The Colorado Youth Corps Association aspires to be the leader in conservation and service and empowers corps to change lives statewide.
The Colorado Youth Corps Association serves on behalf of conservation corps that transform lives and communities through service, personal development, and education statewide.
Sarah Castaneda: A Firefighting Hot Shot
As a combat medic for the U.S. Army, Sarah Castaneda enjoyed the structure and direction of the military. Now, working on a fire crew as an employee of the U.S. Forest Service, Sarah finds similarities that make her appreciate her experience as a military service member. "There's a certain structure with fire services that gives me a direction to go," she says. But it was Sarah's training with conservation corps that landed her a job in firefighting. "The corps opened that door for me, provided initial training, and introduced me to people who could help me get into the fire community."
Sarah got involved with wildland fire mitigation and outdoor conservation work when she joined the Southwest Conservation Corps' Veterans Fire Corps crew in 2010. The Veterans Fire Corps is a partnership with Veterans Green Jobs. Working in several areas of the Four Corners region, she gained valuable skills and hands-on training in wildland firefighting, earned her S130/S190 fire certifications and took the S212 wildland fire chainsaw class. Under the guidance of Shawna LeGarza of the San Juan Public Lands Office, Sarah did fuels reduction work and in the winter burned slash piles. Sarah also made important connections with other Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service personnel.
Through her connections, Sarah was detailed for one month with the San Juan Hot Shots. Hot Shots are interagency fire crews that are considered an elite group among wildland firefighters. Requiring extensive training, high physical endurance and an ability to undertake difficult assignments, Hot Shot crews can respond to wildland fire incidents in any U.S. jurisdiction. It's hard work, but Sarah thrives on it.
"I like being outside, doing labor and working with others - and it keeps me out of trouble," Sarah says. Helping people and the environment are important aspects of the work. "There were a lot of fires this year in the wildland/urban interface that were close to structures, houses and people's private land. Once you're done with a project like that, there's a feeling of self accomplishment."
While Sarah is considering returning to college for a degree in fire science, she is content for now working for the U.S. Forest Service, and wants to make a living out of it. "I'll do this until my body breaks down and I can't do it anymore."
Justin Quintana-Scott, Paying It Forward
When Justin Quintana-Scott's home in Beulah, Colo. was destroyed in a fire in January 2012, he lost not only his house, but his two dogs as well. The mountain community of Beulah came forward in support by holding a fundraiser and erecting a memorial - gestures Justin will never forget. He is repaying his community's kindness in part through his involvement with Mile High Youth Corps-Pueblo.
"I saw how my community stepped up and pulled together to help us out. It inspired me to help more," says Justin, who joined Mile High Youth Corps in June.
A member of the Apache and Navajo Indian tribes, Justin is a sophomore at Colorado State University in Pueblo. He is studying wildlife biology (he made the Dean's List this year) and has dreams of working for the Division of Parks and Wildlife.
He is getting valuable work experience through youth corps, building on an innate interest in the outdoors. "I've always been around wildlife - including bears, deer and mountain lions. I'd like to work closely with wildlife, and make it so that the next generation will have access to that too," he says.
Justin's crew is braving the scorching Colorado temperatures clearing corridors along the Arkansas River Trail and the Fountain Creek River Trail. By ridding the area of Russian olive trees - an invasive species and daily consumer of more than 30 gallons of river water - Mile High Youth Corps is "making the Pueblo nature scene more friendly to the public and pleasing to the eye."
Justin is working toward an AmeriCorps scholarship to help pay for college. To achieve his goal, he needs to complete 300 hours of work with the youth corps. But to Justin, this is more than just work. "We're always smiling, not because it's a job, but because everyone on my team wants to be there."
Justin and his family are rebuilding their life with a new house in Pueblo, and he is setting an example for youth with a positive outlook. "I like that in youth corps, we're helping out the community and setting a positive role model for the youth of Pueblo. It's altogether fun and enjoyable, and makes me feel good to be a positive influence."
Kyle Sullivan: An Eye for Environmental Education
At a young age, Kyle Sullivan, a 2011 Corpsmember of the Year, knew he would be involved in the outdoors one way or another. Raised on the Front Range, Kyle has long enjoyed hiking and exploring nature. "The only thing better than being in nature is capturing it with my camera," he likes to joke. His love for the outdoors led him to youth corps. For two summers, Kyle developed the Weld County Youth Conservation Corps' (WCYCC) environmental education offerings.
At WCYCC Kyle got a lot out of the opportunity to "work with a diverse group of people and gainskills for both my personal and my work life." With a knack for working with young people, Kyle was able to mold previously uninterested young minds into forward-thinking, conservation-focused, outdoor adventurers.
Kyle's commitment and creativity earned him AmeriCorps awards - totaling $8,000 for college. A graduate of Golden High School, Kyle has a bachelor's degree in environmental earth science from the University of Northern Colorado and is seeking a master's of applied science in environmental policy and management at the University of Denver.
His hard work has paid off. After serving two internship terms with the Bureau of Land Management, Kyle was offered a full-time permanent position as a public affairs specialist for the BLM's Colorado State Office. Putting his interests and experience into practice, Kyle is creating a comprehensive outdoor and environmental education program for field offices across the state.
"Youth corps gave me people skills that translate well in the professional environment," he says. Although, he adds, "The challenge is that I need to scale up my youth corps audience to a statewide BLM audience. But it's a good challenge," he laughs. With all that Kyle has already accomplished at 25 years old, we're sure he's up for the task.
CYCA was incorporated in November 1999 for these purposes:
1. To develop financial resources and partnerships for corps at the local, state and federal levels;
2. To provide technical training to youth in corps programs;
3. To oversee a youth conservation corps accreditation process to assure uniform principles and practices within and among the local corps programs;
4. To undertake strategic communications with key stakeholders and elected officials;
5. To foster, strengthen and provide links between youth corps.