Finding Community while Taking Care of our Parks

Marvin, in foreground, setting up camp

Marvin, in foreground, setting up camp

It was the opportunity to go camping and partake in a resume-building adventure that made joining the Student Conservation Association (SCA) summer crew so appealing to Marvin. Marvin grew up in Redwood City and attended Sequoia High School, where for three seasons he was an SCA crew member.

“I had never considered the environment to be important. It was family, money and an education that mattered to me. However after working in the parks, I came to see the value of our environment. I saw this firsthand when we camped at Half Moon Bay State Park. The beach was beautiful, but ice plant and mustard plant covered the park. These plants are non-native and crowd out native plants. The crew leaders taught us how to use the trail maintenance tools. We played games and hiked around. The crew and leaders became friends and we learned how to work together as a team.”

Marvin was the only student from his high school to join SCA, which meant he was meeting and working with youth from around San Mateo County and also from the East Bay.

“At first, I didn’t really feel like I belonged. When you are taken to places far from your home, without smartphones or expectations, the crew just has each other and you end up developing a seamless bond. We were all different, and after spending three nights camping, we found our own community, which is essential for a crew working together.

I got to work on San Bruno Mountain with an SCA crew from Oakland. After camping for two days, it felt like I had known them for a long time. We cheered each other on during a ropes course and shared stories around a campfire. We pulled out invasive plants, piling them up for park rangers to dispose. We gathered on top of that mountain of invasive plants for a group photo and when I look back at it, it reminds me of the power and magnificence of people who care about each other and their environment.”

The close bond Marvin formed with his crew members and the knowledge he gained from working in the field infused him with a new sense of confidence. This propelled him to take what he learned and apply it to his daily life. Today, Marvin is a student at Cañada College, taking Environmental Science classes. He is also an Apprentice SCA crew leader, leading activities and mentoring crew members.

“It is important that programs like SCA are offered to youth, so they can volunteer and learn about social and environmental issues. When you take the initiative to learn things and solve problems, a whole new world opens up for you. And when you make the most out of a new experience, a great appreciation comes over you and you realize you can be a leader too.”

The San Mateo County Parks Foundation has been funding SCA summer crews for eight years.