Elexia Seng, a native of Steamboat Springs, joined Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC) in the summer of 2012 as a 16-year-old. Like a lot of high school students, she struggled with finding a sense of self, which was particularly hard given that her mom left home when Elexia was just five years old. Elexia suffered bullying and isolation in elementary and middle school and slipped into depression in high school. Thankfully, she was paired with an adult mentor through Partners of Routt County, and received a fantastic mentor who, she says, “became the mom I never had.”
Through the strong collaborative relationship between RMYC and Partners of Routt County, Elexia was recommended for a corpsmember position. During her month with the corps, and with the support of her mentor, Elexia enjoyed a break from the difficulties in her life, gained time for reflection and became enmeshed with a new and accepting peer group. “The corps had a really positive influence on me and I would do it again and again,” she says.
According to Elexia’s crewleader, “The corps allowed Elexia to expand her horizons. Because she has so much potential and great aspirations, her corps experience was a conduit for thinking about her long-term goals and realizing that there are other places for her to fit in.”
While the entire RMYC experience was new to her, she embraced every moment wholeheartedly and gained valuable skills by working hard, engaging in crew life and taking part in educational activities that challenged her. “I learned that hard work gets you really far. You give everything you’ve got to something, and at the end of the day, it looks really good. Every morning after, you decide to push even further,” she says, noting that her favorite project at RMYC was at Palisade Rim Trail. “It put us and our patience to the test. In the end it showed how well we worked together.”
Elexia’s crew leader observes this about her dedication: “Her positive mental attitude and willingness to partake in all aspects of the youth corps experience were absolutely unparalleled.”
Elexia left the corps with a stronger sense of herself and greater self-esteem. When asked what she would recommend to someone considering joining a youth corps, Elexia wrote, “DO IT! Not only do you build friendships, you learn about yourself and how hard work means a lot in life. You experience so many different things, some being good some being bad, but you learn how to overcome those situations.”
What’s next for Elexia? She is planning a July backpacking trip in Alaska through National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). She won a 60 percent scholarship for the trip – a feat she attributes to her outdoor preparation with RMYC. “I had to present my leadership skills and demonstrate why I wanted the trip – and I used my experience with RMYC to prove it.”
After her NOLS trip, Elexia will finish her last year of high school and has plans to attend college. She hasn’t picked an area of study yet, but she knows that she loves being outside, helping people, and doing things for her environment and communities. “The opportunities are wide open.”
Elexia Seng, a Corpsmember of the Year, with State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush at CYCA's 2013 Awards Ceremony
CYCA Names Four New Board Members
CYCA recently announced the addition of four members to its board of directors. Jason C. Corzine of The Trust for Public Land; Dr. John Hausdoerffer of Western State Colorado University; Ron Hassel of Southwest Conservation Corps-Four Corners; and Nancy Wilson of Mile High Youth Corps-Colorado Springs began their terms of service on the board of directors this month.
In addition to these new board members, CYCA renewed the board terms of four board members: Ken Brink of Colorado Parks & Wildlife (ex-officio); Joe Duda of the Colorado State Forest Service (ex-officio); Matt Hamilton of the Aspen Skiing Company; and John Swartout, consultant to the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts.
CYCA also thanks the following outgoing board members for their dedication and service to youth corps: Dan Gibbs of the Summit County Commission; Gerhard Holtzendorf of REI; Rusty Lloyd of the Tamarisk Coalition; Heather MacSlarrow; and Peter Tierney of Long View High School and founding CYCA board member. Read the press release.
Giving New Purpose to a Former Mining Site
Last summer, 11 members of Mile High Youth Corps’ “Marmot Team” embarked on a unique trail construction project that helped convert a former mining site into a public park. The Spring Creek Park Project is located in the Town of Brookside south of Canon City. Sitting on more than 18 acres of land, it was home to a mining operation during the early 1900s.
The first phase of the Spring Creek Park Project was completed in 2010 by the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS), and was the launch of the town’s only public outdoor recreation area. That phase of the park development began with site cleanup and removal of dead trees, followed by parking lot construction, development of handicap-accessible hiking trails, regrading of coal waste piles, revegetation and thanks to funding from Great Outdoors Colorado, installation of a picnic shelter and park benches. The final phase was the construction of trails – including the most difficult trails, which is where MHYC entered the project.
The Marmots worked closely with Town of Brookside staff and citizens to create a trail that conformed to the natural environment and provides a challenging way to enjoy the beauty of the park. This included the use of more than four tons of sandstone slabs for use as steps and retaining walls. In especially steep areas, the Marmots hand-chiseled steps into the native rock face of the mountain. In the end, the difficult trail measured about one-quarter of a mile in length, with an elevation gain of more than 500 vertical feet.
Loretta Pineda, director of the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety, was really happy with the Marmot team from MHYC. “The corpsmembers and their leaders are professional, dedicated and energetic. They would be an asset to any project, and their work in Spring Creek Park will be appreciated by hikers for years to come,” she said.
PHOTO 1: Spring Creek Park pre-construction: coal waste piles and clinker (waste cement).
PHOTO 2: MHYC corpsmembers moved large native rocks to create steps.
PHOTO 3: Mile High Youth Corps crew placing rock on a very steep section of trail.
April 2013 marks the 80th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), on which the modern-day youth corps movement is modeled. In nine years, 2.5 million young men participated in the CCC, which provided them with shelter, clothing, and food. They earned $30 per month, of which $25 was sent home to their families. To learn more about the “CCC Boys” and their lasting impact on our nation’s infrastructure and spirit, visit CCC Legacy.
CCC enrollees building fences to control grazing
$10,000 Donation Helps Restore the Colorado River: America’s #1 Most Endangered River
This month the Conservation Lands Foundation announced a new funding partnership in Colorado with Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). One of Canada’s largest corporate donors and contributors to charitable organizations worldwide, RBC donated $10,000 to the Conservation Lands Foundation to fund restoration work on the Colorado River as it flows through McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, part of the National Conservation Lands– 28-million-acres nationwide of protected lands known for their culturally, ecologically and scientifically significant landscapes. National Conservation Lands are managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Thanks to the private donation from RBC, the Western Colorado Conservation Corps (WCCC) will collaborate with the Bureau of Land Management to remove invasive tamarisk and Russian olive trees from the banks of the Colorado River, remove Russian knapweed, and plant and protect native Freemont cottonwoods and coyote willow. The re-introduction of these native species will enhance wildlife habitat, help rehabilitate the river corridor and improve water quality.
CYCA Seeks 10 BLM Interns and a Development Associate
In partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, CYCA is seeking 10 interns to serve this spring and summer. Seven interns are needed in early May to conduct Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC) inventories. Interns are paid $10-$13/hour or a living stipend and positions are typically full-time for 12 weeks. See CYCA’s Careers page for position descriptions
CYCA is also seeking a part-time development associate. Application deadline is May 7. The position description and application are available at www.cyca.org.
Save the Dates May 15: CYCA and the Colorado Alliance for Environmental will host the first-ever Natural Resources Job Fair at West Generation Academy in Denver. Interested students or counselors can register HERE.