Congratulations to Northwest Youth Corps on winning a 2024 Project of the Year Award! Awardees will be recognized at The Corps Network’s National Conference – #CorpsCon24.The conference will be held March 19 – 21, 2024, in Washington, DC. Click here to learn more about #CorpsCon24. Click here to learn more about #CorpCon24 awards. Click here to learn about the 2024 Project of the Year finalists.
Northwest Youth Corps
Since 2017, Northwest Youth Corps’ (NYC) Sound to Summit (S2S) program has been transforming young people’s lives and communities through career development, conservation, and civic engagement. The S2S program engages urban teens (ages 15 -18) from disadvantaged communities in the South Puget Sound area in conservation work and experiences. The program takes place in Pierce County’s Puget Sound and ends at the summit of Mount Rainier.
In 2023, 54 teens participated in the program and earned up to $2,125 and 1.25 high school credits for their five-week experience. Youth met each morning in town and worked outdoors on urban forestry projects, had eight hours of education and training each week, and returned home in the evening. During the last week of the program, the crews moved to Mount Rainier, Olympic National Park, or Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, places that many of the participants had never been before.
During their five-week terms, teens participated in service activities including tree watering, staking, protection from vandalism, trail maintenance, and removal of invasive species. Northwest Youth Corps prides itself on being able to provide a program that exposes youth to both urban-based and backcountry work. The service has introduced and sparked interest for many participants in environmental stewardship and urban forest management. They also learn the importance of preserving resources like the glaciers on Mount Rainier which provide electricity, drinking water, and fish to the community. The S2S program also exposes participants to future outdoor careers, and provides foundational skills in everything from recreation, forestry, and horticulture, to urban planning and other similar fields.
A participant from this past season said of their experience, “You can’t imagine how much this experience means to me and my family. I am so grateful for this program and to be able to get out and help support this workplace and our environment here in Washington. I know that as we move into the future, NYC will only grow and expand as these jobs are to die for!”
In addition to providing new opportunities for participants, the program also helps partners. The Tacoma Crew at Mt. Rainier National Park and the Lacey/Olympia Crew at Olympic National Park removed one acre of Herb Robert and planted 475 plants. They also worked at Olympic National Park’s Matt Albright nursery where they harvested about 1,000 native seeds; transplanted 333 plants into bigger pots; cleaned 1,160 pots, removed thistle, and much more. The Crews also participated in recreational activities including a hike to Reflection Lake and a plant identification scavenger hunt with park staff.
Sarah Henderson, the Assistant Nursery Manager at Olympic National Park said, “This Sound to Summit crew was an outstanding group of kids. They were engaged and enthusiastic about the work and asked great questions.”
In the future, NYC plans to incorporate a leadership component to the S2S program. This component will allow alumni of the program to mentor middle school students in completing conservation projects throughout the school year. NYC is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. They believe that the S2S program plays an important role in helping a diverse group of young people share a sense of conservation and desire to protect public lands.