Youth Conservation Corps of the San Juan Islands
The Youth Conservation Corps of the San Juan Islands was developed with the vision of a community and a world in which human beings co-exist peacefully with each other and responsibly with nature by encouraging community dialogue and leadership by engaging the next generation in conservation and stewardship. We are blessed to have our own youth conservation corps programs operating every summer in partnership with our public lands managing agencies on three islands – Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan! In 2017, each of the three youth corps (San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez) each grew in their successes and merged together under the administration of the San Juan Islands Conservation District in an effort to continue to grow the program, expand youth opportunities, and extend our conservation footprint together as one!
Our Youth Conservation Corps were created from the strong belief in the importance of engaging youth in meaningful work combined with an impressionable educational experience, while instilling a work ethic and providing an avenue to employment particularly in the care and stewardship of the natural environment. Additionally, it provides an avenue for our youth to engage with agency partners and natural resource managers by contributing to the community where we grow and thrive together. Knowing that the youth today will be making decisions that determines what happens tomorrow, we believe it is important to give our time to nurture the development of strong, creative, and informed young adults.
For many of our crew members, this is a first work experience. We emphasize the development of job skills, and the life skills necessary for working as a team. Additionally, the acquisition of responsibilities and skills is interspersed with time for fun and games, which adds joy to the experience not only for our youth but also in our mentors and community partners.
While the Youth Conservation Corps program has primarily served the middle school age population, the programs also have grown to include opportunities for high school youth through our crew leader in training program. This provides direct access to valuable employment and experience, while also providing an avenue to grow, develop and promote to higher levels of responsibility and leadership within the program which in turn provides a direct pathway to adult employment opportunities as well. Individuals can begin the program as early as middle school, graduate into a crew leader in training position, and then after high school they will be prepared to become a Crew Leader themselves in Conservation Corps programs and mentor the generations succeeding them.
By the end of each season the crew (youth and adult) develops a sense of pride of accomplishment, knowing not only that they have grown and changed themselves, but that they have contributed in important ways to their community and to the environment. Through this program, we strive to improve the health of our youth as well as the health of our environment which in turn leads to a healthy and balanced sustainable future.
The Youth Conservation Corps of the San Juan Islands are unique in that we provide summer youth conservation stewardship experiences for youth ages 12-18 where as most conservation corps programs don't start until after the age of 18. This program provides a extraordinary opportunity for youth to not only experience conservation stewardship and education but also provides job skills and training that can help propel them into their future.
What is a Conservation Corps?
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was formed in March of 1933 as one of the first programs of The New Deal. This public works program was intended to promote conservation of our natural resources and to build good citizens through disciplined outdoor labor. Close to the heart of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the CCC combined his interests in conservation and universal service for youth. The CCC is recognized as the single greatest conservation program in America and it served as a catalyst to develop the very tenets of modern conservation.
Accomplishments of the CCC were numerous: 3,470 fire towers erected, 97,000 miles of fire roads built, over three billion trees planted, erosion arrested on more than twenty million acres of land, plus amazing contributions in the development of recreational facilities in national, state, county, local, and metropolitan parks. Our local legacy is the stone observation tower built by the CCC in 1936 at the top of Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park on Orcas Island. An excellent video on The Civilian Conservation Corps has been produced by PBS American Experience, and is available in local libraries. Or you can watch this two part series produced by Washington State Parks here: Part I, Part II
Other Conservation Corps
The Student Conservation Association (SCA) was founded in 1964 as an outgrowth of the successful Student Conservation Program begun in 1957 by the National Park Service in Grand Teton and Olympic National Parks to engage young people as park volunteers. Elizabeth Cushman Titus was the first President of SCA, now considered America’s conservation corps. SCA’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of our environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land. Today, the SCA provides college and high school-aged members with hands-on conservation opportunities in many fields in all fifty states. The SCA maintains a regional office in Seattle. For more information about SCA, visit their website.
The Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) was created in 1983 as a program within the Washington State Department of Ecology. The program provides experiences that support conservation, rehabilitation, and enhancement of the states natural, historic, environmental and recreational resources in Washington State. WCC is a year-round Americorps program of the State of Washington that provides young people aged 18-25 with hands-on experience protecting and enhancing Washington’s natural resources. Trail building, restoration plantings, and biological monitoring are just a few of the tasks of WCC members who earn $9.47/hour and receive a $5,775 Americorps Education Award. Additionally, WCC members attend a series of trainings throughout the year, such as Wilderness First Responder, Wildland Firefighting, Hazardous Materials Response, Ethnobotany, and GIS/GPS. For more information about WCC, visit their website.
The Northwest Youth Corps (NYC) was created in 1984 to offer teenagers an education based, work experience modeled after CCC. The core purpose is to provide opportunities for youth and young adults to learn, grow, and experience success. NYC offeres a challenging education and job-training experience that helps youth and young adults from diverse backgrounds to develop the skills they need to lead full and productive lives. NYC offers a variety of youth programs, young adult programs, conservation internships, as well as specialized programs such as the American Sign Language Inclusion Crews, Native American Conservation Corps, Twin Rivers Charter School, and the Educational Farm and Garden program! In early 2017 the Northwest Youth Corps American Sign Language (ASL) Crew was awarded 2017 'Project of the Year' by the Corps Network for their contribution of over 2500 conservation hours in the San Juan Ecosystem and for the positive impacts to our community.
Earth Corps is a non-profit organization founded in 1993 with a mission to build a global community of leaders through local environmental service. It is the only accredited conservation corps program that has both AmeriCorps and international participants who build close-knit community through restoring our natural world. EarthCorps provides a year-long intensive program for young adults from the U.S. and eighty other countries to learn best practices in community-based environmental restoration and to develop their leadership skills as they supervise more than 10,000 volunteers each year. EarthCorps believes that environmental service is a uniquely effective way to build community, and EarthCorps’s science team creates tools specifically to enable citizens to steward healthy ecosystems.