We're excited to announce the addition of Annie Hayes to the Elevate Youth team! She has proven to be a great asset as our Outdoor Activities Coordinator. Annie has had a fascinating life, from growing up in Rhode Island to her days in the forest service, fighting fires, and beyond! We sat down with Annie to understand how she found her way to Elevate Youth.
Can you tell us some stories from the days of the forest service and firefighting?
Being from the East Coast, I was exposed to so many new things when I moved to Washington State to work for the Forest Service. For example, I never imagined I would get anywhere near a wildfire, never mind become certified as a Wildland Firefighter and get to help fight fires in Central Washington. The experience that sticks out most in my mind was filling in on an Engine Crew to do initial attack on a fire that started in a cabin and quickly spread to the surrounding area. On our way to the fire, we could clearly see the smoke billowing up and getting thicker, but the cabin was in a remote area with only one road leading up to it, and the terrain was difficult to navigate in such a large Engine, so it took almost an hour to get only a few miles. When we finally got to the site, a helicopter and a Fire Boss (small plane) were doing water drops, and another crew had already arrived to start digging line around the fire to stop its spread. Our crew jumped in and began digging line as well, and after a few hours of combined efforts from air attack and ground support, we were able to put the fire out and begin “mopping up” in the black. This was my first time doing initial attack on a fire, and it was pretty scary, overwhelming, and very hot. I kept having to remind myself to be aware of my surroundings - to look up for falling trees, or for burning objects rolling downhill, etc. The experience gave me a huge respect for people who fight fires as a job/career because it really is such dangerous and difficult work.
You've been involved in a number of community driven and outside experience programs leading up to Elevate Youth. Can you tell us what you learned from those and how EY is different?
After I graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2016, I drove out to Nevada to participate in the Nevada Conservation Corps as a part of a 5 person trail crew. We would go for 4-8 days to remote parts of Nevada in order to work on various projects, and we always camped out near the work site, often in areas without a bathroom, running water, or cell service. We did anything from trail work, to decommissioning old barbed wire fences and replacing them with new ones, to clearing invasive aquatic plants, etc.. It was really the first time that I immersed myself in an outdoor experience like this, and while the work was very challenging, I was able to spend time in the most beautiful spots I had ever seen and spend all of my time outside with some really fun and special people. This experience absolutely impacted my goals for the future in terms of what career I wanted to pursue, and I think it played a big role in leading me to Elevate Youth. I am so excited that I am part of an organization working to give kids a similar opportunity to the one that personally changed my life.
What are some of the challenges you've encountered in the world of non-profits and mentoring, and how do you plan to tackle these with Elevate Youth?
My job as Outdoor Activities Coordinator is my first experience working for a non-profit organization, but I can already tell that it will be a challenge (one that I am very excited to take on!). There is so much work to be done, and right now the only staff we have is Alec and me. This is an amazing opportunity for me because I get to do such a wide variety of things and get to see every aspect of what goes in to making a non-profit run successfully. I think Alec and I do a great job of working together and collaborating on things, and every time I leave the office after working with him I feel like we accomplished something important and took another small step towards making this organization a success.
Your official role at EY is Outdoor Activities Coordinator. What does that mean on a day to day basis?
On a day to day basis I do a lot of different things, especially since we are still in the planning stages for the outdoor trips that we will be putting on in 2018. This means I get to reach out to various sites where we are interested in holding a trip, or to outfitters that we are interested in working with. I also send emails and make phone calls to outdoor companies, brands, and other organizations that we support and are hoping to partner with in the future. I have been working on gaining awareness for Elevate Youth by growing our social media presence and following. Alec and I have worked together on several pitches for groups that have shown interest in EY and that we hope to partner with in the near future, and we have several exciting meetings coming up to hopefully solidify these partnerships!
Is there a particular place in the Northeast that you're most excited about arranging an outing to?
Although I grew up in Rhode Island, I was not a super “outdoorsy” person growing up. My family and I often went skiing/snowboarding at Attitash or Sugarbush, but I didn’t do much exploring in the areas around Boston and RI. Most of my outdoor time was spent on a field, playing sports such as soccer, lacrosse, and tennis. Once I got to St. Lawrence University and found I was interested in studying the environment, I started to get more into hiking and spending time in nature. When I was home for school breaks, I often went to Blue Hills with family or friends and spent days exploring there. I just moved back to Boston after being away from the area for about six years, so I am so excited to learn about all the places that I can spend time hiking and doing other outdoor activities around the area, because although we will be going to these locations for trips with the youth/mentors, I will definitely be spending my days off in these places as well!