ACE Arizona is currently hosting Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crews out of its Flagstaff office. YCC is a summer employment program for young adults aged 15 to 18. The program encourages youth from all backgrounds to work and learn together by completing projects to help protect public lands. The program provides youth the opportunity to work alongside government employees with the National Park Service and the Forest Service.
An ACE crew leader supervises and motivates the YCC group throughout the project. This past week we had two different groups of YCC volunteers – one was working in Navajo National Monument just south of the Utah border, and the other at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in Flagstaff.
The crew at Navajo National monument was doing a variety of work to assist Park Service employees, including building picnic tables and maintaining a popular, scenic trail in a backcountry area of the park. “It’s been a lot of fun working with these guys because they work really hard and each bring something different and positive to the group” explained crew leader Allie Devor while helping her crew to clean drains along the Keet Seel trail in Navajo National Monument. The crew is made up of local high school students who all live outside the monument on the Navajo Reservation. “I learn something new every day from this group, from hearing about their culture to problem solving about work on a project” she said.
The second YCC crew was maintaining a new trail in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and also assisting Park Service employees with a high line rigging system in Walnut Canyon National Monument. Both teens in the crew had worked for YCC in the summer of 2014 and returned again this year. “I wanted to do YCC again because I really like this kind of work. It gets me out of the house,” laughed Tori Cibitello, while taking a break from repairing the out slope of the new trail in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. “It’s cool to make something that lasts—I can come back in the future and say, “I did this!”
The YCC program is imperative for several reasons; it helps to involve kids in meaningful, engaging conservation projects that benefit their community as well as the environment, and it gives young adults the chance to start building their work experience to prepare for a job in the future.