Western Colorado Conservation Corps provides outdoor opportunities for young adults
WHAT: Western Colorado Conservation Corps fundraiser
WHEN: May 24, 4 p.m. to close
WHERE: McAllister’s Deli, 480 Park Dr., Grand Junction
BY THE NUMBERS
Trail constructed: 6 miles
Trail improved: 33.13 miles
Rock moved/cleared/collected: 3,325 pounds
Fence constructed: 3.52 miles
Plants/trees planted: 1,484
Invasive plants removal: 67.8 acres
— Numbered provided by Western Colorado Conservation Corps
Western Colorado Conversation Corps (WCCC) started in 1999. This local nonprofit provides work opportunities for teens and young adults in the field of conservation. It also operates in conjunction with Mesa Youth Services, which is part of Mesa County Partners — another local nonprofit focused on mentorship of local children.
Kat Martin is currently one of two women on a team of more than 200 young adults who work for WCCC. Currently 25, she feels she can relate to those who are younger and help them through their experience with WCCC. The age range for WCCC programs is 16 to 25. The program also serves veterans ages 19-38 who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I want to step into a leadership role and be a good role model,” Martin said. “I want to learn from other people as well. I like the exchange. I learn about other people and how I act in social situations. I like to talk to people and find out about them. I love the team-based work.”
WCCC serves Mesa, Delta, Montrose and Gunnison counties. Mesa is their largest market, however, and funding comes from grants like Great Outdoors Colorado.
The program additionally collaborates with many local organizations like Tamarisk Coalition, Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, Colorado State Parks and Wildlife and more. Crews help build new trails throughout the Grand Valley, clean up invasive species, and build fences.
In 2014, WCCC had a total of 26,710 project hours. Crews also constructed six miles of trail, improved more than 33 miles of trails, constructed three miles of fence, planted 1,484 trees and plants, and removed more than 67 acres of invasive plants.
“It’s challenging and exciting,” Martin said. “I wanted to do work focusing on conservation and recreation. It’s part of my life and have a real passion for it.”
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
WCCC receives around 200 applications each year, and hires 100-110 young adults annually. They range from high-school and college students; many hired are considered to be at-risk youths and veterans who otherwise wouldn’t otherwise find work.
Members go through an application and interview process, much like a real job. And though participants are considered volunteers, they often receive paid stipends that can be used towards college education or buying a new car.
“It’s a huge opportunity for some,” said Matt Jennings, associate director of WCCC. “They get their check and make life decisions like getting an apartment or their own car. It’s cool to see them make serious adult decisions.”
He added it is a win-win situation for not only the young adults, but also land managers. The young people are employed while land managers find workers.
According to Jeff Roberts, director of WCCC, the program also exposes many crew members to rewarding first-time experiences like seeing the Colorado National Monument, spotting wildlife and being outside. Many WCCC participants go on to find permanent work after the program.
“It’s rewarding when they obtain a full-time job and start a career,” Roberts said.
Martin, for example, hopes to use her experiences with WCCC to find permanent work with an organization like the National Forest Service.
“I know I love doing things like wilderness therapy and working with people,” she said. “I hope to be doing things that are positive for the greater good, to get into the field and be passionate about it.”
For more information, visit http://www.wcccpartners.org.
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