I got the amazing opportunity to work on the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps this past year, including two leadership positions.
After graduating from Juniata College during the pandemic in 2020, like many of my fellow students, my internship and entry-level career opportunities had vanished overnight.
It was a rough start to my career journey, but I don’t think I would have found this position with the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps without the pandemic.
Before joining the Outdoor Corps, I had the opportunity to work on a trail crew in Colorado during my junior year of college (Rocky Mountain Youth Corps), so I was aware of the type of work I would be getting involved in.
Training and Getting Started
My Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps journey started with a weeklong training in Halifax (shoutout to Camp Hebron and their support). There, we learned basic skills that we would be using in the field and teamwork building with our fellow members.
Some of those skills included: communication, understanding our own learning and leadership styles, going over basic carpentry needs, and learning wilderness first aid or beginning chainsaw courses.
It was a great way to connect with those around the state who had similar interests, career goals, and hopes for the coming corps season.
Not all of those who joined had environmental careers in mind. This is one of the great things about the corps -- you don’t need to have a background or future in conservation to be a member of a crew.
Over the 10 months, you learn everything from communication to carpentry work.
The corps was not my first choice for a job, but I would not trade my experience for any other job.
I have learned so many skills, and the confidence I have in myself and my abilities has multiplied tenfold. I have loved working with my crews and learning so much from them and their personal experiences.
I had the amazing opportunity to start as a crew member, work as a youth crew leader over the summer, and then finish out the season stepping in as the Harrisburg crew leader.
Looking back, this was the best transition within the corps I could have hoped for.
Leadership Roles in the Outdoor Corps
The opportunity to become a summer youth crew leader is offered to all members on the young adult (18–25-year-old) crews.
The purpose of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps summer youth program is to give on-the-job experiences to young people, as well as guide and foster them for their futures.
These youth vary in age, from 15 to 18, and so do their personal experiences and future aspirations.
Whether they are readying themselves for the coming SATs and ACTs or celebrating their final year in high school and preparing for college, these soon-to-be adults have joined this organization in hopes of gaining new skills and new knowledge.
I was very grateful to have such a hardworking and collaborative crew. It made the season very enjoyable and educational for us all.
The members learned equally as much from our projects as they did from each other.
My favorite project that the summer youth crew worked on was building walk-in campsites at Little Buffalo State Park.
Our job was to clear out an area, make it level, and then put in a tent pad, fire pit, and picnic tables.
We made over three campsites and were able to build the picnic tables that would later be placed at our sites.
I learned so much from leading the summer youth crew that prepared me for the responsibilities of being the new leader for the Harrisburg young adult crew.
My Journey, Past and Future
As a leader for both the youth and young adult crews, you learn to:
- Facilitate communication with DCNR staff
- Assess and manage projects with the abilities of your members in mind
- File appropriate administrative logs and reports
These teamwork and communications skills will help me throughout my career.
During my time with the crews, I made numerous connections within the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Protection, The Nature Conservancy, and the Lancaster Conservancy.
I would have never gained this network of environmental agencies without the help and projects provided by the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps and Student Conservation Association.
Now that the season has ended, I hope to continue my path in the conservation field whether it takes me into government work, the private sector, or future schooling down the road.
I am so thankful I got the opportunity to work on such incredible projects with so many amazing people throughout the entire season.
My future plans are to volunteer with the Keystone Trail Association and the Lancaster Conservancy to keep the many skills I have learned with the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps fresh and always improving.
About Bri and the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps
Brianna (Bri) Geiner was a member of the Harrisburg nine-month young adult crew of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps. DCNR had nine crews for young adults ages 18-25 working on public lands and conservation projects across the state in 2022.
The youth employment and enrichment program is managed by DCNR in cooperation with the
Student Conservation Association, a national conservation jobs organization.
The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps is now hiring for its 2023 nine-month young adult crews and cultural resources crew. Learn how the participate in the
Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps at the DCNR website.