Work Should Never Be This Fun

Nine days ago, I arrived on the South West Region office of AmeriCorps NCCC in Denver, Colorado.  Since my arrival, life has gotten much simpler and more adventurous.  After the first day of frantic unpacking and arrivals of hundreds of Corps Members (CMs), we began the process of training for the next ten months of our lives. 

In the brief moments of sanity that I’ve been here, I’ve gotten to know and hang out with some amazing and interesting people.  People from each and every state (except two or so, don’t ask which, since I don’t know) and every walk of life.  While many of the CMs here are just out of high school, there are a good number of ‘older folk’ around to maintain a fair balance of youth and experience. 

The past week has been filled with hundreds of hours in the classroom, learning about this community, the goals and objectives of NCCC, rules for everything we do, safety briefings and the occasional learning what we will be doing out in the field (on Spike).  Between all the classes and physical training that is required by all CMs, we have had the opportunity to venture out into Denver and beyond. 

One of our first adventures was going into downtown Denver, to the 16th Street Mall, a beautiful street lined with shops and street musicians playing anything from bagpipes to djembe, guitar to trumpet.  After visiting the mall with the Team Leaders (TLs), a small group of us wandered back on our first weekend. 

While we originally ventured in to capture the essence of the mall with cameras, the small group of four of us easily got distracted by an amazing book store (Tattered Cover Book Store) and each others company while we sipped Starbucks coffee. 

The next week (the beginning of this week) we got to learn all the safety about the fifteen passenger vans and we got to learn how to drive them, by going on a five-hour road-trip through Denver and the surrounding mountains.  On this adventure, we stopped for lunch at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. 

To find out that this was carved out by the original CCC back during the Great Depression made the view and landscape even more amazing.  From the top of the amphitheatre, you could see the distant city of Denver, while around you was the beginnings of the Rocky Mountains. 

After riding for hours, we were all glad to return back to campus, even if we were not too excited about classroom training and experience. 

Our next adventure took us out to Boulder, Colorado for Unit Physical Training.  It started with some casual walking and shopping down the Peal Street Mall (much like the 16th Street Mall, but with more hippies and hikers of all kinds).  Next we headed through Colorado University and onto the slopes of yet another mountain.

After being given two hours to hike and explore what the park had to offer (don’t remember the park’s name), almost everyone jumped onto the trail and headed up as far as we could go before having to turn and come back down. 

After booking it up the first couple hills, I caught up with a small group of fellow CMs and we started to head up a path that none of the others followed.  Our goal was to get to the highest part possible in our given time.  So we hit the 3rd Flatiron Climbing Access, where we promptly lost the trail and decided to continue to travel in an upward path. 

So, we climbed up rocks, not really thinking about coming back down, and got up the side of the mountain, where we hit the crest and looked over to the other side.  The view was amazing, but short-lived due to us having to be back at the vans. 

On the decent down, we found the trail and safely managed to make it down the rock face.  While we barely knew each other when we began, the four of us got to know each other a little more and share the experience of a lifetime. 

Hopefully, we will eventually make it back there, or to some other adventure.  There is talk about a possible trip to the Garden of the Gods or into the Rocky Mountains.  Whether or not that happens in the next few weeks, we’ll see. 

Though we have been able to explore the surrounding areas of Denver, we were still bombarded with classroom training, meetings and other important information.  All of us were excited this morning as we embarked on our first service project as the NCCC class 17. 

At 7:15 this morning we all piled into our temporary team vans and made our way across Denver to Cedar Creek Park, where we met up with the team from Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC).  After a short and rushed briefing due to a number of the vans missing the turn, the 320 members of AmeriCorps NCCC were bombarded by about 600 6th grade students.  After braking up into teams, each CM or TL was in charge of two middle school students. 

The group that I was with got to be Thrashers.  Our job was to go out into one of the fields and attack the Mowen that was invading the natural habitat.  In groups of three or four, we cut off the top which contained the seeds, threw that in a large garbage bag, then hacked the bottom of the stem off near the base. 

While most of the kids were well behaved, some of them were a little more difficult to handle and required a little more direction and supervision.  In the end, we cleared a massive amount of Mowen from the area, something the kids could actually see firsthand. 

After lunch, the middle schoolers headed back to school, and all 300+ CMs and TLs attacked the last bit of the trail that the second group was working on.  After moving hundreds of wheelbarrow loads and thousands of buckets of dirt down the trail, we dumped the loads onto the trail, where other CMs and TLs smoothed them out, covering the black mesh tarp and creating a crest in the middle of the path.  Others then pounded the area down to compress the gravel together and create an area of well preserved trail. 

While many members may complain about the amount of classes and trainings we go through, each one is preparing us for something greater than ourselves.  We are learning more than safety and rules, but commitment and a dedication to whatever we end up doing in life. 

These little opportunities are adventures that stand out like caerns on our path, great things that we will remember long after our ten months of service are over. 

God Bless and PEACE

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