Celebrating the OYC Fall 2023 Weekend Work Series

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Celebrating the OYC Fall 2023 Weekend Work Series

This fall was an autumnally awesome season for the Outdoor Youth Corps as youth from the greater St. Louis area joined the Outdoor Youth Corps Fall Weekend Work Series program. The Outdoor Youth Corps (OYC) is an education and workforce development program that connects youth ages 16 to 20 with projects and career paths focused on conservation, horticulture and sustainability, and community engagement in the St. Louis Area.  


There were eight workdays this season with a variety of project host sites, partners, and lessons! This is just a brief recap on the fall-tastic crew of the Fall 2023 Weekend Work Series. The crew consisted of six members, some returning OYC members from seasons past and fresh faces too! While each crew member was a bit reserved and quiet at the beginning, friendships flourished by the end of the season. The laughter and chatter of everyone was noteworthy evidence of that.  


The crew worked on seven different projects with six partners of the program, plus a team building scavenger hunt within the Missouri Botanical Garden during orientation.  We harvested vegetables at Heru Urban Farm, completed a trash pickup with A Red Circle, participated in an invasive species removal event with Great Rivers Greenway, learned about sustainable buildings with Benton Park West Tiny Home Project, and invasive species removal at Greenwood Cemetery with the Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association.


After a weekend off for fall break, the crew returned to Greenwood Cemetery and planted a diverse array of shrubs and native trees historically relevant to the area. We celebrated the end of the season with the Young Friends of the Missouri Botanical Garden at Shaw Nature Reserve with an invasive species removal day where the two groups worked side by side, accomplishing removal in a large area. Get ready to read more details about the impacts we made this season!


Our first project partner was with past project partner Tyrean Lewis, owner of Heru Urban Farmstead. Known for his passion in youth education, Lewis taught the crew how to harvest okra, and plant beets and lettuce; learning that okra packs a bit of an itch if not harvested with gloves. We also got to witness some adorable baby chicks and help contemplate the name of the Farm’s new cat.  


Week two, the crew worked alongside project partner Erica Williams, the founder and executive director of A Red Circle. During this project, the crew had the opportunity to engage with community members, learn about the power of pursuing solutions to community problems, and build anticipation for the future of the Nexus grocery store in North St. Louis.


At our third project site, crew members learned about the invasive species bush honey suckle (Lonicera maackii). A Great Rivers Greenway Fall Conservation Days featured a collaboration effort with the Outdoor Leadership Corps Crew (OLC). You can read more about OLC here! With the help of many volunteers, OYC assisted in removing honey suckle from 1.5 acres! 


By our fourth project, the weather began to truly feel like fall, and excitement about the Benton Park West Tiny House Project was at an all-time high. Our partners Tiggs and Rikki Watts were kind enough to light a fire for us on the site that their tiny home is being built upon. The crew learned about sustainable houses, how to be resourceful with materials, and had the opportunity to check out the inside of the tiny house. Before the day was done, the crew helped unload plank wood to be re-used for further construction on the tiny home and community garden structures! 


The OYC crew was excited to work on a longer project at the Greenwood Cemetery. For two Saturdays the crew focused on projects at Greenwood. Each of these days were unique in project goals but all had the same mission- to provide restoration and beautification in honor of a site rich with history. The crew learned about the efforts that Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association has put into restoring the cemetery, once full of weeds and left in disrepair, this site was the first commercial non-sectarian cemetery for African Americans in the St. Louis metropolitan area. The first weekend crew members used their skills of removing bush honey suckle to work and picked up any trash in the area. The following weekend, crew members revitalized the area once full of bush honeysuckle with beautiful native shrubs; learning how to plant and mulch the new additions. This was a project many of the crew members enjoyed, as it is not only a project they can return to and be proud of, but it is a contribution to the community and service to a site meant to honor the lives of many. Thank you to the other partners who helped make these work days a huge success: Jean Ponzi and Jill Maes; Missouri Botanical Garden, Joe Oelke; Beyond Housing, and volunteers from St. Louis area colleges.


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Images above: Work completed at Greenwood Cemetery week one and two


For the final weekend of the program, OYC traveled to Shaw Nature Reserve. Crew members teamed up with the Young Friends of the Missouri Botanical Garden to remove invasive bush honeysuckle. Crew members were able to learn more about the history of Shaw Nature Reserve, why restoration work is so important for biodiversity, and what an ecosystem can look like after invasive removal. One of the best parts of the day was taking in the view from Crescent Knoll Overlook, a breathtaking view of rolling glades with fall foliage and the Meramec River.  Thank you to the Young Friends for facilitating our last day celebration and spending time with our crew.


The drive back from the Shaw was one of the most memorable moments of the season as the van was full of chatter and sharing stories from the season. Many of the crew members were amazed at the challenges they overcame and the achievements they accomplished from the fall.


While the Fall Weekend Work Series has ended, we look forward to all the new skills and lessons we’ll explore with new and returning crew members this spring!  Applications for our Spring Weekend Work Series and Alterative Spring Break programs are now open. Check out our website for more information.

| Categories: Sustainability in the Community | Tags: Outdoor Youth Corps, OYC, career development | View Count: (555) | Return