|Devoted to a Life of Service
At the age of three, Rafael Veintimilla and his family moved from Quito, Ecuador to the United States, arriving with only three suitcases in hand. When his dad ultimately landed a job at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Denver became Rafael’s permanent home. Rafael became a U.S. citizen in 2010, and now, at 23, Rafael is inspired to use his family’s experience as immigrants to pursue a career focused on service to the community. Already he is piecing together some viable career options that stem in part from his experience with Mile High Youth Corps.
Immediately after graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, Rafael began exploring the nonprofit sector, after having considered working in other fields such as research, retail and consulting – none of which resonated. After learning about the corps, he committed to 10 months of service. “I saw the Mile High Youth Corps program and liked how it approached different issues, worked with diverse people and kept its work really local,” Rafael says.
As a corpsmember with Mile High Youth Corps, Rafael enjoys any project that involves examining the population and demographics of Denver and using that information to serve needy communities. “We serve a lot of low-income residents and Section 8 populations in metro Denver with energy- and water-saving projects. The work is hyper-focused on serving those communities and addressing local issues.”
Rafael’s background in sociology makes this work especially relevant, he says, and he appreciates the holistic approach to problem-solving. “The environmental piece is important. For example, Colorado is in a long-term drought, and we need to do as much as possible to lessen that by working with business partners, local government organizations and community members.” This aspect of working with different people from various backgrounds is Rafael’s favorite part of his job at Mile High Youth Corps. “I love interacting with project sponsors, corpsmembers and clients, and hearing their life stories and why they do the work they do.”
Rafael has been drawn to land conservation work and the teamwork required to make it all come together. “We’re working on a Russian olive removal project. Russian olive is a terrible invasive species here, and it’s not easy to remove. The corpsmembers really push themselves to do their best work possible in some of the nastiest conditions.” Rafael is also excited about working with his fellow corpsmember, Jenny Pham, to organize an AmeriCorps service project with the Children’s Museum of Denver this fall.
With an aim to earn enough AmeriCorps education awards to attend a master’s degree program, Rafael is zeroing in on the fields of public administration and public policy as areas he’d like to explore. “I really like the nonprofit sector and local government,” he says, “and I’m passionate about corps and education. I’m keeping my options open for now, though.”
Rafael acknowledges that, before joining the corps, he had difficulty accepting people at face value. But after his first week with Mile High Youth Corps, he noticed he had greater patience, greater compassion, and improved interactions with others. He tells his friends about the ways the corps has changed him, and is working to get them involved, too. “It’s a lot of hard work. You get dirty and trashed up, but the fun you have is stronger than any struggle you might have.”
Photo 1: Rafael Veintimilla takes a break on a playground
Photo 2: Rafael Veintimilla with a fellow corpsmember
$9.8 Million Announced for Fire Mitigation Projects - Applications Due July 17
Colorado Department of Natural Resources is accepting applications for a new Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program. The program will provide $9.8 million in grants to reduce the risk of wildfire in areas where human development and forested lands overlap, areas often called the wildland-urban interface. Youth conservation corps accredited by CYCA are encouraged partners on these projects. The program, created under Senate Bill 13-269 and passed this year by the Colorado General Assembly, is focused on projects that reduce the risk for damage to property, infrastructure, and water supplies, and those that limit the likelihood of wildfires spreading into populated areas. Applications are due July 17, 2013. Follow the link to the RFA for more information. Find the youth corps that serves your area.
WCCC's Veteran Fire Crew: Putting the "Real" Back in Reality TV!
In Grand Junction, the veteran fire crew with Western Colorado Conservation Corps (WCCC) has been receiving a lot of attention on the news lately – in a good way. The local TV station, KJCT8, has been following the WCCC’s Veteran Fire Crew through physical training, certification and fire school. And in mid-June, the crew was filmed on location as it prepared to fight a fire in Rifle. So far, the station has produced three spots on the crew, and fire season has just started.
Military veterans train for firefighting
The veteran participants are very excited about their new adventure, even if it means packing for 14 days of grueling work - and spending some time in front of TV cameras.
“You get a phone call. They say ‘We have to go, you have to go.’ That’s pretty much how it was last night,” veteran Tyler Fairbank explained. “We are all very excited about being on our first fire. This is what we've trained for and we're ready to get it done.”
