For the winter grant cycle of 2012/13, Wild Trails gave a $2,000 grant to help start the first youth corps in this part of the country.
This summer, the Southeast Youth Corps (SYC) implemented a pilot Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program in Cherokee National Forest for six weeks. This project engaged eight local youth (known as Corpsmembers), ages 16 – 18 from a variety of schools in and around Chattanooga, TN. Within the YCC program, Corpsmembers were taught:
Hard skills essential to completing a wide variety of conservation projects
Soft skills necessary to express their experience and live in a tight-knit community
Daily education applicable to their local ecosystems and career development
Come rain or shine, Corpmembers worked diligently on a wide variety of projects ranging from corridor clearing of overgrown trails and water drainage structures to dry-stone masonry and removal of downed trees with cross-cut saws. For the entire six-week program, Corpsmembers took part in a rigorous work schedule: Monday through Thursday from 7am to 4pm. In evening, Corpsmembers completed daily chores and nightly education. On Fridays, the crew took part in pre-determined education opportunities such as First Aid and CPR certification, tree identification with Lula Lake Land Trust and Ornithology and bird-banding with The Tennessee River Gorge Trust.
Youth employed by SYC’s Youth Conservation Corps program were interviewed and hired as a result of the United States Department of Agriculture’s and US Forest Service (USFS) focus on youth conservation corps programs. Within the Southern Region’s YCC funding opportunities, SYC was one of two organizations selected as an investment project, which are seen as “projects expected to have long-term strategic benefit for the Region given the national emphasis on America’s Great Outdoors and the development of the 21st Century Conservation Corps.” Funding from the USFS Region Eight office assisted in providing support for leader’s and member’s wages, meals, tools, education, transportation, etc. By the programs end, this “investment” YCC crew accomplished the following:
Completed 2,062 hours of service
Cleared 32,102 feet of corridor
Removed 6 downed trees
Installed 32 water drains
Constructed 64 square feet of new retaining wall
48 hours of structured environmental and personal development education per Corpsmember.
In addition to the success of the this summer’s YCC program, SYC received a federal grant to obtain an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer to assist in capacity building and community outreach for future SYC programs. The VISTA will help fund development, grant writing, project partner development, bolster relationships with local schools for youth recruitment and educational opportunities, assist in managing SYC’s social media presence and work to strengthen SYC’s presence in the community.
Lastly, SYC is happy to report that we have begun settling into our newly acquired office space in the Hill City neighborhood. This location allows SYC the ability to:
Expand youth outreach and community partnerships with organizations north of the Tennessee River while maintaining prior relationships established in Highland Park
Easy access to Stringer’s Ridge for our bike program
The ability to store and readily access all SYC equipment.