Colorado Youth Corps Association Participates in Natural Resources Career Fair

Story and photo taken from the Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA) Facebook page.

On Wednesday, May 15, more than 75 students, eight teachers and nine natural resources organizations gathered at the West Generation Academy in Denver for the Exploring Natural Resources Careers Fair. The goal was to inspire youth to pursue natural resources careers and educate “career influencers,” such as educators, school counselors and nonprofit staff about these exciting career paths. Tony Dixon, national director of the U.S. Forest Service Job Corps, kicked off the event by giving an inspiring speech about his early exposure to the outdoors and his rise in the field. 

Unlike typical job fairs, students had the opportunity to circulate in groups and spend 20 minutes at each of four stations designed to engage students in interactive activities. Students had the opportunity to take distance measurements, look at survey equipment, and pass around fossils and examples of types of dinosaurs found on public lands. At the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service station, students participated in an interactive card game related to career qualifications. Stations were hosted by the Colorado State Forest Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service – Job Corps, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, Southwest Conservation Corps, Ecotech Institute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Colorado State University. 

The students were impressed with the setup. When asked what he learned, one student exclaimed, “I learned that I can get paid for having fun!” We love hearing this kind of feedback – and find it to be true ourselves! 

Katie Navin, executive director of the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, which was instrumental in the implementation and creation of this fair, said, "Nationally, we know we need to engage more students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), but rarely do we think about natural resources professionals in that category. This is such a unique opportunity for students to get an interactive look at a day in the life of natural resource and STEM-based careers, and help students build a pathway to pursue those opportunities." 

This fair was hosted as part of the Careers in Natural Resources Initiative led by CYCA and the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education.

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) hears about Youth Corps successes


Karla Cordova, 18, tells the Great Outdoors Colorado Board of Directors about her experience on a chainsaw crew with Weld County's GOCO Youth Corps. The GOCO Board held its quarterly meeting in Fort Morgan last week. From The Fort Morgan Times.

From The Fort Morgan Times - by Jenni Grubbs

The Great Outdoors Colorado Board of Directors heard about many issues at its quarterly meeting last week in Fort Morgan, including the Colorado Youth Corps and the upcoming state legislative session.

The Youth Corps program is something GOCO invested $1 million in during fiscal 2011. The funding was for a partnership between GOCO and the Colorado Youth Corps Association.

"The purpose of the funding was to both complete conservation service projects of interest to GOCO and provide employment, training and education opportunities to youth and young adults in Colorado," according to a staff memo to the GOCO Board.

Twnety-two projects received money from this $1 million grant, and 72 weeks worth of work were done in 20 counties.

At least 233 young people received employment in 2011-12 through the Youth Corps because of the GOCO grant, and 134 earned AmeriCorps Education Awards totaling $247,468.

During the 22 projects, youths constructed or repaired 21 miles of trails, cleared 6.6 miles of trail corridors, constructed or repaired 6,519 feet of fencing, planted or transplanted 5,673 trees and removed 6,121 trees. More than 22,900 hours of labor were put in by the youths in corps.

One Youth Corps member spoke to the board about her experiences working with the Weld County Youth Conservation Corps.

Karla Cordova was on the chainsaw crew working in Weld County in 2011-12.

"Being able to do service for the community is a pleasure," she said. "I love to learn and serve."

After having battled cancer and recovering from multiple surgeries, Cordova said she was looking for something to do with her life. She said she chose to join the Weld County Youth Corps "because there's always something to learn and do" while working with that group.

During her work with the Youth Corps, she earned certification in using a chainsaw.

She also split wood, planted trees and removed junk from the Poudre River.

"The program helps me to be responsible and learn," Cordova said. "It's so awesome."

Next, Cordova plans to attend Aims Community College in Greeley.

She advocated for the Youth Corps program to the GOCO Board.

"I truly believe our program helps a lot of people who need it," she said.

GOCO Board President James Smith said he was happy Cordova chose to speak to the board.

"It's a wonderful thing to hear from the participants that it's changing their lives and making a difference," he said.

Jennifer Freeman, Colorado Youth Corps Association executive director, explained to the board that for each job in the Youth Corps, there are nine people like Cordova waiting to fill it.

The board members asked Freeman if more projects could be added and jobs created if the funding were available.

"We don't have any trouble scaling up," Freeman said.

