Cal State Fullerton student gets to embrace the warmth of small-town America in Alaska – Orange County Register

By Maelynn Dickson

Contributing columnist

One morning in April, I accepted a job offer from the Student Conservation Association that undoubtedly changed my life and reshaped my career goals. This job would send me into the Alaskan wilderness during the summer to teach teens the importance of trail work and conservation.

With less than a month until I was due to leave, I began rearranging my summer plans and making sure my camping gear was ready for the adventure. Although accepting this summer job was a last-minute rushed decision, there was no way I was giving up pursuing the dream job I’ve always wanted — being outdoors and teaching people about preserving this planet.

To my surprise, this job not only accomplished those dreams … but so much more.

On May 20, my flight departed from LAX and landed in Anchorage, where I spent two weeks receiving the proper training I would need to successfully lead a group of high schoolers. The completed training included: CPR certification, Wilderness First Aid certification, trail-building work skills and wilderness cooking.

During this portion of the venture, I also received bear and moose safety training —  a skill which came in handy on a weekly basis. Not only did my 12-hour Alaskan summer days consist of hard physical labor, but they were also accompanied by the never-setting sun. Let’s just say sleeping with the sun out is a lot easier when you flip the hood of your sleeping bag over your face.

Maelynn Dickson, right, with a friend she met while training, Barbora.<br />Photo courtesy of Maelynn Dickson.

After successfully completing two weeks of incredible training, it was time to head out to Cordova, Alaska, and begin the project that my co-leader and I were responsible for. We were assigned a group of seven high school students from all over the lower 48 — Maryland, Pittsburgh, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota and Seattle. As co-leaders, we were responsible for the students’ health, safety, happiness, and…

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