My name is Louise Ba and I am a current senior at St. Catherine University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I am from Minneapolis, Minnesota, but my family is originally from Senegal. As a Political Science, Economics, and Public Policy major, it is not easy for me to find ways to connect nature and the outdoors into my career, but I’ve learned to integrate it into my lifestyle. To do this, I joined the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa (CCM) the summers of my sophomore and junior years of high school and learned valuable life lessons. The first, which is the story of this piece, is about nurturing the connections I have with family outside of the technical world.
CCM is a four-week live-in summer program dedicated to educating youth around the protection and conservation of our natural world. The program starts at St. John’s Landing, a portion of land located within St. Croix State Park. Youth then join “crews” led by a crew leader that takes them on two “spike trips” during the month. I had an amazing time and learned so much, not only about natural resource conservation, but how to nurture connections, instead of taking them for granted.
This summer I had the opportunity to camp at St. Croix State Park, a three-day trip with my family that I will look back on with fond memories. Because I experienced the magic of the Conservation Corps alone, I wanted to share this magic with my family too. However, things took a turn very quickly! Picture this: it’s pouring rain, the only thing we have to cover the food that we’re cooking is a tarp meant for the bottom of a tent, and the only way we’re holding it up is with sticks we found in the woods. It could have gone badly, but we approached the situation with humor! My sister and I got the fire going, my other two sisters helped my Dad gather sticks, and we made it through together. It was a hilarious adventure! That is why I chose this photo; it is a visual representation of how I experience the outdoors; with an open mind and a light heart. Because of that crazy weather experience, my family and I now have stories that we can tell over campfires at future Minnesota state parks, stories that we will bond over and grow closer as a family. The Conservation Corps taught me that it is important to consciously spend time outdoors, away from technology and other distractions, and invest time in family. I know for a fact that my family is closer because of this trip and that this is only the beginning of our journey exploring the outdoors together.