Outdoor Youth Corps 2021 Summer Crew
Meet the Outdoor Youth Corps 2021 Summer Crew!

Outdoor Youth Corps (OYC) is an education and workforce development program of the Missouri Botanical Garden that connects St. Louis city youth to environmental stewardship projects, community engagement opportunities, and potential environmental careers. This program provides career mentorship to participants by introducing them to a wide variety of career paths, training opportunities, and paid work experience. Participating youth learn hands-on skills and gain knowledge related to working in the environmental, horticultural, and conservation fields.
Learn more about the Outdoor Youth Corps program

Keep reading to learn a little more about our 2021 summer crew and the projects they’ve worked on this summer.

Crew Member Bios

Keith Keith Boyd, Crew Member
Keith is an OYC crew member at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Keith enjoys working in the outdoors and would like to pursue a career in the landscaping field. Keith has been an OYC crew member for two summers and keeps coming back because he likes to work outside. In his free time, he likes to go fishing at his grandparents' lake house.
EllaElla Nolan, Crew Member
Ella Nolan is a high school senior at Crossroads College Prep and an OYC crew member. She has a passion for digital art, sewing, and bike riding. Her passion for the outdoors drove her towards conservation efforts, as her role in Girl Scouts and OYC allows her to help preserve Missouri’s natural beauty. Ella is a dedicated thespian and she loves participating in theater both on stage and as a tech crew member. Alongside theater, she is passionate about biology and computer science at her school. She adores science fiction and Star Wars and she is always prepared to take people down in Mario Kart.
JhordynJhordyn Nolan Gunn, Crew Member
Jhordyn Nolan Gunn is an OYC crew member at the Missouri Botanical Garden. She has been a part of this crew for what will be three years in August. Jhordyn enjoys working in the outdoors and hopes to continue her green thumb at college this fall. She also graduated high school this May from Rosati Kain High School and received a presidential scholarship to Alabama State University where she will continue her studies. Jhordyn also runs her own small business which she’s had since 2017, called Jhordyn Knits.
SamSam Bigham, Crew Member
Sam Bigham is an OYC crew member at the Missouri Botanical Garden. This is Sam’s first time participating in OYC, but Sam has shown continued interest in the environment ever since he saw all of the amazing and spectacular animals at the Saint Louis Zoo. Sam is currently 17 years old and is a rising senior at Crossroads College Prep. While he does not know which college he will go to when he graduates, Sam plans to go into computer science and use that knowledge to benefit the environment. Related to his interest in computer science, Sam has numerous accomplishments including being the leader of the programming team of his robotics activity. He was nominated for the Dean’s List because of his accomplishments. Sam is also a member of his varsity soccer team and hopes to continue to play soccer in college. Sam loves the time he’s spent so far with Outdoor Youth Corps and hopes that he can continue to help the environment even when he goes to college.
OliviaOlivia Thompson, Crew Member
Olivia Thompson is an OYC crew member and avid enjoyer of the outdoors. They are currently studying biology as a sophomore at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. In their free time, they like drawing and exercising.
KaylaKayla Willis, Crew Member
Kayla Willis is a recent high school graduate and current OYC crew member. Her interest in community service began four years ago and her love of gardening two years after that. After learning about environmental issues in school, she strived to find an organization to join that would work to improve her community. Kayla loves the community and opportunity to improve St. Louis through her work with the Outdoor Youth Corps.
SarahSarah Veldhuizen, Crew Member
Sarah Veldhuizen is an OYC crew member and is currently a senior at Webster Groves High School. Sarah has been passionate about conservation and the outdoors from a young age. She looks forward to working at various sites in the St. Louis area and helping out local communities and ecosystems. Sarah is also a volunteer at Wild Bird Rehabilitation and has been volunteering for three years now. In her free time, Sarah enjoys hiking, birding, and being in the outdoors.
GrantGrant Coleman, Crew Member
Grant Coleman is an OYC crew member at the Missouri Botanical Garden. He joined OYC to work with like minded youth to expand his knowledge of careers in environmental science, work towards significant change in his community, and learn new skills. He graduated high school in 2021 as an HO scholar and honor student and previously won an award at his 2019 St. Louis Science Center internship as “Best Horticulturist.”
ChloeChloe Williams, Crew Member
Chloe is an OYC crew member that is breaking boundaries that relate to the outside environment. She is a high school senior that is interested in working in environmental science and political science for her college career path. She is passionate about writing and drawing. Her proudest accomplishment was achieving a 4.0 cumulative GPA her junior year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chloe has a strong sense of character regarding honesty, leadership, compatibility, and absolute determination.
DominicDominic Derfler, Crew Member
Dominic Derfler is a college junior going into his senior year at Mizzou. He is majoring in environmental science with an emphasis in education and outreach and really loves science and the outdoors. He was very interested in the job with OYC because he thought it would really supplement his resume in terms of his education and that he would gain some great experiences in his hometown community. He plans to continue his pursuit for a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, keeping his emphasis in the field of education and outreach. Dominic believes that his experience with OYC not only confirmed his passion to study environmental science, but will also help him in the long run as he continues his career. Besides being outdoors, in his spare time Dominic loves to play and watch lacrosse, as well as cheer on the St. Louis Blues and Cardinals.
EmilyEmily Krall, Outdoor Youth Corps Intern
Emily is an undergraduate junior Environmental Science student at Southeast Missouri State University with a minor in Geographic Information Systems. She plans to attend graduate school in the near future. She says that this summer's experience has helped her explore her career interests in the environmental field.
CheyenneCheyenne Griffin, Missouri Botanical Garden Education Intern
Cheyenne is a graduate student in the Horticultural Sciences Department at Texas A&M University (TAMU) pursuing a Master's of Agriculture. She is graduating in December of 2021. Cheyenne is interested in working in education programs through green spaces, such as botanic gardens, national and local parks, forests, or preserves. She hopes to start her career as an educator in the agriculture or environmental sector this year. Having a positive impact on her community through agriculture, environmental science, and sustainability education is a passion of hers.

