Wayne Lasuen is a campus recruiter for the Student Conservation Association.

Monday, 23 Sep 2002

ST. PAUL, Minn.

Everyone who grows up in a small town — in my case, Mountain Home, Idaho — dreams of going elsewhere, but most people just stay put. To make matters worse, those who stick around get jealous of the people that do manage to leave. I was in the former group; I never traveled but always dreamed of going places. Life is scary and sometimes, no matter how old you are, someone has to show you that you can do new things in spite of your fears. When my mom saw what I was turning into — a scared, immobilized 22-year-old — she took me by the hand, told me I should get out of Idaho, and promised to help me do it.

At her urging, I applied to the Student Conservation Association, which is the nation’s largest provider of conservation service opportunities, outdoor education, and leadership training for youth. SCA’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and to inspire lifelong stewardship of our environment by engaging diverse young people in hands-on service to the land. SCA became a part of my life on Oct. 8, 2001, a day I will never forget — almost a birthday to me. That is the day I got offered an internship in the Adirondacks, a 6 million acre park in upstate New York.

That day was also a fork in the road of my life: I had to ask myself, Do I stay in what I know to be a safe place, or do I let life take me on a new journey? I knew that I didn’t want to stay in Idaho forever, and did want to see new parts of the country, so I chose to venture forth, not knowing what lay ahead. All I knew was that I had one week to say goodbye to my friends and family, everyone and everything I had known all my life. As Saturday approached, I had second thoughts about leaving — but I knew that if I wanted to change, this was my chance.

I have always been a person to help others, but looking back, I realize that I never helped myself. Accepting the internship with SCA was the first time I chose to do something for myself (although the work I was going to do would help other people as well). As I got on the plane to head for New York, I felt like a new person, but I never dreamed that what lay ahead would impact my life as much as it did.

In the next week I will take you with me to the Adirondacks to show you how the work I’m doing now for SCA has changed my life.