When we first started our Youth Leader program in 2008, we asked them “What do you want to do in Youth Odyssey that we aren’t already doing?” We were so impressed to hear them say that they wanted to give back to the community that had given them so much (free programming and camps). After a little brainstorming session the Youth Leaders decided to adopt a park. In keeping with the adventure wilderness ideals of Youth Odyssey, the Youth Leaders opted to adopt a less manicured, more wild park. Thus our relationship with Blucher Park was born.
Blucher Park is located in Downtown Corpus Christi. Better known as THE birding hot spot of Corpus. Blucher Park is owned by the city and managed by the Audubon Outdoor Club. Our youth leaders regularly volunteer at the park by clearing away debris, trash and dead vegetation. While they are there, they usually get some lessons in local flora and bird species not to mention the occasional conservation lesson. This past Sunday, the Youth Leaders had a Blucher work day. They cleared away lots of fallen palm leaves and garbage in order to make their favorite park look spotless. It was super humid on Sunday and I know those kids worked up a sweat in no time. Not without reward however. Jersey Mikes so graciously feeds our crew when we have said work days and we appreciate them.
After all their hard work on Sunday, I asked our Youth Leaders why they love giving back at Blucher Park. Our Youth Leader Raina said, “I like helping out at Blucher Park because I get outside and get active. I also like helping keep the park clean so people can enjoy it without running into a trash bag or cigarette butt.” I think we can all agree that a nice day outdoors can be ruined very quickly by litter. Litter is a distraction from the natural beauty Blucher Park aims to provide. Because of our Youth Leaders, garbage and other litter is much less of an issue at Blucher. Some of our other Youth Leaders just genuinely enjoy helping out a cause they feel strongly about. Youth Odyssey is proud to instill a love of nature and the outdoors in our youth and teach them the importance of protecting it.
I like helping out at Blucher Park because I get outside and get active. I also like helping keep the park clean so people can enjoy it without running into a trash bag or cigarette butt.Raina Flores, Youth Leader
Our Youth Leader Donovan recalled his favorite Blucher memory with me. It was his first ever work day and he had never been to Blucher Park before. He immediately loved it and thought “Wow, this is the coolest park I’ve ever seen!” A former Youth Leader Devon, told me that he “missed those days”. Devon said he enjoyed getting to meet new people, experience the outdoors and all the learning that came with it! Devon also shared that “[he] even applies most of those things now in life.” An original Youth Leader, Alex, who was part of the decision to adopt Blucher said “Oh I loved everything about being out there with you guys. I loved the empowerment of knowing that we were just a few kids making a big difference to such an old park. I definitely miss being out there.”
I got to ask Raina and Donovan how they think volunteering at Blucher Park has helped them grow as Youth Leaders. Donovan answered, “I think helping at Blucher has helped me grow an understanding of how important the park is to some people and find an appreciation for nature.” Raina said “It has helped me grow as a youth leader because at Blucher I have responsibilities and I feel like I have another chance to take charge and help the community.” Wow! Definitely wise and mature answers from both of them!
I think it’s safe to say that our partnership with Blucher Park is a mutually beneficial one. The park and the Audubon Outdoor Club gets some extra hands and a clean park as well as some opportunities to teach our Youth Leaders a thing or two about birds. Our Youth Leaders get to exercise some responsibility, take ownership of their community and give back. We really couldn’t ask for a better way for our Youth Leaders to get involved with their community. It’s been a great partnership for nine years now and we hope to continue working at Blucher for many years to come!