She said that the GOCO grant funds jobs for people ages 14-25 as members of the Youth Corps. Those jobs can be trail maintenance, weed and diseased-tree removal, tree planting, fencing, drainage work, river restoration, new trail construction and lots more.

The Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA) is a statewide coalition of 10 accredited youth conservation corps that employ and train youth and young adults on land, water and energy conservation projects. For more information about CYCA or the statewide youth corps coalition, visit CYCA.org

The GOCO board approved continuing to fund the Colorado Youth Corps.

Legislative update

Lobbyist Adam Eichberg, who represents GOCO's interests at the Capitol, told the board about what he expects to see come up at the legislative session that starts in January.

But first he pointed out that November's election results "significantly impacted the shape of the legislature," with Democrats controlling both chambers of the General Assembly and new leaders, including state Sen. Pres. John Morse, whom Eichberg called "a friend of GOCO" and state Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll.

In the state House, new Speaker Mark Ferrandino was someone Eichberg said was a "Denver liberal" who "doesn't quite get what we do," but that House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst would be "good for GOCO."

"I think that's going to be beneficial for us," Eichberg said. "The funding source will be protected, I think."

GOCO primarily gets its funding from the Colorado Lottery Funds, which the state legislature could decide to redirect to other state needs during the budget process.

Eichberg also told the board that members of the Joint Budget Committee, which is made up of both state House and state Senate members, would have new members who all likely would be good for GOCO.

They include: Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver; Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton; Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs; Claire Levy, D-Boulder; Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen; and Crisanta Duran, D-Denver.

"We're in good shape with the JBC," Eichberg said.

But he added that it was expected that "someone would go after the (GOCO) funding source again. Our hope is again to kill (such bills) in committee."

He said he was "optimistic" that GOCO lobbyists would be able to do that in 2013.

Eichberg also said the he would be keeping an eye on a bill concerning conservation easement tax credits, as well as other bills concerning open space and caps on donations and tax credits for conservation.

"Every year there is some surprise," Eichberg said. "I think it will be a very interesting session for John Hickenlooper. The House Democrats are new. They're in power for the first time in 10 years. I think there will be a good partnership, but there will be some challenges."

He said that Hickenlooper will have to work hard to avoid the problems former Gov. Bill Ritter had with the priorities of members of his own party in the legislature.

The new legislative session begins on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013.

--Contact Jenni Grubbs at jgrubbs@fmtimes.com.

Corpsmember Success Story: Justin Quintana-Scott - Paying it Forward

From the Colorado Youth Corps Association

When Justin Quintana-Scott’s home in Beulah, Colo. was destroyed in a fire in January 2012, he lost not only his house, but his two dogs as well. The mountain community of Beulah came forward in support by holding a fundraiser and erecting a memorial – gestures Justin will never forget. He is repaying his community’s kindness in part through his involvement with Mile High Youth Corps-Pueblo.

“I saw how my community stepped up and pulled together to help us out. It inspired me to help more,” says Justin, who joined Mile High Youth Corps in June.

A member of the Apache and Navajo Indian tribes, Justin is a sophomore at Colorado State University in Pueblo. He is studying wildlife biology (he made the Dean’s List this year) and has dreams of working for the Division of Parks and Wildlife.

He is getting valuable work experience through youth corps, building on an innate interest in the outdoors. “I’ve always been around wildlife – including bears, deer and mountain lions. I’d like to work closely with wildlife, and make it so that the next generation will have access to that too,” he says.

Justin’s crew is braving the scorching Colorado temperatures clearing corridors along the Arkansas River Trail and the Fountain Creek River Trail. By ridding the area of Russian olive trees – an invasive species and daily consumer of more than 30 gallons of river water – Mile High Youth Corps is “making the Pueblo nature scene more friendly to the public and pleasing to the eye.”

Justin is working toward an AmeriCorps scholarship to help pay for college. To achieve his goal, he needs to complete 300 hours of work with the youth corps. But to Justin, this is more than just work. “We’re always smiling, not because it’s a job, but because everyone on my team wants to be there.”

Justin and his family are rebuilding their life with a new house in Pueblo, and he is setting an example for youth with a positive outlook. “I like that in youth corps, we’re helping out the community and setting a positive role model for the youth of Pueblo. It’s altogether fun and enjoyable, and makes me feel good to be a positive influence.”