Before joining Metro’s Youth Ecology Corps, Shae Bedford never saw herself as an outdoorsy person.
After learning about the program through the Project YESS employability and support program at Mt. Hood Community College, Bedford knew she wanted to become involved despite her lack of experience in nature. Bedford joined the program, which provides paid work opportunities to young people in habitat restoration, conservation education and workforce development.
After a year and three months learning about and working in a variety of Metro’s natural areas, Bedford closed out her experience by writing a song called “Anadromous” about salmon’s journey to the ocean.
Learn more about salmon and watch spawning salmon return to the Sandy River Oct. 21 and 22 at Salmon Homecoming at Oxbow Regional Park. Enjoy family friendly activities, such as exploring a salmon restoration site, learning about mushrooms, and sipping hot chocolate or cider around a campfire.
Q. What has it been like working with Youth Ecology Corps?
A. It’s just a really strange and wonderful program because not only does it give crew members work experience, it also gives them a whole variety of challenges and helps them overcome them. When I started, I didn’t know anything, so I was kind of quiet and reserved. It really helped me learn how to work with others and get along in a group, as well as stand up for myself and overcome my fears.
Q. What has been the best part about being in the Youth Ecology Corps?
A. My favorite part would definitely have to be the sites, the wildlife, and getting to be out there and actually see it for myself rather than in books or Google images. We were taught about wildlife and plants and how everything's connected – how everything matters. It’s important to protect it and keep things nice. I had a really great group, and I bonded with a lot of people there, made a lot of friends. It taught me a lot of social skills, too, which I definitely appreciate.
Q. What inspired you to write the song “Anadromous?”
A. One of the things they had us do is called Salmon Watch. Basically, it’s its own separate program where you have volunteers and they learn everything about the program, then they teach it to elementary school students.
The other crew members and I had to learn all about salmon and get all our questions answered. I was extremely terrified of teaching kids because I thought I’d just butcher it, but I always received a lot of support from my bosses, which was really helpful. When it was time to actually teach the kids, I felt like I rocked it. I taught sixth graders. Even the teachers were coming up to me saying “It was great!” It filled me with so much pride and self-belief, that I couldn’t not do anything to show my appreciation. I had to do something. Since I’ve been a musician since I was little, I decided to write a song.
Q. What would you tell someone who is interested in joining the Youth Ecology Corps and maybe doesn’t feel confident about their outdoor abilities?
A. Challenge yourself because eventually, you’ll be glad that you did. Experience everything, explore everything. Be curious because all of this is expanding your circle of awareness and making you grow as a person. That’s one thing I really loved about the Youth Ecology Corps – I could see myself growing as a person.