The future of our environment depends upon the actions we all take today. The national Youth Conservation Corps has been laying the seeds for change for a while now and recently picked up where they left off last year. It’s difficult and often thankless work, but the young adults that make up the corps are starting to realize the importance of protecting our environment at this unique summer job.

“You don’t have to be inside all day, you are outside with nature and there is nothing better than that,”said YCC worker Brandon Maki of Chatham.

“I’ve had a lot of fun with it, I wanted to become a part of it because I like being outdoors, it’s a fun summer job, something to keep you busy and you still have fun doing it,” said YCC worker Vanessa Freberg of Chatham.

The program lasts eight to 10 weeks. Its primary goal is preserving our natural resources through hard work and dedication, but it can also be fun for the teens. They get a chance to build long-lasting structures and walk away with measurable results that will last decades.

“This bridge that I am standing on was actually built by YCC students just six years ago,” reports Danielle Davis. “By the end of the program they will also be able to build turnpikes, boardwalks and sustainable trails.”

Members of the corps say although they’re primarily learning vocational skills, the program has also equipped them with a number of techniques that surprised even themselves.

“My leadership skills have improved and my communication with my crew have improved also,” continued Maki.

“We’ve learned a lot of new skills like how to build a boardwalk and how to maintain a trail but we have also learned about our communications skills and leadership skills so that will definitely help us out in the long run,” Freberg said.

“We did CPR training and I really thought I was going to be bad at it, but I was really good at it and I enjoyed it a lot,” continued Maki.

All conservation work is done on public land and parks. Each location is assigned four to 12 workers, which are split up into groups with a variety of tasks to complete.

“Our national parks are all unique; the Lakeshore is some of the most pristine country that I have seen,” Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore maintenance chief Gary Lippard said. “We are training our next generation of young people, which is very, very important. Our future is these young people. This is a fantastic opportunity for these students and also for us adults to work with them because as much as we teach them, we learn from them also.”

Land preservation is a top priority for the program. Although it’s managed by the National Park Service, it gains its support and funding from Congress and the Department of the Interior.