Each school year, we guide 30+ high schoolers in monthly stewardship and educational activities throughout the Front Range in our award-winning Cairn Youth Program. The 2017-18 class graduated from the program on May 10 and applications for next year open later this month.
As we prepare to welcome a new group of students, we asked Ivy - a senior at Kent High School and a Cairn graduate - about her experience with the Cairn program.
How long have you been in the Cairn program? Why did you originally decide to join?
This was my first year with the Cairn program. The main reason I decided to join was that I wanted to do something that would allow me to meet people outside of my school who were interested in some of the same things I was, as well as give me more opportunities to go outdoors.
What was your favorite part of the Cairn program? What did you enjoy most?
My favorite part about the Cairn program was meeting and getting to know the other Cairn students, and getting to explore new places in Colorado. In Cairn, you are with a group of high-schoolers who are all drawn to the outdoors in some way. It is a great way to meet some really cool people while doing something outdoors. Plus, Cairn is a great way to explore beautiful places in Colorado where you have never been before, and might not otherwise go.
Is there a specific memory, experience, or story that stands out?
The overnight project in September is one of my favorite memories. It was a great way to get to know people, and it was lots of fun.
How has your knowledge and/or passion for the outdoors changed throughout your experience with the Cairn program?
During one project for fire mitigation, we were shown two photos of the forest we were working in; one was from before there had been much human involvement in the forest, and one was from the era when people tried to prevent forest fires as much as possible. The pictures looked like two completely different forests. It made me realize how human involvement can transform an ecosystem into something completely different, which is why we must be aware of our impacts on the environment and ensure that we are being responsible.
What would you tell other students thinking about joining the Cairn program?
I would say join sooner rather than later! I thought about joining the Cairn program for a while, but I didn’t join until my senior year. Now I wish I had joined earlier.
In your opinion, why are programs like Cairn important? Why should other students participate?
In Colorado, there are lots of people who are enthusiastic about the outdoors. While this is a great thing, it also requires us to maintain the environments that we engage with. It is important to maintain trails and preserve the environment so that we don’t alter it through overuse.
Do you have any advice for the students who will be new to the Cairn program next year?
Do your best to make every project you can. The year goes by really fast, and even if you miss just a couple projects, it feels like a lot.
What are your plans after high school?
I plan to take a gap year before attending Whitman College.
Do you plan to stay engaged in experiencing or caring for the outdoors? How?
Yes. I will always continue hiking, skiing, camping, throughout college and afterwards. Since volunteering outdoors is a great way to explore new places while giving back, I think I will look for opportunities to do something like VOC wherever I end up.
Thank you to Ivy and all of our Cairn students and mentors for a fun and successful year! Keep an eye on voc.org/cairn for our 2018-19 student and mentor applications!
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