“I’m absolutely looking forward to the opportunity to fight fire,” veteran Joe Stabenow said. “Definitely excited, a little bit anxious, and nervous but it's a healthy respect for what we've learned and the dangers that are related to wildland fire.”
Veteran Matt Asher said, “I’m sure it’s going to be hot, it’s going to be dirty, but it’s going to be good work.”
Now that fire season in Western Colorado has arrived, it’s really just a matter of time until these vets get their next assignment.
View the full stories complete with TV coverage at KJCT8.com:
Veterans fight fire in Rifle
Photo 1: A Veteran Fire Crew member speaks to KJCT8 in Grand Junction
Colorado Land Conservation Appreciation Week
Seeking New Partners at NPS' Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program
The week of June 3-9, several youth corps around the state celebrated Colorado Land Conservation Appreciation Week with projects designed to raise awareness of the vital importance of land conservation to Coloradans’ physical and mental health, and to the state’s economic well-being. From the Denver metro area and Colorado Springs to southwest Colorado and Steamboat Springs, crews worked hard to complete forest thinning projects, maintain trails and conduct fire fuels mitigation.
In the southwestern region of the state, Southwest Conservation Corps worked on trail improvements at Buena Vista River Park in Buena Vista. The work will continue over a period of four weeks this summer, resulting in one mile of new trail, the closure and rehabilitation of user-created social trails, and improved drainage on existing trails. Funded by a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), these activities enhance user access to river features and reduce impact on the Arkansas River corridor environment. The crews also conducted a fuels reduction project at Spruce Creek, maintained and constructed trails at Greens Creek, made trail improvements at Sangre de Cristo Greenbelt, and maintained and constructed single-track motorized trails on West Bear Trail.
Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crews maintained trails at Emerald Mountain in Steamboat Springs. Mile High Youth Corps-Colorado Springs crews completed a forest thinning project to improve bighorn sheep habitat in the Dome Rock State Wildlife Area; constructed trails at Lathrop State Park; constructed an off-highway vehicle trail at the Rampart Range Road (trailhead 649); and constructed trails at Bear Creek Park. Southwest Conservation Corps-Four Corners crews maintained trails in the Dolores and Columbine Ranger Districts, maintained fencing at Mesa Verde National Park, Navajo State Park, and for the Town of Telluride, and conducted fire fuel mitigation in the southwestern part of the state.
In the Denver-metro area, Mile High Youth Corps crews conducted fuels treatments and fire mitigation activities in three mountain parks, including on the Wolverine Trail on Berrian Mountain in Evergreen, thinning and cutting trees to enhance fire resistance in the wildland-urban interface. Denver Mountain Parks staff had identified ladder fuels, encroaching Douglas fir, and insect and diseased trees that were removed by the crews. Funded by Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and Denver Mountain Parks of the City and County of Denver, these activities were designed to protect the water supply by reducing risk of catastrophic wildfires. In total, the crews have thinned 14 acres and removed 850 trees to date. Crews also removed Russian olive trees at Sand Creek Regional Greenway; built fencing and removed weeds at Roxborough State Park; and removed noxious weeds at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.
“Great Outdoors Colorado’s investments in Colorado youth corps benefit people and forests. These projects provide jobs for youth, reduce fire danger, and improve trails,” said GOCO Executive Director Lise Aangeenbrug.
Colorado Land Conservation Appreciation Week is sponsored by the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, the collective voice for land conservation in Colorado. Fifty member land trusts and local government open space programs have protected nearly 2 million acres of Colorado's wildlife habitat, working farms and ranches, and significant natural landscapes. The Coalition promotes and supports land conservation excellence through leadership, advocacy, education and outreach.
Photo 1: SCC crews working on the Buena Vista Trail
Photo 2: MHYC crews remove trees during a fire fuels mitigation project
The Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program is looking for new partners for FY 2014! The RTCA carries out the natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation mission of the National Park Service in communities across America. It provides staff time and professional assistance to communities so they can conserve rivers, preserve open space, and develop trails and greenways. Through the program, the National Park Service engages people close-to-home, nurtures future stewards, and gives meaning to a national park system for all Americans. For more information, contact Alan Ragins, program director, at (303) 969-2855 or Alan_Ragins@nps.gov.
Photo 1: Groundwork Doña Ana Green Team working at Sierra Vista Trail