(Photo above: COYCC teens working on steps | photo courtesy of Heart of Oregon Corps)
Forget sleeping in on summer break; 93 teenagers across Central Oregon woke up a little earlier last week as they started work with Central Oregon Youth Conservation Corps (COYCC). For the next seven weeks, they will be showing up at 7am with their hard hats donned and work boots laced, ready to work conservation projects on this region’s much loved public lands.
As corps members, these young people will learn job skills, earn wages and become the next generation of conservationists through projects that improve public lands and keep local communities safer from wildfire. They will forge close bonds with their crew members, learn the importance of teamwork, and complete the program with a lifelong sense of pride at what they have accomplished. Many will echo the sentiments of former participant Erin who shared, “COYCC helped me to become a better person.”
This year, COYCC’s 18 youth crews are based Redmond, Prineville, Madras, Sisters, Bend, La Pine, Crescent and for the first time, Warm Springs. This program is a powerhouse collaboration that includes federal, state, private foundation, business, and individual support totaling almost $500,000. It is one of the largest and most successful summer youth conservation corps programs in the country, and it is growing in size and scope each year. Unfortunately, demand continues to surpass the number of available jobs; 220 youth applied for the 93 positions.
Locally founded non-profit, Heart of Oregon Corps, partners with the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council and the US Forest Service to operate this summer employment program that has become a rite of passage for local teens seeking summer work. In addition to a job, teens explore careers in natural resources, earn high school elective credits, and $1,200 AmeriCorps college scholarships. They attend a College Engagement Day at the program’s end to explore their next step. Take 18 year old Dakota of last year’s program, who said the program encouraged him to check out the forestry program at OSU, and that he planned on applying to college next term.
Each youth can earn $2,600 in wages over 8 weeks. All told, teens will be paid about $250,000 in wages that they then spend in their home towns, stimulating local economies.
This collaborative program is only possible with generous support from the US Forest Service, which must be matched with funding secured by Heart of Oregon Corps and COIC. HOC is thrilled to announce the following substantial investments from the community to raise the needed match and make this program possible:
About Heart of Oregon Corps
Crews located in Redmond, Prineville, Madras, Warm Springs, Sisters, Bend, La Pine, and Crescent.
Heart of Oregon Corps is a nonprofit organization invested in inspiring and empowering change in the lives of Central Oregon youth through jobs, education, and stewardship. Their programming creates pathways out of poverty while stimulating regional economic growth. They apply a “work-earn-learn” model that invests in local young people, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, to prepare them for the workforce and to encourage their self-sufficiency. Heart of Oregon Corps believes that young people want to work, want to gain education, and want to serve their community, and as an organization, they strive to provide them with the opportunities to do so. Heart of Oregon is a partner of the Children’s Forest of Central Oregon, Better Together, and an official 21st Century Service Conservation Corps site.