While interning with the youth programs at Missouri Botanical Garden, Cheyenne has worked with the EarthWays Center team, the OYC program and the Eco-Act Program. One of Cheyenne's favorite things about her internship has been working with youth in St. Louis. She is enjoying her time at Missouri Botanical Garden and is excited for the projects and personal connections to come.
BrynBryn Blackburn, Community Programs Coordinator at the Missouri Botanical Garden
Bryn oversees the Outdoor Youth Corps program and has been with the Garden since February 2021. She received her undergraduate degree in Geography and Environmental Resources with a focus in Environmental Sustainability and a graduate degree in Recreation Administration with a focus in Outdoor Education. Bryn worked for Southern Illinois University’s environmental center for 6 years and served on the board as the Southern Regional Director for the Environmental Education Association of Illinois.

 

Participant Feedback

This summer the OYC crew has partnered with sites including Brightside STL, Heru Urban Farms, O’Fallon Park and the Missouri Department of Conservation, St. Vincent County Park and Great Rivers Greenways, Forest Park Forever, Shaw Nature Reserve, and more. The participants have been introduced to environmental stewardship projects throughout the city including invasive species removal, prairie restoration, urban farming, trash clean ups, and garden maintenance.

Below are some responses from current OYC participants about why they decided to pursue a job in the green field and what they plan on doing in the future.

What made you decide to take this job?

Thanks to the recommendation of my amazing biology teacher Dr. Howard Granok, I discovered the OYC program. The conservation-based projects were very appealing, as I love being in the outdoors. After a summer of quarantine in 2020 due to COVID-19, I was very ready to get out and get to work. The opportunities offered by OYC are very unique and in line with my future career interests. How many high schoolers can say they were paid to catch and band geese?? Overall, I am extremely fortunate and happy to have found this position.
—Ella Nolan
This opportunity was suggested by a school administrator when I was talking about what I wanted to do in college. I felt that this job could give me a chance to experience a chunk of what I might do in my work experience. So far, I love this job and this is a great opportunity.
—Chloe Williams

What professional goals have you set for yourself?

I plan to attend grad school after graduation and either go into an urban planning or conservation program. I would like to promote renewable energy and conservation efforts wherever I choose to live.
—Emily Krall
This fall I will be attending the illustrious Alabama State University, majoring in Political Science with my minor in Pre-Law. I plan to obtain my law degree and go into family law & maybe even open my own law firm! In five years I see myself almost done with law school and applying to law firms I want to work for. I also see myself going back to school for my masters degree, if I’m not too stressed.
—Jhordyn Nolan-Gunn

What interests you about this program?

Every day I learn something new!
—Keith Boyd
I find that one of the things that I love most about this program is the diversity of activities and projects we engage in throughout the St. Louis area. I think my favorite sites we’ve worked at so far are between going to Heru Farms in Florissant, and goose-banding at O’Fallon Park.
—Dominic Derfler

What do you like about working with the Outdoor Youth Corps at the Missouri Botanical Garden?

I like working at different stewardship project sites around St. Louis, learning about new things, and doing fun activities.
—Grant Coleman
I like getting out and making a difference and learning about various career options in ecology and wildlife preservation.
—Olivia Thompson
I’ve loved all of the time we get to spend outdoors. I find gardening super relaxing and getting to garden next to peers who are super fun to be around is even better!
—Sam Bigham

What has been your favorite site to work at so far?

My favorite site has been O’Fallon Park. Working as a team, I felt we made a real, tangible difference in removing invasive bush honeysuckle in the park’s woodland area. I hope that over time, the area can become a healthier, more biodiverse ecosystem.
—Sarah Veldhuizen
My favorite site has definitely been Heru Urban Farm in Florissant. It was awesome to talk to the owner and learn from him about how he operates his farm and distributes goods to those in need. I knew I was making a tangible impact.
—Kayla Willis