This story appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of Our Big Backyard, a quarterly magazine about parks and nature. Read more stories, plan an outing with a field guide, and find out more about fun nature events and classes.
Bradley Fuller recently stood on his knees studying his surroundings at Blue Lake Regional Park, picking leaves and writing in a small, yellow book.
As a member of Metro's Youth Ecology Corps, Fuller, 19, is learning hands-on skills in habitat restoration by helping develop a site plan for the wildlife viewing area at Blue Lake.
Youth Ecology Corps is a partnership between Metro and Mt. Hood Community College to create interest in the outdoors in an audience unlikely to have experienced nature.
Corps members are all graduates of Mt. Hood’s Youth Employability Support Services (Project YESS). The project helps low-income, 16- to 21-year-old students in Multnomah County earn general equivalency diplomas by providing free tuition, bus passes and school supplies. Graduates are urged to become corps members, who are provided money and hands-on mentorship as they learn about environmental stewardship.
Q: What is your favorite part about the corps?
A: I love our work! Being a part of the grand scheme of things has really opened my eyes to just how intricate our ecosystems are and how vital it is that they’re able to sustain themselves. I am honored to be a part of Metro's Youth Ecology Corps and planning restoration efforts even if it’s one natural area at a time.
Q: How has your perspective changed since you joined?
A: Before I joined the program I hardly had the right moral behavior. I am two years clean – the same amount of time since I joined Project YESS and got my GED. The program has not only taught me the importance of a youthful life, but how to accept myself as the person I am and always will be. I converted my diet to organics and whole foods and am a successful college student. I’ve been able to channel my energies, and my stress level has gone way down. Most of all I’ve become a critical thinker and process things along with their consequences long before I do them.
Q: How has nature shaped what you want to do?
A: My whole life I’ve always wanted to do something with medicine. Since joining the program, my pursuit of medicine hasn’t changed, but the medicinal practices I would like to perform have. I’ve discovered many physiologically enhancing/healing plants, herbs, shrubs, and even trees over the course of the last two years. I’ve particularly become interested in herbal medicine, naturopathic science and ethno botany – the relationship between plants and people.