Alumni Spotlight: David Cumming

Mile High Youth Corps is beginning a new series on our blog devoted to featuring our alumni.  Today, we invite you to learn about David Cumming, an alumni from our 2011 ACLC program.   We asked David a few questions about his ACLC term and life after AmeriCorps.  Here is what he had to share:

MHYC: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What were you doing before MHYC and how did you end up in Denver serving as an ACLC?

David: Well, so I came about this state by way of shear interest of the west. Originally from Virginia, and raised in Florida, I came out here to educate kids in the outdoors, and decided to put in my time with the government for a short stint in Denver because I wanted to find an outlet in Denver, as well as work some trails that I so often use on my weekends along the Front Range.

MHYC: What is your favorite MHYC memory?

David: So the summer work as an ACLC was definitely a highlight. We worked with some great project sponsors and a lot of very interesting environmental education topics. We worked on invasive species and a bit of chainsaw work at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. After a long day’s work in the hot sun, we took a break to go and see where they keep a warehouse full of blacklisted and confiscated illegal animal hides, jackets, rattlesnake shoes, zebra heads, turtles … I mean, things got pretty crazy in there. Some of the corps members were pretty upset. I thought it was pretty terrible as well. But I kind of wanted some cobra skin cowboy boots … not gonna lie.

David, ACLC Alum

David shows off his skills (and balance) as an ACLC Corpsmember in 2011.

MHYC: What are you up to now? What do you love about it?

David: Right now I work about two hours southwest of Denver in a little ranching/lumber town called Florissant. About five miles on a dirt road, you’ll find our 6,000 acre property where we host a number of different operations. The umbrella group is called the Colorado Outdoor Education Center. We have an outdoor education school that brings in students from middle schools all around the Front Range in the spring and fall for a number of weeks. We also have a summer camp that I am the program director of, called Sanborn Western Camps. It’s an adventure-based camp, full of 14er trips, rock climbing on and off property, an enormous horseback riding program (we keep around 110 of ‘em over the summer) and all types of other excursions with kids from all around the world.

MHYC: What advice would you have for current Corpsmembers about their time at MHYC or their future goals?

David: Okay, so I reckon I’d advise the current ACLC Corpsmembers to really dig deep with your capstone projects. As some of the projects over the ten months may get tedious, the project is there for you so you can personalize it with your interests and strengths. It’s a time to be creative and connect with the community. Go forth.

MHYC: Any thoughts on adjusting to the “real world” after AmeriCorps?

David: I guess it doesn’t get much more “real” than what you’ll experience in AmeriCorps. This particular program (energy, water and ACLC) has access to some of Denver’s most underprivileged populations (I also consider it as a microcosm of the US, as well), whose income levels are ubiquitous in our current economy. And unfortunately, it doesn’t get much better for them. I was incredibly fortunate enough to find a job that I love and a group of people here at the ranch that I am blessed to be around, every day.

But here’s the thing. If you are so lucky to breath good, clean air, if you can get phone calls every night from our parents who worry about us out here, oh so dearly, or if you have an iPhone with various applications to tell you what the weather is going to be that day, or if you eat three full healthy meals a day, well, then I’d say that your life is pretty “unreal,” honestly. We so often take these things as just part of our carefree, normal day. But it’s not. The people you meet while in your program struggle to buy two of the three meals a day. People that really, truly struggle. And you’ll learn this. And if you don’t, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you don’t also realize that these “real” people are also some of the most sacred members of our society. They’ll tell you stories of war, stories of love and loss in just twenty quick minutes of their day. And the funny thing is, you, right there in their doorway, may have been one of five people that have visited them over the course of this year. As heart-wrenching as the “reality,” conversely, it’s incredibly uplifting, and so, so very unique, indeed—that you, as a young twenty-something who will grow old just as the men and women you will meet have, can realize these people are happy, truly happy for what they are given.

MHYC: Anything else that we should know about you?

David: As an AmeriCorps alum, I feel good about the values, more so, than anything else. How to do good, hard work. How to try and understand cultures that are vastly different than my granola hippie way of living. How to be a better friend and brother. How to stay in touch, despite the distance between the people I care the most about. How to do such a small task—cutting a single tree to allow the forest to breathe easy, or screwing in a light bulb—and feel good about the bigger picture at the end of the day, despite the incredibly dense sprawl of Denver. How we are all part of something bigger than ourselves, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can begin to find validity in every single thing we do in this life.

MHYC: Thanks, David! 

David: Ciao, and be good to yourselves.

Want to stay connected to MHYC Alums? Join us for our first official networking event on Thursday, April 19 from 5:30-7pm at Studio 12 Gallery (209 Kalamath St. in Denver).  This event is free; an RSVP to caitlynh [at] mhyc [dot] net is requested but not required.

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