YHCC at Shakamak State Park

Valory Kirk

Elizabeth Mills

Nicole Kennett

Alecia Gambill

Cleaning pit toilets stinks, literally and figuratively. As it's said though, someone has to do it.

This summer, at Shakamak State Park, the job's that of a number of Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps workers, none of whom enjoys the task.

There are many goals of the YHCC program, but the main focus is providing young Hoosiers with opportunity to grow as individuals. Opportunity to discover talent, learn new skills, gain workplace experience, and perhaps most important, to find motivation. And the job of cleaning pit toilets on a 90-degree July afternoon, with sun barring down through a cloudless sky, has motivational capabilities.    

Teamwork is an essential element of nearly every job. At Shakamak the housekeeping crew of YHCC workers tackles their daily duties as a team. Valory Kirk, 20, of Jasonville; Elizabeth Mills, 19, of Linton; Nicole Kennett, 22, of Jasonville; and Alecia Gambill, 22, of Jasonville, are working together to complete their daily assignments. Their pasts differ, their futures are uncertain, but their experience with the YHCC instills in them determination to find a career that suits their desire. None wants to clean toilets for a living.

“I’m not saying there is anything wrong with cleaning toilets, I’m just saying that I don’t want to do this every day for the rest of my life,” Kirk said.

Entering her senior year at Shakamak High School, Kirk hopes to eventually help the hearing disabled. She speaks slowly, and slightly hides her face in a shy manner when engaged in conversation. Her hands, though, move at a rate of speed twice that of her words.

“I pretty much talk with my hands anyway, so I want to go to college to study sign language,” Kirk said. “I think I’ll be good at helping people.”

Mills is a high school dropout who isn’t sure if she is credited with finishing her sophomore year. She has a son, Brayden, and relies on government assistance for childcare. She knows she’s made some mistakes and taken some wrong turns, but she wants to change. She wants to give her child a good life, and carve out a meaningful life for herself, as well. The journey begins with improving her work ethic. Her job with the YHCC is helping.    

 “I’m here and I’m working. I’m trying,” Mills said.

Upon completing her job with the YHCC she intends to complete her G.E.D. and begin taking classes at Ivy Tech in Terre Haute so she can become a certified nurse's assistant.

“There are a lot of nursing homes around (Jasonville), and they always seem to be hiring CNAs,” she said.

Everyone on the Shakamak YHCC housekeeping crew interviewed expressed gratitude for the job.

“There isn’t a lot of opportunity around here,” Kennett said, “so it was nice being able to find a job close to home that pays decent.”

Times are tough, tougher for some than others. In most rural regions of Indiana, jobs are even scarcer than they are in urban areas. Many young Hoosiers from these parts of Indiana need motivation to succeed. Some need motivation to change. Cleaning pit toilets can do that.