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Colorado Youth Corps Association
The Future is Bright
Champions and Outstanding Corpsmembers
Honored at State Capitol

“Youth corps made me a harder worker, taught me teamwork and problem-solving, and gave me motivation to go to college.” –Christian Ndushabandi, 2012 Corpsmember of the Year 

View more photos of the awards ceremony on Flickr. We also have a photo gallery on Facebook. Check it out!

This week, CYCA honored its 2012 Champions and Corpsmembers of the Year – and inspiring words from young adults such as Christian Ndushabandi were shared by every corpsmember who was recognized for his or her contribution to land, energy and water conservation. Held in the Colorado State Capitol’s Old Supreme Court Chambers, the annual Youth Corps Awards Ceremony was both a tribute and a testament to the hard work of young adults throughout the state, as well as to the leaders who keep the vision of youth corps and natural resources stewardship moving forward every year.

Will Shafroth, counselor to the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, was named the 2012 Champion for Youth. CYCA selected Shafroth as the 2012 Champion for Youth because of his leadership at the U.S. Department of the Interior, service on the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Federal Advisory Committee, work on the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, and support for youth conservation corps during his time as executive director of Great Outdoors Colorado. All of these efforts have contributed to the success of Colorado youth corps over the past 15 years and resulted in thousands more young people having the opportunity to serve Colorado while charting a brighter future for themselves.

Click on photo to hear Will Shafroth's acceptance speech

While Shafroth was unable to attend the ceremony in person, he shared a video in which he acknowledged and congratulated this year’s award winners. In the video, Shafroth said, “One of the things I love about working on youth corps issues is that I can do a lot of different things with one effort. Youth corps provide great opportunities to engage young people in meaningful employment that has tangible effects. Whether it be restoring wetlands, building trails, planting trees or preserving historic structures, these young people have a chance to make a real difference in the world. These experiences also help young people gain life skills that will serve them in the workforce, build confidence and leadership skills, and connect them with nature in a way that will benefit them today but also the country in the future.” View the video here.

Colorado State Senator Jeanne Nicholson (Senate District 16) and State Representative Millie Hamner (House District 61) were named Legislators of the Year. They were honored because of their co-sponsorship of HB 12-1032 (Forest Restoration Programs Continuation), which encourages the use of youth conservation corps on forest restoration projects. As a result of HB 12-1032, youth conservation corps will be able to engage more young people on forest restoration and beetle kill projects for the protection of residents, visitors, and our water and recreation resources.
Senator Nicholson and Representative Hamner recognize that youth and young adults can serve as assets to our state and make positive contributions. At the ceremony, they spoke about the importance of providing young people with work opportunities that are meaningful and that contribute to making our forests healthy. They also pointed to the value of partnerships between youth corps and public agencies with critical projects that need to be completed.

Young people representing 10 youth corps from around the state were also recognized for their stellar contributions to youth corps. Corpsmembers of the Year included:

  • Natalia Anzola, Southwest Conservation Corps-Four Corners
  • Karla Cordova, Weld County Youth Conservation Corps
  • Danielette Griffin, Mile High Youth Corps-Denver
  • Kaia Mann, Boulder County Youth Corps
  • Robert Matticks, Western Colorado Conservation Corps
  • Christian Ndushabandi, Mile High Youth Corps-Colorado Springs
  • Michael Ricci, Southwest Conservation Corps-Los Valles
  • Elexia Seng, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps
  • Parker Temple, Steamboat Springs Community Youth Corps
  • Grant Wahl, Larimer County Conservation Corps

The work of these individuals has helped hundreds of young people gain jobs, job training, life skills, college scholarships, and high school and college credits. “In many cases, these corpsmembers have overcome personal barriers and capitalized on support from their youth corps to serve our state, further their education, learn to work hard, and look toward bright futures. We are so proud of their commitment to the state of Colorado,” said Jennifer Freeman, executive director of CYCA.

