I initially joined this program on a bit of a whim and didn't quite know what to expect, but I can say without a doubt that it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Our days were a perfect mix of education and fun, with a variety of partner organizations and adventurous activities. The service work we did was not only well-tied to our curriculum of environmental conservation but also encouraged teamwork among volunteers. My two favorite service days included our hike and trail maintenance on Mount Elbert and helping harvest, plant, and maintain a Salida community farm. By the end of each work day, I really felt like I had made a positive impact for our planet and learned valuable skills to continue to protect the environment, and all in such gorgeous scenery. One particularly unique experience was our day at the Ute Mountain Tribal Park, where a Ute tour guide led us through the Ancestral Land of the Pueblo people. We were able to see many thousand-year-old ruins and artifacts and learn their history in a very genuine and authentic way; I gained a new perspective and respect for the Native people of Colorado and their land.
However, by far my favorite part about the trip, and the part I expected the least, was the amazing and diverse people I was able to meet and get to know. From playing Uno the first night to the 3 day rafting trip to blasting music on car rides, each moment was a chance to learn something new about someone and bond and grow together. We helped each other through highs and lows and created some absolutely amazing memories along the way, I truly feel like I've made some lifelong friends. As cheesy as it sounds, this trip was life changing for me and there is so much knowledge I am excited to bring back to my community, I am so thankful for the amazing opportunities the Colorado program gave me!