Sept. 11, 2020 | By By Daniel Soares| Photo by Patil Khakhamian

COVID-19 has presented challenges for students since the first school closures began in early March. After experiencing remote learning for Blocks 7 and 8, most of Colorado College’s students have been expectantly looking forward to returning to campus, with the hopes of returning to some form of normalcy. While students remained optimistic as Block 1 approached, the sudden lockdowns of the “Big 3” dorms brought a swift reality check. Unfortunately, due to last week’s announcement from the administration, Colorado College is asking students not to return to campus for the rest of the fall semester. Due to the frustrations that arise from distance learning, many students have chosen to take some time off rather than continue sitting through Zoom lectures.

After hearing the news, Claire Barber ’22 decided that she was going to drop her current block to take a leave of absence for the semester. Putting her newfound free time and love of the outdoors to good use, Barber chose to work for the Arizona Conservation Corps, an organization primarily comprised of high school- to college-aged crews that focus on the environmental protection and restoration of public lands.

Despite the appearance of spontaneity in Barber’s decision, she has actually been planning her role as a crew leader for months. Anticipating the inevitability of Colorado College shutting its door and sending students home, Barber spent the summer applying to several positions on trail crews. She was offered jobs in both Utah and Colorado, but ultimately turned them down because her apartment housing situation allowed her to return to campus for Block 1.

But even though Barber was able to live in Colorado Springs, she was faced with the reality of staring at a computer screen to get through class, and quickly realized that this format was not conducive to her learning experience. As soon as CC announced extended remote learning, Barber called the Conservation Corps and was happy to hear they had an open position for her.

Barber is moving to Arizona’s White Mountains, where she will be working from Sept. 14 through Dec. 18. When she first arrives, she will train as a crew leader, which will enable her to lead crews as they progress through their different conservation efforts. She expects that most of her projects will be centered around trail work, but due to the nature of the organization, she will likely be assigned to areas most in need — creating the opportunity for her to get sent to the desert and experience a variety of projects. She will spend ten continuous days on the trail, with four days off in between projects.

Barber is very excited about her plan (especially the part when she will be living in her car during her four days off) and expects that giving back to protect public lands will be a rewarding experience.

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