July 8, 2009
Intern leads summer work at Lime Hollow
SUNY Cortland student leading youth crews to make improvements at C’ville nature center
CORTLANDVILLE — Jeff Radcliffe originally came to SUNY Cortland to study athletic training, but he grew tired of the courses’ intensity.
Besides, the Canandaigua native grew up on a farm as the son of a veterinarian, worked on neighbors’ farms and always felt at home outdoors.
He discovered the college’s recreation and leisure studies major, switched to it, and this summer is leading youth crews as both a college intern and an AmeriCorps worker at Lime Hollow Center for Environment and Culture.
“Once I found out I could get paid to lead people on camping trips and rafting trips, I was hooked,” said Radcliffe, 29, as he prepared Tuesday to direct seven young men who were installing cedar posts around a garden at the visitor center.
“Outdoors is home,” he said. “It feels like it’s where I’m supposed to be.”
Radcliffe finished his bachelor’s degree in May and needs only a 15-week internship to graduate. He will work through the fall, doubling as one of the center’s five AmeriCorps workers.
He lives in a house on the Lime Hollow property, sharing it with another AmeriCorps worker.
Glenn Reisweber, Lime Hollow’s executive director, said Radcliffe has been invaluable.
“He already knows how to use a tractor, back hoe, power tools, anything of that nature,” Reisweber said. “Jeff’s goal is to be in a supervisory role for a park or the state Department of Environmental Conservation, so with us he’ll see the managerial side.”
Reisweber also has taken Radcliffe to Cortland’s Breakfast Rotary Club, to see how Lime Hollow fits in the community.
Radcliffe spent three and a half years in the Air Force, stationed at the Army’s Fort Drum. His job was to work with Civil Air Patrol, a youth organization similar to Boy Scouts that teaches leadership in an aerospace and search-and-rescue context.
He belonged to Civil Air Patrol from eighth grade through high school, so working with the organization was natural for him, he said.
“In ninth grade, I spent two and a half weeks at Hawk Mountain Ranger School in Pennsylvania,” he said. “It was tough, with physical training every day. They started yelling at us as soon as we stepped out of the car, and never stopped.”
Some of the boys disliked being there, but not Radcliffe.
“I loved it,” he said. “The harder it was, the more I liked it. We finished with a 15-mile trek on the Appalachian Trail. One day we caught a rattlesnake and ate it. We were told to eat anything we could. At the end of the school, I was exhausted, grimy, smelled like death warmed over — and my parents had to drag me away from there.”
Radcliffe said one day the 12 boys in his group voted to take showers, so they would smell better and feel cleaner. The rangers said that was fine, then led them to a stream.
“We did pushups in the water and that was our shower,” he said. “It worked well.”
Radcliffe served as a liaison between the Civil Air Patrol and the Air Force itself.
After leaving the Air Force, he received an associate’s degree in biology from Finger Lakes Community College, Canandaigua, then spent a few semesters at Monroe Community College, Rochester, taking courses to prepare for his degree program in athletic training.
But he changed his mind and has not regretted it. In May, he led other SUNY Cortland recreation majors through two weeks at the college’s Raquette Lake facility, another requirement for the major. He was chosen for what Reisweber said is a competitive internship.
Radcliffe is a one-quarter AmeriCorps worker at Lime Hollow this summer and fall. The center has two full-time and three quarter-time workers, because federal stimulus money helped the program add positions. The program is managed locally through SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Involvement.
Radcliffe guided a crew of seven young men Tuesday as they dug holes and planted cedar posts. They will work for Lime Hollow for the rest of the summer, through Youth Works, maintaining trails and helping Reisweber with various projects.
Radcliffe plans to move to Montana when his internship is over, to work for crews that fight forest fires.
“Put me in a suit for an indoor job,” he said, “and you get about 20 minutes before I try to ditch the suit.”
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