Youth Conservation Corps

Civil Works Crew Members - USFS Photo

In March and April each year kids aged 15 to 18 are applying for positions with the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC).  They will send their applications to the location they would like to work and wait.  After the enrollment period ends,  the Park Service, Forest Service and other participating agencies will randomly select the participants at each work location.  Then, after school is out for the summer, it’s off to work, but there is much more to YCC than a paid summer job running eight to ten weeks.

Getting Healthy Outdoors

YCC CrewThe best thing about the YCC program is that it gets the kids working outdoors.  That brings with it all the health benefits we discussed in a post on our partner site, including stronger bones, fewer colds and flu, less cancer, less diabetes, less heart disease, better brain function, and more.  Recent research even shows that vitamin D picked up during outdoor work reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Beyond that,  the strenuous activities involved in YCC work will build muscle and strength in all the enrollees.  Whether or not a YCC member is concerned about their health,  they are getting a lot of great health benefits from the program.


YCC Alaska Crew At Work - USFS PhotoAlmost any workplace or business requires teamwork, but where are kids to learn to work as a team?  The small number of kids that can participate in team sports, music and theatrics at their schools learn teamwork and it’s benefits very well.  Outside of those disciplines kids are generally encouraged to do their own work rather than working with others.

YCC, on the other hand,  teaches and values teamwork to get work done in the best way possible – just like the most productive workplaces.  It’s a great place for kids to learn the benefits of teamwork in producing a quality product.

Benefitting Our Natural Resources

As I write this on Earth Day,  I am reminded of all the kids that want to do something to make the world a better place.  YCC offers that opportunity.  A few things a YCC crew may do:

  • maintain trails to prevent erosion
  • enhance fisheries
  • remove noxious weeds that are crowding out native plants
  • improve wildlife habitat
  • maintain historic sites
  • rehabilitate campsites

Vermont YCC USDA Photo

Environmental Education

YCC crew members are not just told what to do,  they are also taught the reasons behind the work they are doing.  They typically learn about forest restoration, ecosystem health, recreation ethics, plants, animals, land stewardship, sustainable recreation, the history of public lands, wilderness philosophy and even historical preservation.

Beyond the education they are provided relative to the work they are doing,  crew members may also participate in field trips to learn more on specific topics.  All of this builds a strong basic background in natural resources and natural resource management.  Many YCC enrollees go on to careers in these fields.


This video offers a glimpse at the YCC program at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.


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