Youth corps offers job skills training and pay

Program is springboard to employment 

By Sarah Elms
Traverse City Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - SEEDS Youth Conservation Corps members can't wait for Monday mornings.

Mondays are the start of their four-day work week rife with projects that range from planting flowers and invasive species control to constructing boardwalks and maintaining trails. It's also a time to visit with new friends, according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

"Waking up at six o'clock in the morning knowing I'm going to hang out with friends and have a good time, it's just about the best thing you can do," said Cheyanne Galley, 17. "It's better than sitting at home."

Youth Conservation Corps is geared toward regional high school students and recent graduates who are challenged by poverty, isolation and lack of opportunity. The program blends job skills training and education, and participants get paid minimum wage.

Bill Watson, SEEDS' director of youth programs, said the program is thriving. SEEDS hired more than 50 teens to work throughout the summer, even with recent funding cuts to the Traverse City-based nonprofit organization.

"This year, even with having lost some of our funding, we have 10 crews running," Watson said. "I'd like to double that by next summer."

Galley said she's matured since she entered the program in June. She's learned about the importance of teamwork and said she's more confident.

"It really helps you fulfill your life," Galley said. "It helps get you on the right track and gives you a lot of knowledge."

Everyone in the program has a personal story, and YCC gives them all an opportunity, no matter their background.

"They actually give you a shot. They actually help you," Galley said. "They work around your probation, they work around schedules for driver's training, they work around your sports schedules."

Watson said every project the crews complete has a lasting impact in the community and the environment. Participants can visit sites on which they worked years later and still see the benefit of their efforts.

The YCC also is a springboard to employment or higher education for many teens who struggle with personal direction.

"I see kids all the time from my past years that are able to speak to how it changed their lives," Watson said. "It was the formative thing that took place in their young adult lives."

The YCC is Raven VanHorn's first job. She said she can't imagine what her summer would have been like without it, and she encourages other high school students to give it a shot.

"Even though you have to wake up so early to do it, it's still the best," she said. "I want it to last forever."

Published: Wed, Aug 20, 2014

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