Gaston Rouse, his assistant Carrie McCrory, and I are spending four days at Petersburg National Battlefield.
This year we are fortunate to be able to expand the program from last year’s 13 parks to 20 thanks to a $150,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network. This grant is supporting programs at ten of our Chesapeake Bay Gateways Parks. Participants in the program at those parks will receive special environmental education related to the Chesapeake Bay. Environmental education has been an important component of the YCCprogram from the outset. The youth work on projects in our park but they also come away with a new respect for nature and a better idea of how to have fun outdoors.
More than 2/3 of these supervisors have been part of the YouthCorps in one capacity or another. Many have been supervisors in previous years and many have participated as a youth in the program. Eight are serving as Interns, a special designation for supervisors. Interns have just graduated from High School and have participated in the YCC program in a previous year. Most have won the Emmitt Award – the program award for the most outstanding youth. In fact, yesterday we asked all of the previous Emmitt Award winners to stand up and clearly one third or more of those attending stood up. This group knows the program and come back year after year to make a difference.
Brad Reedy is our current “grandfather” of the program. This is his eighth year with the YCC (our ninth year for the program). He started in 2002 in our very first program. Somewhere along the line he took one year off, but he has been part of the program ever since. His brother Tyler, is right behind him. We have another pair of brothers – Garret and Jason Milton – started as Supervisors and have now been with us three years. Supervisor Daniel Bachman’s sister Sarah is serving as an intern this year. We have sisters too. Katie and Emily Shrader are Supervisors and both started as youth in the program. They are no strangers to Virginia State Parks since they have grown up in our parks – their father, Tim, is Park Manager at Chippokes Plantation State Park to work for our Planning and Recreation Division. Last month she was promoted to the Director of that Division.
Perhaps you are getting the sense that these supervisors are a family in a number of ways. In fact, Intern Jerry Poole’s sister, Hannah, will be a youth in the program for a second time this year. Another long time supervisor, Dustin Haymaker, will have his brother, Harrison, participating as a youth. Sunhwa Yoon, a second time Supervisor, has a sister, Sunjeung, who is participating as a youth this summer. They will not be at the same parks.
So what do we train them in? The training deals with program requirements, team building, how to handle disciplinary issues, trail building, geocaching, and the less exciting aspects of making purchases using the state credit card and how to fill out an I-9 form. Once every three years we do first aid training and work so at least one first aid trained supervisor is on each crew. All of our full time and many of our seasonal staff are first aid and CPRcertified. On Friday we had representatives from the host parks at the training to discuss coordinating issues with their supervisors.
Gaston mentioned on Thursday that he and I have the privilege of seeing these young people at 14 and 15 turn into young adults. Young adults that we are proud of and will spend three or six weeks this summer in the heat, leading a group of youth getting a lot of important projects done for our Virginia State Parks.