I have always been convinced that I was switched at birth, and am truly a princess. My job during high school indulged my fantasy– working at a high-end jewelry store. However the summer after graduation came around and I was ready for a change. One night at dinner my mom’s friend, Shanda, recommended that I apply to a non-profit organization where I would spend the summer doing manual labor full-time. I originally thought that this would be the last thing that I would ever want to do. Yet, I went to the interview and was soon afterwards a summer-of-service employee for Mile High Youth Corps (MYHC).
While driving to work on my first day, I was beginning to freak out. I had never done manual labor before, never was required to wear steel-toed boots and a hardhat, and certainly never worked for 10 hours a day. Somehow I managed to convince myself that this was just a job and I would put my time in and get out of there with a paycheck and a scholarship for college and that was all there was to it.
Before I knew what was happening that first day, I was stuck in the back of a twelve-seater van with a bunch of people I did not know- and may not have associated with otherwise- off to cut down a species of invasive trees in northern Colorado. To put it quite simply, I was totally in over my head– I had no clue what I had signed up for. I came home that night looking like I literally stepped off a battlefield—my arms were scratched and bloody from the tree branches, my entire outfit was drenched in sweat from the day’s work, and I was more exhausted than I had ever been. I had never felt or looked any farther from a princess than I did at that moment. I had no clue how I was going to make it through the rest of the week much less the rest of the summer.
Slowly, but surely I fell into a groove. The scratches began to hurt less, the sweat became less noticeable, and the days began to pass more quickly. The van rides promptly became the highlights of my day. I also began to become close friends with some of the members on my crew. I met a number of the most amazing people from completely different backgrounds than I. They were so different than the people I had spent high school with and being with them was like a breath of fresh air to my stuffy world. I felt so comfortable with them; I could be myself. As the inside jokes, familiarity, and daily routines began to set in, there was a sense of security and tranquility around the roar of the chainsaws, the falling trees, and the laughter that would rise above it all during our breaks.
It took about half of the summer for me to realize how much I had changed and grown while working at MHYC. I was no longer afraid of having to work hard with my hands, I no longer cared what my hair looked like when I took my hardhat off or that my t-shirt was outlined with salt lines at the end of the day. MHYC ended up, to my surprise, being one of the best things that I have ever taken part in. On the outside I looked very little like a princess, but in my heart I knew that the summer had changed the type of person I was and the type of princess I could have been.
-Veronicca Solis, 2009 Summer of Service Trailblazers Corpsmember