To wrap up the fiscal year 2018 for OTG Jr, we had the opportunity to do some work close to home. We brought a group of students down to Camp from Lansing. Outreach Specialist Hunter Salisbury and I had a chance to work with some non-traditional students who participated in OTG Jr. and an outdoor education day. The students joined us from the Lansing School District Workforce Investment Opportunity ACT Program. These students range in age from 18-26 and have returned to school to complete their studies for a GED.
This is the second year we have worked with this group of students and it is one of my favorite days. I enjoy this day not so much for all of the habitat work we are able to complete, but because of the experience, we are able to provide to the participants. This group of students did not grow up with the opportunities many of us had when it comes to the outdoors, and even as young adults, they have had limited outdoor experiences until now. From this group of students, none had been to a state park before and most certainly had not done something like visited a bog or shot archery.
In the morning, we talked about invasive plants and how they take over an ecosystem. We then had the group pull purple loosestrife and autumn olive on the beach. You can read more about the OTG portion in Hunter’s blog.
I would like to focus on what I consider to be the special part of the day.
Moving on from the lake, we headed to the archery range. In this group, most of the students were first time shooters, so we focused on an introduction to the equipment and getting arrows on target. After a bit of a rocky start, the students settled down and started hitting the target. Never having shot archery before, a few of the students were extremely frustrated in the beginning. However, as the session progressed, several of the students had improved enough to start getting arrows on target and a few good groupings. After about 45 minutes of shooting while I was working with one of the students, another student let an arrow, fly. It landed dead center of the target and a roar of cheers and applause went up from his peers. The group support and the smiles on the face of a 23-year-old, who had just become successful at something, put a big smile on my face as well.
The rest of the day would be filled with learning opportunities, curious questions asked and answered, and the chance to have new experiences. At the bog, the students experienced the uneven ground and learned how the soil underneath their feet was actually filling in a small lake. They tied their own fishing tackle and spent time just soaking up the outdoors. They had a great day of learning outside of the walls of the school and some of them had interests sparked that made them want to learn more about the natural resources world. A few were wondering if there were state parks near Lansing, (there is it is called Sleepy Hollow) and by the end of the day, they were planning a weekend trip to go visit that park.
As the day concluded, it was nice to reflect on another successful event. This group is an often-overlooked population because they are young adults who have not followed a traditional path and they may have had a bumpy road to get to the point they are in their life. However, they should be commended for trying to get things back on track in their lives. At MUCC, a focus of our mission is connecting people to engage in the outdoors and we were happy to have the chance to work with this program and get them outside. I hope that these young adults will continue to grow on their path of outdoor exploration and have a new appreciation for the natural resources of our state.