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Youth Conservation Corps creates lasting experiences in local communities

Teenage students holding a salamander, learning about the forest
Youth Conservation Corps residential crew member Aaleigha Ashley holds a spotted salamander (ambystoma maculatum) she found while maintaining trails in the Monongahela National Forest. Photo courtesy of Sandy Marin.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Youth Conservation Corps is a summer youth employment program engaging 15- to 18-year-olds, in meaningful work experiences on public lands. In 2018, there were just under 1,500 YCC participants. This summer, the USDA Forest Service hosted over sixty local YCC crews and four residential YCC programs, involving more youth than ever before.

Residential YCC programs are opportunities for students from all over the nation to come together for three to ten weeks to live, work and recreate in community with one another. This summer’s programs took place in Region 1 (Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forest), Region 3 (Coronado National Forest, Lincoln & Cibola National Forests), and Region 9 (Monongahela National Forests). Partner organizations involved included MobilizeGreen, the Student Conservation Association, Arizona Wilderness Coalition and Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions.

YCC crew members worked on exciting projects including rebuilding trails, assisting with land research and preserving historic buildings. Members also gained professional development experience by interacting with Forest Service staff and practicing how to write a resume.

Environmental education is an additional component to these YCC programs. The crew based out of Idaho toured the Smokejumper Visitor Center to learn about wildland fire management. Crews in West Virginia visited the Fish and Wildlife Service national fish hatchery and an Army Corps of Engineers dam to understand fishery and engineering practices. Of course, weekends involved fun recreational camping trips and hikes where many first s’mores and campfire experiences were shared. 

Crews were led by exceptional and devoted leaders who worked alongside crew members, teaching skills and helping members feel comfortable an environment they are not normally accustomed to.
“Residential programs allow a diverse group of youth who typically don’t have easy access to public lands experience the wonderment of stepping into a forest for the first time. This hands-on experience promotes stewardship of public lands and exposure to cultural and natural resource careers,” states Olivia Urbanski, who managed the residential program for 48 crew members in the Monongahela this summer. 

At the end of the summer, a participant from the Monongahela YCC program expressed appreciation for her time as a YCC member: “Thank you for what was probably the most eye-opening experience of my life. It was amazing to have the opportunity to participate in this YCC [program] with such a diverse group of people, and it gave me so much insight into what career path I want to follow.” 

Thanks to all partners, staff, and leaders for helping to build the next generation of conservation leaders.

Youth Conservation Corps group photo
Two of the residential Youth Conservation Corps program in the Monongahela National Forest proudly stands by the pollinator garden their crew helped build, install and plant at Camp Caesar, the crew’s residential facility for the three-week long program. From left, Ethan Goode, Maalik Matthews, Dylan Kreis, Xander Bateman, Cade Earick, Aaleigha Ashley, April Hart (crew leader), Elizabeth Rainwater, Bella Muriel, Brandy Ray, Michelle Garcia, Marcia Williams and Fiona Mae Balasuit. Photo courtesy of Sandy Marin.