By SCOTT BECKER
The words “fun”, “new”, “different” and “educational” don’t describe a lot of typical summer jobs. But those were the words that members of the Hood River Youth Conservation Corps used to describe their Forest Service jobs.
Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a federal program in its 30th year for people between the ages of 15 and 18 to gain a positive work experience while working on national forests and teaching about management of outdoor areas, according to David Gross, the Senior, Youth and Volunteer Program Manager for the Barlow Ranger District.
Over the course of the program’s 30 years there have been several different ways that it has been funded.
“Money from Congress funded the program until 1981,” said Gross. “Then funding from Congress was cut and we had to spend our own (Forest Service) money.”
Yet, over 90 percent of the funding for YCC comes from outside the Forest Service.
Local funding comes from the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps in Salem, Mid-Columbia Council of Governments, Trust Management Services and the Hood River County Juvenile Department.
“Back when timber was a bigger part of the revenues in Hood River County, 25 percent of that went to YCC but now we’ve had to look to support from the community,” said Gross.
The workers in the YCC come from all over the Hood River Valley. “I probably receive 40 or 45 applications to fill the 10 positions we have,” Gross said. “The selection process is totally random. The only requirements we have is that the applicants be between 15 and 18 years old. This is so we can have anyone from any social, economic and ethnic backgrounds participate. We do a lot of outreach to the Hispanic community so they can have the opportunity to work and learn about forest management.”
The group does projects such as building and repairing fire pits in campgrounds, maintaining trails, and pruning white pine trees to help them avoid disease. Crew members unanimously declared constructing a fence to be the favorite project; weed control and pruning were agreed to be the least favorite of activities.
The teens in the group work for eight weeks, meeting every day and taking a van to their work site. They receive minimum wage for their 40 hour work week as well as an opportunity to earn high school credit.
The crew is led by forest service employees Shannon Bleding and Rose Cartwright and includes crew members Yuliana Anguiana, Jeremy Evans, Angella Juarez, Rocio Juarez, Benie Lopez, Justin Lucas, Gabriella Munana, Karl Nachmann, Robert Paasch and Angela Velasquez.
“It’s awesome that the Forest Service is giving young people a chance to do something positive with their summer,” commented Cartwright. “Instead of flipping burgers or other jobs that a lot of kids have.”
Many of the crew members agreed that this summer’s work experience was a positive one.
“It’s good for teamwork,” said Lucas. “Our group comes to a lot of conflicts, but we work them out together.”
“This is a good experience for me because without it, I would likely just be sitting at home,” said Evans. “It’s good to get out and get some exercise. But it also makes me want to get an education so I don’t have to do this manual labor for a living.”