained a lot of exposure to prescribed burning during my second internship, which led me to join wildland fire crews later on. A few years ago, I was laying down a drip line on a burn in Florida. I tripped over a large saw palmetto trunk hidden behind a fan of leaves, which apparently caused me to fling burning drip-torch fuel up and backwards. The bandana smoldered a bit before the smell hit me. This left some ratty holes that grow a little bit larger with every washing, but that’s okay. Had I not wrapped it around my neck, it’s likely I would’ve had my own burn and lost part of my beard!
Also, in my third internship, I replaced an SCA intern who left early for graduate school. She often returned to the refuge to continue her thesis work on endangered species. She gave me an Earth-faced wristwatch for assisting her in the field with a nod to what had turned into my peripatetic lifestyle. Thanks, Beth!
Then, when I left that last internship, the refuge biologist I worked for compiled field photos of me, our coworkers, volunteers, and a variety of our daily adventures into a great memento that sits right at home with my other field books. Thanks, Jeff!
Transporting modified crab pots for a mark-recapture study at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas in 2012
I also have an assortment of hats (SCA and AmeriCorps), a fleece jacket, quick dry shirt, stickers and patches (SCA and AmeriCorps), two metal beverage bottles – one in the office, and one in the vehicle – and my old name tag.
SCA: Wow, that’s quite a collection. Can you narrow down a single, most memorable SCA moment?
Tracy: For my first internship, I was on a crew of four interns. In the office, we sat two across from each other, with one pair performing freshwater macroinvertebrate identification while the other sorted macros into alcohol for preservation.
When I was taking notes for my partner, she let out an amazingly loud scream tinged with the laughter of surprise. She had placed a large odonate (carnivorous insect) from the preservation jar under the microscope and just as she adjusted the zoom, it moved on her.
After we regained our hearing – and after she stopped laughing – she told us what happened. It turned out that specimen hadn’t spent enough time in the alcohol for it to have any effect. After that, we started keeping tabs on what was placed in the jar and when.
Getting ready to identify vegetation in a meadow plot at Richmond National Battlefield Park, Virginia in 2007
SCA: Was there any particular moment you’d like to forget?
Tracy: Well, at the office of my second internship, we had a large fan aimed at the entryway door to keep the hordes of mosquitoes at bay. Even roaring at high speed, it wasn’t enough to keep them all out. We just knew that they leered at us through the glass and waited. I still have flashbacks of looking at that door and mentally preparing myself before exiting – though I say that with a smile.
Since then, every time I’ve had to deal with loud swarms of flying insects, I’ve been able to confidently say “This is nothing.”
But I gotta tell you, each internship was a blast. And maxing out the two years of AmeriCorps stipends certainly helped pay for my classes!
SCA is tangible and transformative. The Student Conservation Association, in partnership with AmeriCorps, offer programs and events that accomplish conservation in an efficient, engaging manner while simultaneously introducing individuals to new career paths and social and professional networks. Without my SCA experiences, I never would have figured out what I want to do when I grow up!
Triple your impact with a gift to SCA today!