|Grant Wahl: Driven to Serve
Count Grant Wahl among the young adults who admit they are excited to get up in the morning and serve their community. As a member of the Larimer County Conservation Corps (LCCC), Grant looks forward to working with his crew every day. Dedication to his community is only one of the values Grant has developed through his participation in youth corps.
Grant, a Littleton native and graduate of Columbine High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in natural resources from Colorado State University. Like many college graduates, Grant had little idea about what he wanted to do for a living after earning his degree. But in May 2012, he joined the LCCC’s sawyer crew as an intern, and had the opportunity to work on a variety of trail, fire mitigation and mountain pine beetle mitigation projects.
Five Youth Corps Earn National Accreditation
He quickly found what he was looking for in an experience: a place where people noticed his high-quality performance, where he could make a difference, serve with a sense of pride, and simultaneously help the community.
Grant, a CYCA Corpsmember of the Year for 2012, then joined the youth corps’ water and energy program, helping to educate low-income and elderly residents about ways to conserve water and energy, as well as save money on the utility bills. His crew exchanges old light bulbs for energy efficient CFLs; inspects water heaters, furnaces and insulation; installs programmable thermostats; changes batteries in fire alarms; installs smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; and advises residents about xeriscaping their yards to conserve water and save money. “They appreciate the tips. It’s really nice to be able to help older people who can’t change light bulbs or think about putting their water heater on a lower setting,” Grant says.
Through the corps, Grant has learned leadership skills, teamwork and responsibility. He also earned an AmeriCorps Education Award, which he applied toward his studies at CSU. He is planning to pursue a career in wildland firefighting and hopes to work for the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State Forest Service, or Colorado Parks and Wildlife – but in the meantime, he is considering staying with the corps for another year and applying for leadership and crew mentor positions.
“The corps has taught me how to help people understand the importance of land stewardship and ethics, and I have grown to realize the impact each person plays on our environment,” Grant says. “If I had to describe the corps experience to someone thinking of getting involved, I would tell them that it’s hard work and it’s not easy, but you get so much more out of the experience than you think.”
Five youth conservation corps in Colorado have received national provisional accreditation status from the Corps Center of Excellence (CCE). Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Mile High Youth Corps, Larimer County Conservation Corps, Southwest Conservation Corps and Western Colorado Conservation Corps are among 19 corps across the nation that earned the CCE’s accreditation.
The CCE accreditation is an independent program of The Corps Network and is governed by an independent advisory committee comprising retired or former conservation corps leaders, federal land management agency staff and other experts. Because 2013 is the first year in which the CCE has granted accreditation, all accreditations are considered “provisional,” a status that will last for one year and may be extended by the CCE.
The CCE accreditation standards are modeled after those recommended as part of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, an emerging program of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Kudos to these five hard-working corps – this is a huge honor!
Off Road with Youth Corps
For more than a decade, Colorado youth corps have been strong partners with the state’s off highway vehicle (OHV) and four-wheel-drive enthusiasts. With a $358,000 investment by the Colorado State Trails program’s OHV subcommittee in 2012, and matching funds of $137,000 from youth corps, a lot of great work has been accomplished. In 2012 alone, youth corps constructed 13 miles of OHV trail, maintained 55 miles of OHV trail, and revegetated or closed five miles of OHV trail, among other projects.
Of the OHV proposals submitted in December 2012, project partners requested $700,000 worth of youth corps crews for these important projects. With pulaskis in hand, our crews are ready to get to work!
CYCA thanks the Colorado State Trails program and the OHV subcommittee for their ongoing support. View our Facebook page for photos of some OHV projects from around the state.
A Southwest Conservation Corps-Los Valles crew repairs erosion and improves drainage on the Little La Garita Creek Trail in the Rio Grande National Forest.
Mile High Youth Corps members work on the Skeleton Trail in the Rampart Range OHV area of the San Isabel-Pike National Forest, South Platte Ranger District.
Western Colorado Conservation Corps built the Bureau of Land Management's 18 Road Trail.
Rocky Mountain Youth Corps Maintains Popular OHV TRAILS
Colorado State Forest State Park has more than 50 miles of OHV and four-wheel drive roads and trails within its expanse of forest. The area is extremely popular, and several of the trails – including Ruby Jewel, Bull Mountain and Diamond Peaks – are so popular that regular maintenance is essential.
With funds from the OHV subcommittee of the Colorado State Trails program, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps dedicated four weeks last summer to improving these OHV-specific trails by building drainage structures, installing culverts, constructing buck and rail fencing, clearing overgrown corridor, and closing user-created “social trails.”
The crew’s work ethic and attention to detail were exemplary and garnered extra praise from Christina Bradshaw, State Forest State Park project partner, who said, “What impressed me most were the crew’s energy, drive and dedication to the projects we assigned to them. We would absolutely continue to partner with RMYC for both our motorized and non-motorized trails maintenance programs.”
Nice work, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps!
A Rocky Mountain Youth Corps member speaks with a motorcyclist on the trail.
Dignitaries Tour Youth Corps for National AmeriCorps Week
During National AmeriCorps Week, Mile High Youth Corps welcomed a number of dignitaries to the Mariposa Redevelopment Project site on which MHYC YouthBuild members worked. Special guests on March 14 included Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service; Colorado Lt. Governor Joe Garcia; Lynne Picard from Denver Housing Authority; Dusti Gurule from the U.S. Department of Labor; and Ellen Golombek from the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment.
Read the Mile High Youth Corps’ blog about the YouthBuild visit!
Additionally, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar and his wife, Mary Lou, visited with the Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) on March 8 to learn about AmeriCorps and the SCC AgriCorps program. The Salazars were hosted by Julie Mach, SCC’s program director, and Robin Lewis, SCC’s AmeriCorps VISTA member. Robin and Julie took Commissioner Salazar and Mrs. Salazar on a tour of three garden sites, ending the tour at the Salida School District Garden, which SCC helped build last summer and will continue to support this year.
(Left to right) Visitors Dusti Gurule, regional representative for the U.S. Secretary of Labor; Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service; Lt. Governor Joe Garcia; Lindsay Dolce, Serve Colorado's executive director; and Ellen Golombek, executive director of the Colorado Dept. of Labor and Employment visit a Mile High Youth Corps YouthBuild Crew at the Mariposa Redevelopment Project site.
Read an article in the Mountain Mail about Commissioner Salazar's visit here.
Commissioner Salazar visits with SCC-Los Valles Good Works for Youth VISTA Member, Robin Lewis.
CYCA Announces Formal Partnership with Western State Colorado University
CYCA and Western State Colorado University (WSCU) recently signed a memorandum of understanding to formalize a partnership that capitalizes on each organization’s strengths to expand education and job training opportunities for young people in Colorado. The MOU allows for students seeking a WSCU degree to co-enroll in a CYCA-accredited youth corps and earn up to six internship credits while serving in the corps. Conversely, youth corps staff and members who are not current WSCU students can enroll in the university’s “Environmental Writing” course through the Extended Studies department. WSCU is also extending its distance graduate certificate and new Master’s in Environmental Management degree program to youth corps staff and public lands interns.
Dr. John Hausdoerffer, WSCU’s director of the Center of Environmental Studies said, “This partnership will help our students get the real-world experience they need to be capable, informed professionals, as well as inspire those not yet engaged in environmental studies to consider the field. We have been seeking ways to incorporate hands-on service into our department, and the youth corps model is a great fit.” For more information on this new partnership, contact Jen Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-863-0602.
Save the Date!
Staunton State Park, Colorado’s newest State Park, will hold a two-day opening event on May 18-19, 2013. Check www.stauntonpark.com for updates.