Our View: Rocky Mountain Youth Corps takes young adults down healthy path
August 20, 2013
Raising solid, young residents
Rocky Mountain Youth Corps should be commended for providing a positive influence for many emerging young adults.
Among the many admirable nonprofit organizations that benefit the Routt County community, the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps deserves special recognition this month as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.
The Youth Corps is based on a business model, teaches young people that they are capable of hard and physical work, helps them save money during the summer and gives many of them access to modest grants for continuing education.
The Youth Corps, one of 10 like it in the state, was founded here in 1993 by the city of Steamboat Springs in response to growing community interest in creating more jobs and learning opportunities for young people. It became a nonprofit independent of the city in 1999, though the Youth Corps and the city continue to collaborate on the Community Youth Corps for 14- to 16-year-olds. In its 20-year history, the Youth Corps has taught a couple thousand young people the value of hard work and given them a new appreciation for their personal strength, both physical and emotional. And isn't that what all of us would want for our children on the cusp of adulthood?
The consistent guiding hand for this program, which accomplishes real construction and habitat jobs through business relationships with land-management agencies including the National Park Service, has been longtime Steamboat Springs resident Gretchen Van De Carr. She was there from beginning, leading the first work crew of youngsters herself in a fence-building project on behalf of the federal Bureau of Land Management at a campground near Diamond Peak. Today, she is a skilled administrator working for a committed board of local volunteers. And the Youth Corps is headquartered in a historic ranch house on the western edge of the city — real estate that it owns.
Each year, about $800,000 of the Youth Corps' annual budget of about $1.5 million comes from the revenue generated by the work crews, Van De Carr told us.
The Youth Corps assembles teams of young adults ages 16 to 25, most of them from Northwest Colorado, and puts them to work building trails on public lands and removing dead trees from our National Forest, for example.
One crew spent the summer rebuilding a trail built by the Civilian Conservation Corps before World War II. The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps reminds us a great deal of the CCC, an element of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal that put young men who were unable to find jobs during the Great Depression to work planting billions of trees and building roads in remote rural areas.
The Youth Corps has continued to expand its programs in recent years and now reaches out to about 55 volunteer middle school students for two-week summer sessions during which they complete service projects throughout Routt County under the supervision of adult leaders.
If there is a youngster in your home who would benefit from a summer spent working in the woods, we can recommend the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to you.