August 13, 2011 marked the last day of our summer Youth Conservation Program program. The program consists of a three week overnight program where youth age 14-17 work and live in one of our Virginia State Parks. We run two sessions each summer and graduations for the second session parks were held on August 13.
This year we had programs in thirteen parks, lower than most years in the past. Vagaries of budget cycles and the lack of a permanent funding mechanism for the program means planning can be challenging. For instance, we are planning the 2012 program now but that will actually be funded mostly with fiscal year 2013 money since the state fiscal year starts July 1.
It takes a team to do the job
The amazing thing about the program is that ten youth from across the state (and sometimes out of state and put of the country – this year we had two young men who are Americans living in Paris, France) come together and in the span of three weeks form a close team who under the tutelage of three adult supervisors get an amazing amount of work done in our parks.
At graduation we honor the accomplishment of all of the youths since each bring a unique set of talents that contribute to the success of the crew. However, starting with the very first three week program in 2003, there was an urge to single out one youth who most embodies the ideals of the program: leadership, teamwork, initiative. Our Director of Community Engagement and Volunteerism, Gaston Rouse, came up with the idea of formalizing the award and making it part of the program in early 2004.
He decided to name the award after one of our Supervisors from the 2003 program, Emmitt Short. Most of our supervisors for this program are college aged adults or slightly older. Emmitt was one of the exceptions. He served as Supervisor for two sessions in 2003 at the age of 79.
Emmitt Short died in October 2003 and remarked frequently how rewarding that summer experience was. Emmitt retired from Federal Civil Service, started his own corporation which he also retired from and was still driving a school bus up to the time of his death. Gaston chose to honor Emmitt's memory with this award presented to one crewmember in every YCC crew beginning in 2004.
One of the 2004 recipients of the Emmitt Award, Tyler Reedy, was lead supervisor for the False Cape State Park crew and I attended their graduation Saturday. Tyler and I gave the award together. Every Emmitt award presentation is particularly special to me because Emmitt Short was my father.
Garret Gipson (right), Emmitt Winner from False Cape State Park, with
Supervisors Tyler Reedy (left) and Garrett Milton (center)
While every youth from our 2011 program deserves special recognition for their hard work this summer, here is a list of the Emmitt Award winners for this year.
|Crew||Emmitt Award Winner|
|Belle Isle State Park||Peter Wyckoff|
|Chippokes Plantation State Park||Chelsea Granados|
|False Cape State Park||Garret Gipson|
|First Landing State Park||Noah Lane|
|Grayson Highlands State Park||Ian Baxter|
|Kiptopeke State Park||Gabrielle Ammaturo|
|Leesylvania State Park||Casey Soper|
|Natural Tunnel State Park||Wyatt Crawley|
|Shenandoah River State Park||Isreal Rodriguez|
|Smith Mountain State Park||Samantha Mangum|
|Staunton River State Park||Mary Clare Curtin|
|Twin Lakes State Park||Daniel Ritchie|
|York River State Park||Emily Keenan|
Applications are being accepted on line for Supervisors for the 2012 program. Youth applications will open approximately January 1, 2012. On line applications are available on the program's website.