Christian Ndushabandi, a 2012 Corpsmember of the Year from Mile High Youth Corps-Colorado Springs, was the event’s featured youth speaker. Christian shared his inspiring story with ceremony guests. (The Colorado Springs Gazette also featured a story about him on Monday.)
Born in Rwanda, East Africa, Christian grew up in a country entrenched in civil war and genocide. In 1994, when Christian was just one year old, he lost his father to violence. His pregnant mother was severely injured and left for dead after she was struck by a machete. Christian, a Tutsi, was saved by his Hutu babysitter, who strapped him to her back and pretended that he was hers, saving his life. Christian was reunited with his mother, and they fled across the border to the Congo. Years later, Christian’s mother remarried and his sisters were born. Then civil war broke out in the Congo and Christian’s stepfather was killed. Finally, from a refugee camp in Uganda, Christian’s family was given the opportunity to immigrate to the United States.
Christian, his mother and three siblings arrived in Colorado Springs in 2011. At the age of 18, Christian, the sole supporter of his family, became a Mile High Youth Corps land conservation corpsmember. He was hired again for the summer of 2012. “I needed to find a job right away to support my family,” says Christian. Lutheran Family Services, the refugee resettlement agency, put him in touch with the corps. “They hired me even though my English wasn’t very good and I had never done this kind of work. I was so grateful.” 

Christian excelled for two years on two different camping crews. He shares an amusing anecdote about his first day on the trail crew: “I was trying to understand American culture but I didn’t understand building trails. Where I come from, we hike to go places, we don’t hike for fun!” In addition to becoming a harder worker and learning how to problem-solve in teams, Christian says he made great friends and improved his English. Christian’s crew leaders report that he was a “quiet leader who leads by example, works exceptionally hard, and never fails to step up and volunteer for a job.”
Today, Christian is enrolled full-time at Pikes Peak Community College – thanks in part to an AmeriCorps Education Award he earned through youth corps – and works every weekend in food service the U.S. Air Force Academy. He plans to become a United States citizen, attend medical school, and someday return to aid his native country.
“I am studying science and want to become a surgeon so I can help other people in Rwanda,” he says. And he hopes his positive experience with youth corps will rub off on others. “I hope my sisters and brother have the opportunity to work for the corps someday too.”
Christian’s story, and the stories of the other nine Corpsmembers of the Year, were an inspiration to everyone in attendance – and it’s these types of stories that keep some people coming back to the awards ceremony each year. One of our guests was Michael McClain of the National Park Service, who travels from Florissant so that he can be there in person to honor the youth corps for their dedication. Youth corps regularly complete land conservation projects at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument where McClain works. A 20-year veteran of the National Park Service, McClain says he was 19 when he first started doing natural resources work.
Of the 2012 Corpsmembers of the Year, McClain says, “I see myself in them. There is a continuity and connection with those who have gone before. These people, at my age, will be training the next generation. They will be lifetime stewards of natural resources.”
Special thanks to the following people who honored our award winners and participated in the day’s events:

  • Lise Aangeenbrug, Great Outdoors Colorado executive director
  • Bernie Buescher, Colorado Deputy Attorney General, master of ceremonies
  • Rep. Crisanta Duran
  • Rep. Tony Exum
  • Rep. Randy Fischer
  • Lacey Golonka, Office of Senator Bennet
  • Nick Horvath, on behalf of Sen. Morse
  • Rep. Dickie Lee Hullinghorst
  • Sen. Matt Jones
  • Sen. John Kefalas
  • Rep. Claire Levy
  • Sen. Vicki Marble
  • Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush
  • Hannah Mullen, office of Congressman Perlmutter
  • Christian Ndushabandi, Youth Speaker from Mile High Youth Corps – Colorado Springs
  • Jill Ozarski, Office of Senator Udall
  • Senator Ellen Roberts
  • Senator Gail Schwartz
  • Rep. Ray Scott
  • Rep. Edward Vigil
  • Noreen Walsh, director, Mountain-Prairie Region, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

And thank you, Senator Marble, for introducing our Corpsmembers of the Year on the floor of the Senate. The young people were thrilled to be on the floor and see their elected officials in action.

Thank You, Ceremony Sponsors

We couldn’t pull off this event without the support of our sponsors! 

Peak Sponsor

Overlook Sponsor
Policy Matters, LLC

Trailhead Sponsors
Byte Technology
EDA Consulting

February 8, 2013
In This Issue...


Teen's Journey from Terror Leads to State Award
Colorado Springs Gazette
Will Shafroth, Dept. of Interior, Accepts Award

Senator Nicholson Honored as Legislator of the Year
Representative Hamner Honored as Legislator of the Year
Colorado Radio
Michael Ricci Honored as Corpsmember of the Year
The Mountain Mail
Rep. Hamner Named Youth Corps Legislator of the Year
Summit Daily News

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Accredited Youth Corps

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Colorado Youth Corps Association
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Denver, CO 80203-1621

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