COLORADO—Three thousand two hundred hours—that’s the number of service hours seven Job Corps students contributed to the Arapahoe National Recreation Area Sulphur Ranger District over the course of 16 weeks. More and more, Forest Service employees are recognizing a valuable resource right at their doorsteps—Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers. Sulphur Ranger District recreation staff officer Clayton Cornwell certainly does. In 2018, he pieced together the funding and partnerships necessary to sponsor a Job Corps intern program to complete mission critical projects that otherwise might have been left undone on his district.
The first week in October, Job Corps acting director Diana Trujillo and the Rocky Mountain Region Leadership Team gathered together to recognize the dedication and commitment of recreation staff members from across Colorado who helped make the program a success.
With funding and staff shortages, recreation staff face challenges as more visitors flock to the ANRA for recreation opportunities. Cornwell, who previously worked with the Job Corps program, saw an opportunity to create a win–win situation—providing much needed assistance to his district and valuable job training and stewardship skills to students.
Over the course of 16 weeks, students Asael Diaz, Jesse Good, Daniel Olsen, Marc Ortiz, James Martin, Jared Mathis and Elijah Taylor worked throughout visitor information services, recreation management, facilities maintenance, and travel management in diverse activities.
“We have been able to complete more work this summer than has been possible the last few years in the Arapaho National Recreation Area,” noted one recreation staff member, who attributed that to the assistance of the Job Corps interns he mentored and supervised. In lieu of being paid, the interns earned Public Lands Corps hours which make them eligible to apply for permanent positions under the federal “merit” hiring system.
Student Dan Olson worked with the Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to complete boreal toad surveys. Olson and Elijah Taylor were trained and certified in boating operations and chainsaw operation. In addition to earning new credentials, the students honed invaluable social, problem-solving, teamwork and communication skills that will serve them well in any career they pursue.
Building on the success of the intern program, Cornwell and the Rocky Mountain Region have committed to hosting seven more students in 2019. Putting together this program was not effortless. After funding was secured, a rigorous student application process had to be conducted. “I want to do something that matters,” one student wrote on his application.
Along with a Washington Office grant of $10,560, Cornwell received $12,888 from the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests to pay for the students’ per diem, supplies, clothing and housing costs. But the benefits reaped—measured by the work accomplished on the ground and in nurturing the next generation of land stewards—more than outweigh this monetary investment.