Crew member for Steamboat’s Rocky Mountain Youth Corps tabbed for national award | SteamboatToday.com

Crew member for Steamboat’s Rocky Mountain Youth Corps tabbed for national award

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps trail crew member Gracie Billingsley brought a can-do attitude to her work in Steamboat Springs and the neighboring White River National Forest last summer. Now, she's the first RMYC crew member to be given a prestigious national AmeriCorps award.

— Steamboat Springs-based Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, for the first time in its 21-year history, has earned specific national recognition with the naming of 2014 trail crew member Gracie Billingsley as a 2015 Corps Member of the Year.

She is among five young adults who will be recognized by the Corps Network in Washington, D.C., in February.

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps contracts with other agencies in Colorado, often on public lands, to provide supervised crews of young adults who complete trail and environmental restoration projects while engaging in intense public service. RMYC is part of the larger AmeriCorps, the public service agency funded by a mix of federal dollars, corporate and foundation donations as well as by private donors.

RMYC Personnel Director Jenny Carey said Billingsley never in her life had camped out before coming to Steamboat Springs from the Washington, D.C., area in summer 2014. She had no difficulty adapting to living in the woods and spent 10 weeks working on projects in the nearby White River National Forest, of Garfield County, with uncommon levels of enthusiasm that had a positive influence on her crew mates.

"She loved every minute of it," Carey said. “Her positive energy was really infectious throughout the crew, and her dedication to service is what really stands out. We get a whole range of folks at Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, but really, Gracie stood out in that she wanted to give back."

Carey said that after graduating from high school in 2012, Billingsley deferred college so that she could work in public service. She went spent 10 months in Mississippi working with an AmeriCorps affiliate, the National Civilian Community Corps, working on disaster relief. She also worked on projects in West Virginia and Tennessee.

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Billingsley brought the skills and work habits she gained there to Colorado last summer.

"I had a yearning to serve again before I started college (at Northern Virginia Community College) in the fall of 2014, so I decided to serve in Colorado," Billingsley wrote in her application for the Corps Member of the Year Award. "I learned through my experience with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps that I could do anything with perseverance. RMYC taught me that when a difficult situation arises we are called to meet it and move on … Because of RMYC I have no doubt that the lessons I have learned in the woods will benefit me in my life outside of the woods, professionally and personally."

Christina Bodznick, Billingsley's crew leader, noted that nearing the end of the summer, with her crew back in Steamboat, Billingsley demonstrated the depth of her commitment to public service by urging her fellow crew members to go beyond the RMYC mission and donate extra gear and clothing they might not take home with them to LIFT-UP of Routt County.

"I believe she will play an important role in this country's trajectory and will impact many lives with her gift for service and selflessness," Bodznick wrote.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1