2009 Project of the Year: Reducing Wildfire Threat in New Mexico

Winner: Rocky Mountain Youth Corps

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, in partnership with the Southwest Region of the National Forest Service, works diligently to reduce the threat of large, high intensity wildfires by reestablishing pre-existing fire regimes, and improving the use of small diamter trees. RMYC has been involved in the Collaborative Forest Restoratoin Program (CFRP) in Largo Canyon just outside of Questa, NM, a community at high risk of a wildfire threat.

The efforts of RMYC Crews have reduced the threat of wildfires by carrying out a thinning treatment in a Wild Land-Urban-Interface (WUI) area on the threshold between the town, private, and Forest Service land. Through community planning meetings, RMYC has identified a diverse and balanced group to help design, implement, and monitor the Largo Canyon CFRP.

Corpsmembers are trained and complete ecological monitoring activities within the project area. Additionally, RMYC has created local employment opportunities for youth and provided training opportunities relevant to project accomplishments. Improvement to the watershed by returning ecosystems to healthier conditions, opportunity for local youth to gain valuable job training and experience, as well as the distribution of firewood, meeting local community needs are just a few of the positive outcomes of this project. 

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Charley Kakel

The youth of New Mexico are thankful for Winston Churchill. It was Churchill's comment that swayed Baltimore resident Charley Kakel to start a whole new existence in New Mexico. 

"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give," said Churchill. 

These words, along with Charley's personal resolutin to give of himself, helped send him to Taos, New Mexico. Charley soon realized his passion for teaching and attended Goucher College to study the social sciences and improve his teaching skills, and later found himself back in New Mexico and working for the  Rocky Mountain Youth Corps's Service Learning Program as an AmeriCorps member. Charley worked daily with over 200 youth in their academic and personal lives.

With any spare time he had, Charley would travel across New Mexico and spread the inspiring message to any youth he could find. He loves the youth of Taos and wrote and received a grant for improving the middle school's baseball field. Charley now works with RMYC - After School Tutoring Program where he will be helping ten at-risk youths. Charley plans to continue his close relationship to the people of Taos by teaching at the middle school.

Charley reflects on his journey, stating it "has proven that I am capable of being a leader in making positive change happen." Churchill may have been Charley's inspiration for becoming a teacher, but Charley has inspired the children of Taos to care for each other, to become active in their communities, and to make lives for themselves by what they give. 

(written in 2006)

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