• Kelsey Kittleson

San Juan Islands Youth Conservation Corps looks ahead to 2023

A Year in Review - Friday Harbor, Washington

I don’t breathe oxygen, I photosynthesize” exclaimed an excited youth crew member as they learned about a local native plant. By the end of the YCC 2023 season, you may have mistaken one of the crew members as a natural feature within the environment, as 23 students spent eight weeks deeply immersed in local ecosystems.


With the mission of promoting a stewardship ethic among local youth and maintaining the beauty and balance of our natural island ecosystems, the San Juan Islands Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) provides summer activities and real job experiences to hundreds of local youth. This last August, the 8-week program for students between the age of twelve and eighteen successfully wrapped up its sixth summer season operating under the San Juan Islands Conservation District, culminating over 3,300 hours of conservation work performed by dedicated crew members.


The YCC crew was put to work helping over twelve local partner organizations address needs related to trail maintenance/construction, noxious weed removal, solid waste diversion, marine mammal conservation, beach cleanups, public outreach, education, and more. To see a full list of 2022 projects, see our 2022 End of Season Report at (insert link).

YCC is not only an excellent resource for local youth and partner agencies, but for parents and families living in the San Juans. The low and no-cost options of this program, plus its holistic approach to outdoor activity and education, make it a “win-win” summertime activity for families. Five crew leaders were hired to support this summer’s programing, bringing a rich set of skills and knowledge to daily activities. Huge thanks to Luke, Emily, Izzy, and Hannah, and Steve for your hard work and dedication to inspiring and supporting the next generation of conservationists.


Crew members work closely with program staff, conservation professionals, and partner education programs on stewardship/restoration projects, inquiry-based experiential outdoor education, technical field skill building, and professional development. This summer, weekly themes helped drive project goals and complementary educational materials. During the week focused on Marine and Nearshore Environments, YCC partnered with SJC Department of Environmental Stewardship to talk to local business about the WA State Single-use plastics service law. Students were very nervous about reaching out to local businesses, but absolutely thrived when discussing ways to reduce single-use plastic usage. Other weekly themes included Team building & Anti-Bullying; Sense of Place; Local food systems; Land management ethics; Endangered Species Recovery, Forest & Fire Ecology, and Art & Environmentalism.


YCC’s cornerstone program operates every summer from the end of June until mid-August. is also actively expanding into year-round programs to engage students in a greater variety of fall, winter, and spring stewardship work. If you are interested in learning more about the program, please visit learn more by visiting our page here and contact Kelsey Kittleson, YCC Program Coordinator, at Kelsey@sjicd.org.

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