During the summer of 2019 SECC has fielded its first ever all-female Women’s Conservation Corps Youth Crews. Made possible through a partnership with the National Parks Foundation through the generous support of Nissan TITAN, Nature Valley, and REI, these crews were formed with the purpose of providing conservation service to the Chickamauga Chattanooga National Military Park while empowering young women to have hands-on experience with environmental conservation work. What follows is a selection of Crews 956 and 957 describing their experience in their own words.
This newly established Women’s Conservation Crew is an invigorating and empowering experience. We did what our grandmothers, mothers and sisters said we couldn’t do to prove them wrong. As stretch circles, hikes, laborious work, and sore muscles filled our days, rain or shine (with the exception of thunderstorms), we put our all into our projects.
It’s quite a change of pace from what I usually do and exceptionally rewarding. I feel like time went by so fast. Through all the blood, sweat and tears, I enjoyed every moment of it.
- Leah Swafford, Women’s Crew 956
Being one of the first corps members in the Southeast Conservation Corps Womenʼs Youth Crew has been a great experience. A crew where women empower other women and help each other grow is one of the best things to be a part of. I learned many things and pushed limits that I never knew even existed.
To my crew, crew #956, The Trail Angels. We did it! We survived 4 weeks of hard work, not only were we doubted by others, we ourselves were skeptical of our ability to pull it off. Even then we persevered. Weʼve laughed till we cried, created our very first album (full of classics like hey swole sister), had mini photo shoots with Ms.Rose, sang all kinds of genres of music in the [truck], cheered on Ms. Rei while we went off-roading in the [truck], got bored out of our minds waiting for the storms to pass, had an arm wrestling tournament during lunch, watched a spider egg sack explode on my backpack, and left many, many, many games of contact unfinished. It was an amazing season, I’m glad that I got the chance to work with and get to know yʼall.
-Alyssa Dela Cruz, WCC Crew 956
It’s weird getting up at 6 am during the summer, because it feels like you’re still going to school. However, I quickly realized that it was somehow easier for me to get up early so that I could get to work than it was to get up early for school. That’s not exactly what I expected, to be honest. I thought I would get tired of the work I was doing with the Conservation Corps pretty quickly, or even want to quit. Oddly enough, that never happened. Sure, I’m tired when I come home in the afternoon, and only having a couple hours of free-time before you have to sleep every night can be difficult, but I never felt like I wanted to stop working with the Corps.
-Abigail Brannen, WCC Crew 956
Luckily there are two girls on my crew that had done a previous season this summer so they knew what they were doing and really helped me figure out what I should be doing. We finished two trails in our first week as a crew and that was exciting, and I believe brought us closer together. On the trail during the day we would play games while we work to pass time and to have fun. At the end of the day on the car ride back to the office we would do ‘Rose, bud, thorn” which is something we use to tell each other about our day. Rose is a good thing about your day, bud is something you’re looking forward to, thorn is something that wasn’t so good, however we added stem which is something that kept you going throughout the day. After the day was over, we would fire line the tools back to the hot box and fold up the tarp and talk about what we could expect for tomorrow. At the very end of the week we ‘derig’ which means we wash and sharpen the tool, and clean and check the car. At first it was difficult adjusting to the heat and the work, but by Friday I was ready for Monday to have fun with my crew.
-Angel Seale, WCC Crew 957