Youth Conservation Corps empowers native youth in Alaska

By Jessica Warmbrodt, Resource Assistant Program Intern

JUNEAU, Alaska — Six high school students from the Tongass National Forest community of Angoon participated in the Youth Conservation Corps this summer. Thanks to the partnership and support of Chatham School District, National Forest Foundation, Hecla Greens Creek Mine, Walmart, Recreational Equipment, Inc., and Student Conservation Association, the program continues to positively influence the futures of young adults and rural communities in Southeast Alaska.

Before participating, many youth felt discouraged with the lack of opportunity in the rural community of Angoon –population 459. Conceived by Admiralty National Monument District Ranger, Chad VanOrmer, the YCC program provides youth with job skills such as:  trail and infrastructure maintenance, wilderness monitoring, and camping and kayaking knowledge; preparing them for futures in environmental stewardship in Southeast Alaska. Kevin Hood, ANM Wilderness Manager, noted the crew’s immediate growth in professionalism and job skills.  Community members and teachers have also noted the positive transformation in the youths’ morale, school performance, and attendance.

During kayak trips to adjacent shores of Admiralty Island, the crew monitored more than 77 hours of wilderness solitude, cleaned at least 50 miles of shoreline (43 via kayak and 7 on foot), delivered 250 feet of building materials, brushed trails and recreation sites, dug trenches for latrines, and removed hundreds of pounds of trash. Crew leaders also contacted local organizations needing assistance with outdoor community projects, further engaging the youth with the community.  

“I am proud of the spirit the young adults have displayed in stepping forward and taking ownership in stewarding their community and the surrounding national forest lands,” said Kevin Hood.  “They are inspiring other youth to follow their lead, strengthen their community, and gain valuable experience toward natural resource careers.”

Angoon YCC Crew stopping at Beaver Tail Rock on a hike from their campsite in Favorite Bay. Photo courtesy of Kiley Heth.

Angoon YCC Crew members learn to kayak in Angoon, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Kevin Hood.