Virginia State Parks’ Youth ConservationCorps is many things – a three week residential service learning opportunity, hard work, leadership and teamwork experience. But it’s not summer camp.
Crews generally have 10 members, ages 14-17, from diverse backgrounds, as well as three college-age or older crew supervisors. The crew lives in the park in a structured work program. The crew is closely supervised by professional park staff and committed adult volunteers. By day, crews work on important development and maintenance projects, and after hours crewmembers enjoy recreational activities and learn about the environment, team-building, work life and job readiness. Recently Channel 12 in Richmond did an informational piece on the Youth Conservation Corps. Watch the video here.
The corps program aims to promote youth development, including disadvantaged young people, and provide a cost-effective way to raise environmental awareness and strengthen the stewardship of Virginia’s valuable natural resources. The program combines work experience, education and life skills within the framework of environmental and community service. Youth participants receive a $500 stipend; adult supervisors, who directly oversee the young people and coordinate day-to-day direction, receive $1,500.
The Virginia State Parks Youth Conservation Corps requires an application. We receive as many as 4 to 1 applications for positions in the program. Gaston Rouse, Director of Volunteer Services and myself are responsible for reviewing the applications and selecting the youth that apply. What do we look for?Sincere, well thought out responses to the questions that indicate youth have the maturity and commitment necessary for the program.
While there is lots of fun to be had during the three week program, it really is about as far away from a summer camp experience that you can imagine. Youth start the day with stretching and basic exercises to prepare them physically for the work ahead. They fix their own breakfasts and, depending on the schedule for the day possibly pack their lunches. Youth take turns preparing the dinner meals and doing basic clean up chores. Next it’s off to the job site.
The work is varied.
*Restoration and preservation of wetlands, stream banks, endangered species and other wildlife habitat
*Foliage restoration, water quality testing, removal of non-native plants and weeds, watershed work, nursery management, landscaping, mapping, surveying, recycling and other community improvements
*Trail management and restoration
Keep in mind that it’s hot, may be raining, could be muddy, there will be mosquitoes and ticks. The work is hard. And the youth usually surprise the park staff and their adult supervisors with their dedication and the amount of work they accomplish. We shoot for at least one or more projects that allow the youth to see that they accomplished something that will be lasting and important to the operation of the park. Last summer, Channel 10 out of Roanoke reported on the program at Claytor Lake State Park. See the video here. If you know a youth aged 14-17, let them know about this unique summer program. The YCC application deadline for students is April 11, 2009.