Cody Norberto says he had a life-changing moment this summer.
While building water drainages and clearing hiking trails in West Virginia, as part of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) summer youth employment program, he struck up a conversation with a group of firefighters. The conversation was interesting and insightful for him, so much so that Cody is now considering a career in wildland firefighting.
The YCC is a summer youth employment program that engages young people in work experiences at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries while developing an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility.
This year, 7 CCSD students from Newcomb and Shiprock traveled to West Virginia to learn techniques to maintain a healthy forest, help National Forests and aid parks visitors.
The students—Aliya Clyde of Newcomb High School, and Jodie Benally, Preston Bitsilly, Prestin Barney, Chishannon Keams, Tyrese Ben and Cody Norberto, all of Shiprock High School—also worked on collaboration and leadership skills, explored the outdoors, and learned about careers in cultural and natural resource management.
The students traveled together to West Virginia, but once there they were put in separate groups with students from California, Wisconsin, Virginia and New Mexico.
“My summer experience in West Virginia was great. I met interesting people, it improved my social skills and helped me rethink my career path. I'm thinking about becoming a wildland firefighter. It's something that I got interested in while talking to some of the firefighters, getting to know what they do and their experiences so far,” said Norberto.
For Aliya Clyde, the experience made her even more conscious of the importance of conservation of our natural resources while working on fixing bridges destroyed by water at Monongahela National Forest.
“I knew of the importance of conservation, but this experience reinforced it. Like seeing litter pile up and becoming a mess, we shouldn't let it happen. It’s a fun experience, very hands-on work. You get to meet a lot of diverse people too,” said Aliya.
Preston Bitsilly had never been to West Virginia before. It was very different, too humid even. He spent the summer training on safety and wildlife on his first week, getting to know the area on the second week, and repairing areas and making sure they were safer on the third.
“I would tell other students that it is a fantastic experience, to be able to travel and do things that you don’t get to do in a regular job, while getting to know people that do those jobs for a living,” said Preston.
Youth Conservation Corps was made possible by MoblizeGreen for the third year in a row. The students—who filled out an application, a letter of interest, and received a teacher recommendation—earned a salary for their work, and had their airfare, meals, and lodging paid for.
In a brief phone interview, Leah Allen, president and co-founder of MoblizeGreen, said she was pleased with how the program benefits students from underserved communities, and that it is a win-win for all involved.
About MobilizeGreen and how to apply
In partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, MobilizeGreen offers residential Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) programs for diverse young people between the ages of 15 and 18 years of age. The MobilizeGreen-Forest Service YCC program is a three week residential program where members live and work together as a team.
For more information about MobilizeGreen and to apply, visit https://www.mobilizegreen.org.
For more information about the Youth Conservation Corps, speak with your school advisor.
Photos courtesy of MobilizeGreen