Routt County With trenching tools in hand, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps leaders will begin their summer today by leading groups of teen-agers through the backcountry.
The leaders were required to go through a week of training in the Monte Vista area, and spend an another week training at the Youth Corps headquarters in Steamboat.
In Monte Vista, the Youth Corps leaders learned trail-building techniques, as well as how to leave no trace of camping, motivate crew members and teach the educational aspect of the program called "seed."
The leaders learned to set up a typical Youth Corps camp and cook their meals with equipment they will use in the backcountry.
"We give them the foundation, but they're always working on their skills throughout the summer," said Theron Burgess, Youth Corps field coordinator. "A portion of the training gives green leaders a chance to learn the hard skills of trail work."
The week of training in Steamboat included a defensive driving course, emergency procedures and going over scenarios for crew-member development.
They traveled to Boulder on their last day of training to attend a leadership seminar and listen to a motivational speaker.
By the time the leaders venture into the woods with a group of teens, they have had at least 100 hours of training, Burgess said.
"Training for some people is a burden because they sit in a room to get trained, but we got to go out in the backcountry and that's where they are training," said Lynn Whitecomb, a Youth Corps leader.
This year's leaders consist of two Youth Corps veterans, three Colorado Backcountry members from last year who are back to lead, one outside leader from another youth corps and four new leaders.
The minimum requirement to become a leader, Burgess said, is basic first-aid training.
Advanced first aid for the backcountry, experience with leading teens in the backcountry and work experience with a background in grasping technical projects also are important skills, he said.
"I did (Colorado Backcountry) last year and I have outdoor emergency care, but the science school was the first time I was ever in charge of a group of people," Whitecomb said. "I'm excited about becoming a leader because I want to further my skills in leadership development."
A large portion of the Youth Corps program, and more directly Colorado Backcountry, is aimed at developing adult leadership skills to help youth further careers in the outdoors, Burgess said.
They also learn to perform under stressful conditions since they will be responsible for teen-agers this summer seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
"There's a pressure that goes along with being a leader because if anything goes wrong, it's on you," Whitecomb said.
A leader's day consists of building trails for eight or nine hours, then doing paperwork, using good judgment with the ever-changing weather, supervising the crew's camp duties and being prepared for emergencies.
"This experience gives leaders confidence because after being responsible for nine kids all summer you feel like you can do anything after that," Burgess said.
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