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Program Highlight: Youth Conservation Corps

A youth member and a crew leader stand in a pond with nets

Grounded in connection to local lands and exposure to potential career paths, MCC’s partnership with the Forest Service to run Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) programs makes a big impact in small Montana towns. Unlike MCC’s 2 and 4 week volunteer Youth Expeditions that may serve with a mix of partner agencies, YCC crews spend 9 weeks rotating through the different departments of a local Forest Service ranger district to explore diverse career paths, all while experiencing MCC’s CORE youth curriculum, connecting with the land, and connecting with each other.

The Forest Service and MCC each bring something special to this partnership. Through YCC, the Forest Service provides skill building, exposure to different career pathways, and a paid summer job for youth in underserved communities. “A lot of times this is their first job.  For many of them, YCC lets them explore an avenue that they normally wouldn’t, or ever again, pursue in their work careers,” said Joel Sather, a Forest Service Natural Resources Specialist. YCC crew member Katie reflected, “It was fun working in so many different divisions of the Forest Service and getting to learn about them.” MCC crew leaders take this job development one step further. “We worked alongside each crew member to create a resume that they could take with them for future careers they explore. In fact, a few of our members want a job with the Forest Service,” crew leader Hannah said.

MCC’s programming is another reason why this partnership thrives. “Project partners recognize that leaders trained with MCC are better equipped to both complete the project work and support the youth,” said MCC Associate Director for Youth Programs, Stephanie Beeman. Additionally, the MCC CORE curriculum and locally based projects help youth foster a deep connection to the land. Crew member Chase said, “Even after growing up in Eureka my whole life, I've gotten to go to many lakes around here that I never even knew existed! Discovering this new lake with my crew made me feel more connected with the area I live in.” Crew leader Allison was also impacted by their close relationship with the town, “Getting to work directly with the local community to complete a project that had been years in the making was such an amazing opportunity. I walked away from this week with a deeper connection to the community, a stronger understanding of how my work impacts the natural world around me, and a sense of accomplishment that made me a better leader.”

YCC leaders and participants take away exposure to potential careers, a deeper connection with the land, a summer of growth and development, and full hearts. Crew leader Hannah said it best, “This program is engaging, powerful, and is a memorable experience for all. I truly believe that the values and mission that MCC has adds the perfect "spice" to the Forest Service.”

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