Where Are They Now? Seasonal Crew Leader Lauren Glass
Lauren Glass joined WTA two years ago with an impressive resume from working with youth. After two years crew leading with us, she headed to Colorado to manage the youth program at Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. We caught up with her to see how it's going.
2018 is WTA's trail maintenance program's 25th anniversary. The program has grown from a handful of people in the first years, to more than 5,000 individuals last year. This many willing hands requires lots of staff to manage it, so each spring we hire more than 20 seasonal crew leaders to help support our busiest months of trail maintenance.
Whether they stick around for multiple seasons, or spend just one summer with us, the crew leaders who come through WTA's trail maintenance program touch the lives of hundreds of volunteers and help WTA realize our goal of keeping trails open and accessible to everyone. We caught up with a few crew leader alumni, to see what brought them to our community and where their lives have taken them since their time at WTA.
Finding Fulfillment in working with youth
Since college, Lauren has worked in environmental education, connecting young people to the environment and inspiring a love for nature. Her experience working with youth was impressive before she arrived at WTA. From her first job working at Islandwood (a nonprofit focused on "improving access to meaningful, nature-based learning experiences"), she moved to crew leading for the Student Conservation Association (SCA), while also working as an instructor at The Mountaineers and a substitute teacher at Billings and Lakeside Schools.
But what drew her to working with youth? At first, she just happened to land jobs where it was part of her assigned tasks. Then she realized she was getting something more out of it.
"It's cool for them to have a youngish adult in their life that they can bounce ideas off of. You're not their parent or teacher or even a close friend of theirs; you're like a safe, supportive sounding-board. I found [them] very inspiring and even learned from the ideas they shared with me."
She also enjoyed being a role model for the young people she was working with.
"On most SCA crews, we did a compliment circle debrief, and on one two-week hitch, there was just one female crew member. During the compliment circle, this woman said she was inspired by me because she hadn't realized there could be women in leadership roles until that crew. I don't always think of myself as a role model, so it was nice to have that mirrored back by an individual. I was happy I could be an inspiration to her."
Becoming part of WTA's Community
After all this time working with youth, in 2015 Lauren finally heard from a friend about a trail maintenance position opening at WTA.
"I knew of WTA because my family has gotten the magazine forever, and I followed them on instagram. The job appealed to me because I wanted to keep doing what I'd been doing in my career, but in a more focused way. I wanted more local support. SCA is a national organization, and the job with WTA was supported by local offices."
Her past experiences positioned her perfectly to become a youth crew leader, and she got the job. She has fond memories from many of her trips, but the extended youth vacations (which are two weeks long) offer the most time for a crew to get to know each other. They created memories that stood out to Lauren.
"It was cool for me to observe them talking about technology in their lives. I didn't participate in those conversations, but it was really rewarding to hear what they decided to talk about. Being there and listening to them, I learned a lot about how young people might see the world. That showed me different perspectives."
Over the course of the two following summers, she led eight youth volunteer vacations, as well as 10 adult trips, including day work parties, a volunteer vacation, and a backcountry response team (BCRT), but after two seasons, she was ready for a year-round, full time job with more autonomy to see the program through from start to end.
"I loved being in the field, but I also wanted to help set the stage for the season and see what it was like at the end of the year."
Taking her perspective and Skills to Colorado & a new job
So she took a job with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC). There, she is one of two Youth Program Managers, responsible for not just field work, but also scheduling the season, managing partnerships, doing outreach and recruitment and hiring for three different youth programs. She's also in charge of more people: 10 crew leaders and up to 60 young people in a season.
That's a lot of different responsibilities compared to seasonal crew leading, where your crews often aren't larger than 12 people. So what skills from her experience with WTA allowed her to manage her new job?
"WTA taught me a lot with regard to the technical trail work skill, how land agencies work and the funding that comes from them. In my new role, that knowledge is really important. I have to budget in order to pay the crews. (At RMYC, youth crews 14 and up are paid.) So I have to know where the money is coming from; who's funding the project? Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the National Park Service? Another agency? WTA taught me that you have to balance what to promise with what money is available, and then ensure the crew you are sending can do the best work as efficiently as possible."
So far, her season has been full of prep work, but she's looking forward to the future.
"I'm excited to have a say in how we recruit and run programs, how we might change the programs if they need it, and to make sure my crew leaders have a voice with what goes on the in programs. Being out in the field gives you a perspective that other folks in the organization might not have, and I want to make sure that gets heard."
WTA works to ensure that anyone who wants to participate in a work party or join our community is welcome, and Lauren's working hard to ensure RMYC can offer the same. But her base in Colorado is a little different than Washington. For one thing, it's more sparsely populated, so it can be harder to hear about opportunities, or know who you're signing up to volunteer with.
"The population here is super different. There are lots of small towns and rural communities, and cities are far apart. I want to reach any kid who wants to be in our programs, but I have to physically get outside Steamboat Springs (where she's based) to the more outlying communities. I want to be face-to-face and meet the young people who are interested in this, not just send an email."
So far, Lauren's delivering on that desire. When I talked to her, she was headed to an outreach career night in Walden, more than an hour away from her office in Steamboat, hoping to meet with some interested young people who she'll work with from the beginning of their season, right up until their last day.