For the last seven weeks, a crew of eight high school students from Fredonia, Moccasin and Kanab have been laboring five days a week, carrying on the tradition of hard work, dedication and pride of the Civilian Conservation Corps, established in 1933 as part of President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt’s New Deal. The group is part of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) of the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC), an AmeriCorps program that gives 16-18 year olds the opportunity to serve their community, country and environment through hands on conservation work.

Using the corps model used successfully for more than 70 years, and working in collaboration with land-management agencies, CREC operates in several Coconino County communities, including Fredonia. The 2009 Fredonia YCC crew is Jozalyn Domis, Ian Hiscock, Devann Judd, Tyler Mickelsen, Tammi Tisi, Braxon Waite, Logan Waite, and Brad Wero. They are led by crew supervisors Taylor Drouet and Greg Lenard, both of Flagstaff.

Their summer began with a weeklong orientation camp in Flagstaff that encompassed field-training, education from experienced professionals from several land management and educational professions, and certifications in CPR and First Aid. Crew members sign service agreements stipulating the terms of their service, the stipends they would receive, and the 450-hour work requirement to be eligible for an AmeriCorps education award. Since then, the crew has spent every day up on the Kaibab Plateau, under the guidance of various Kaibab National Forest officials, working on a variety of projects including trail repair, erosion control, brush and cut tree clearing, fence building, and tree planting They have been trained to use tools such as hoedads, pulaskis, and mcclouds: and have hiked miles carrying heavy straw wattles. They work hard and come home dirty every day.

I recently visited the crew while they were planting trees out by the North Rim. I was impressed by their enthusiasm, the close bond that was apparent between them and the two older crew leaders, and the care and time that the Forest Service people took to orient and educate the crew as to that day’s project. Orientation always takes place on the first day of a new project, and includes equipment training, a safety meeting and instruction as to the expected outcome and reasons for the project.

The crew has worked all over the Kaibab along the Arizona Trail, from Jacob Lake to Trail Canyon, to Big Springs, to the Rainbow Rim Trail. At the end of many workdays, the crew also participates in educational programming and activities in the field or classroom.

One of the crew kids spoke about the excitement they felt at being exposed to conservation work and the greater opportunities this experience has given him. The other crew members echoed that thought, and spoke of how much they have enjoyed the experience. Indeed, one of the goals of the CREC YCC program is to encourage personal growth and development through a combination of extensive training, teamwork, work experience and educational opportunities. For these reasons, the CREC YCC is much more than just a summer job.