How the Founder of Vermont Youth Conservation Corps got his Start in the Corps World


Taken from the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa newsletter, Corps Update, April 2013

Thomas Hark’s Corps experience stretches back to the federal Youth Conservation Corps, where he served as a crew leader in 1979 in Young Harris, Ga. It was an experience that changed his life. Hark applied to Minnesota’s state youth program a few years later and was hired as the camp director in 1984 and 1985. He was instrumental in bringing together what were then two  summer youth camps: one based at St. Croix State Park and one for deaf and hard-of-hearing members at Tettegouche State Park. Today’s Summer Youth Corps remains an integrated program with about 15% deaf or hard-of-hearing participants.

Hark went on to found the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps in 1986. That first year, four youth served for six weeks. Since then, programs have grown steadily and now include a year-round program for the blind, high school leadership, a robust traditional summer program and agricultural leadership/farming programs. Hark said Conservation Corps Minnesota was the stepping stone that allows him to do what he loves doing now. “I pinch myself every day. I do not think anyone could be as lucky as I have been, to spend their life in education AND conservation!”

No Need to Worry, Mom: A Corpsmember Explains how his Corps's Training Procedures Prepared him to do Tough Jobs Safely

"Mothers Needn't Worry"

From Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa

By: Nicholas Cox

“Forest fires!? That’s really dangerous, Nick. You do know you need to be specially trained to do that?”

“That’s what I’ve been told.”

“Well, you need special equipment, too, ya know.”

“You sure do.”

“You just better be safe, Nick.”

“Tell you what, Mom, I’ll have them give you a call so you can make sure everything checks out.”

Over dinner this past Sunday, I had the chance to share with my parents a bit about what I’ve been up to since starting as a crew member on the St. Paul field crew. The preceding was the exchange I had with my mother upon reaching the topic of wildland fire. My mother has always been very concerned with my well-being. This was extremely helpful as a child; I was never the kid who forgot their snowsuit in elementary school, never one of the poor saps sentenced to indoor recess with no parole while everyone else was building snow kingdoms and bombarding girls with snowballs.

The Conservation Corps is also very concerned with my well-being. Less “Put on a jacket, it’s cold out,” and more “Don’t cut your leg off with that chainsaw.” The Corps takes safety and preparedness extremely seriously. Upon joining the Corps, each member is issued a full suite of personal protective equipment (PPE) that we will use through the rest of the year including task-specific hardhats, ear protection, multiple pairs of safety glasses, Kevlar-lined boots, chainsaw chaps, and gloves. Even better, the gloves and boots fit, the chaps are new, and prescription safety glasses are an option. Read more. 



Video: Still a lot to do after Hurricane Sandy - How are Corps helping?

A video by Clodagh McGowan

What is life like today out in the neighborhood of Breezy Point, Queens? This community, located on the far western tip of the Rockaway peninsula, sustained serious damage during Hurricane Sandy. In addition to the devastation caused by the storm surge and high winds, over 100 Breezy Point homes burned to the ground the night Sandy blew into New York City.

Volunteers, including many young men and women from Service and Conservation Corps, have provided millions of dollars worth of free labor to the Sandy Recovery efforts in Far Rockaway. Check out this video by a journalism student at Columbia University about the continued hard work of Corpsmembers and other dedicated volunteers. The video includes an interview with Dakota Deringer, a Corpsmember with Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa. Keep up the good work, everyone!