It’s exciting to introduce a new guest blogger, Civicorps’ Lead Counselor Natasha Vinakor, who shares another story about the backcountry:
Road Trip to the Eastern Sierras
It was a great road trip. I tagged along with Job Training Coordinator Steven Addison as he delivered Shaniya Burks to her summer job with the Eastern Sierra Conservation Corps. Neither Shaniya nor I had ever been to the Eastern side of the Sierras, and it is spectacular. Snowcapped peaks over high mountain desert. Hot springs scattered around, as well as small to medium sized towns. Going over the Sierras, we wound back down the other side on roads that only recently re-opened after a very snowy winter. We drove by raging rivers and the extra mineral filled Mono Lake.
It was supposed to be a 6 and a half hour trip, but we stopped for food and supplies, to take pictures, and to touch snow. We didn’t roll into her camp until 9 pm. Shaniya met her Crew Leader Valerie, who gave her a briefing and showed her new home for 8 weeks: her tent. Shaniya’s crew had already set up her tent for her! She was nervous and then less nervous, and then excited. Steven and I camped nearby for the night and said goodbye to her over breakfast with her new community. They were shy with each other at first, but quickly started to bond. Shaniya is going to have a great summer.
Shaniya came to Civicorps in February of 2017 when she was 18 years old. She made the Honor Roll, and earned numerous awards such as Crewmember of the Month and Hardest Hitter in English and Science classes. As a Conservation Intern at our Job Training Center, she earned a promotion to become a Crew Leader. Throughout her time at Civicorps, she took advantage of an array of extracurricular activities. In December 2018, she earned her high school diploma. Now 20, she has grown from a shy and reserved young person into a leader and an explorer.
When I was the same age as Shaniya, I was a Corpsmember in the Montana Conservation Corps — big sky country — and fell in love with big mountains. Steven has put in many years with the California Conservation Corps, as a Corpsmember then as a Crew Leader and Supervisor for Backcountry crews. Steven’s friend Agnes Vianzon started the Eastern Sierra Corps with the mission to bring more women of color into wilderness jobs. Steven started recruiting after getting word that they needed folks for the summer. It felt awesome to be bringing Shaniya out there to this beautiful location. We can’t wait to see what’s ahead for her! It’s good when life feels full circle.