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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

Oregon / Washington

Youth Esprit De Corps

Do you remember your summer jobs? Perhaps you had plenty of regular work, but nothing you'd call a career, right? Or, to paraphrase Wayne Campbell, "Do you have an extensive collection of name tags and hair nets?"

story by Matt Christenson with Liz Karas
photos by BLM and Norhtwest Youth Corps


What if you could have done something different? With more long-term benefits? Like a lifelong experience of positive personal growth and friendship while still earning a paycheck. If that sounds interesting, the BLM may have a hot tip for you. There's an opportunity for youth employment that's a little more challenging - and a whole lot more rewarding. So if your kids are ready for more than just another summer season sweating over the fryolator , then the BLM's partnership with the Northwest Youth Corps may be just the perfect fit for them.

NYC in Oregon

If you haven't chatted with someone who's worked for the Northwest Youth Corps, here's a little background.

Since 1984, the Northwest Youth Corps has helped over 10,000 young Americans between the ages of 11 to 19 find jobs in our great outdoors. They restore habitats, construct hiking trails, reduce forest fuels to prevent fires, and much more. Their structure is largely based upon the Civilian Conservation Corps from the New Deal. And these youth crews work directly with such agencies as the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, Oregon State Parks, and, of course, the BLM.

So what kind of youths work on these crews? To answer that question, we asked Dr. Bronwyn Baz, pediatrician at the Oregon Health and Science University - and five-year veteran of the Northwest Youth Corps. "NYC is really for anyone. Anyone looking for an outdoor experience learning work and environmental skills while having a lot of fun making lifelong friends."

And it's not only about making friends. There's a quantifiable benefit from working on a youth crew. Megs Boe who's worked four sessions for the Northwest Youth Corps says, "Before my work with NYC, I didn't really have life goals or even an idea about which direction I would steer my life. But [by] my final session of NYC, I was able to apply for an Americorps scholarship to help foot the bill at University of Oregon. I was the first in my immediate family to graduate from university."

America at Work

Youth Esprit de Corps
photo by Matt Christenson

So how does the BLM come into the equation? During these challenging economic times, the BLM has made youth employment one of its top priorities. And one way the BLM accomplishes this mission is through its long partnership with the Northwest Youth Corps.

Ultimately, youth crews need projects. And the BLM needs workers - especially during the summer season. But this isn't just busy work. These youth crews provide crucial mission-oriented support to Federal lands. And they're quite necessary because the summer can be the BLM's most hectic months, what with a greater influx of visitors from around the world, the blooming of every variety of natural foliage, the heightened fire awareness and response system, an increase in scientific studies, plus a number of other Federal requirements.

So while the BLM is heavily occupied, the Northwest Youth Corps's crew swoop in to play a critical role. They take care of necessary work to keep our public lands safe and functional. As BLM recreation specialist Zach Jarrett puts it, "We rely on the Northwest Youth Corps to accomplish a tremendous amount of priority work each year."

No Dancing with the Stars?

Okay. So you're a youth. Or the parent of one. What can a member of a youth crew expect if you join up? To better understand, let's turn to Ryan Ojerio, Southwest Washington Regional Coordinator of the Washington Trails Association. Oh, and he's also a former five-year member of the Northwest Youth Corps.

"One of the most satisfying parts of the job was working directly on projects that had a tangible result. The work is physical work - but it's equally creative and cerebral.

"Your crew is ten kids cut off from computers, cell phones, the internet, and cable TV. In a sense, it's just you, your crew, and the world. And that's an incredible setting when you can focus your life on the basics. It's powerful. You can't get that from a classroom. You're putting yourself in a new place where you may never be again. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"Plus it's only five weeks," Ryan laughs.

And speaking with Megs Boe again, she says specifically, "I still remember my first day of digging trail at Mary's Peak in Southern Oregon. Every time I swung my tool, it just bounced off the grass, not even leaving a dent. Watching my crew leader was amazing because when she swung her tool, she made beautiful new trail. I remember watching her and thinking, 'I want to be that strong!' The first week I was so sore I couldn't move at the end of the day. But by the end of the session, I made trail just as beautiful as my crew leader. That session, I built muscles and a good dose of self-esteem to top it off."

Later, Fryolator

So if your son or daughter might like to trade the hair net and name tag for their very own hard hat, while making long-term friendships working with other kids their age in nature? Please contact your local BLM office or the Northwest Youth Corps to learn more about signing up for a future session.

And to those who become a youth crew member? You can expect to have the opportunity to work with other kids on projects in America's great outdoors while learning life skills and earning money.

And we can promise one thing: You'll never have to say, "Do you want fries with that?"


Learn more online at the BLM online and nwyouthcorps.org