Work from the heart

YCC seeks area youth for summer work projects

KEVIN SPERL - Chyanne McKinnis and other members of the Prineville-based Heart of Oregon work crew attended the town hall meeting held by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore, in Prineville last week. McKinnis has worked as a crew member since September of last year and has enjoyed making a difference in her community. 'Heart of Oregon has been helping in many places in Central Oregon but to be able to work in Prineville has had an impact on me personally,' she said. 'We have learned that we can make a difference.'

The Youth Conservation Corps is ramping up for summer and is accepting applications from area youth aged 16 to 18 for eight weeks of summer employment with the Central Oregon nonprofit.

Competition for the work program is getting tougher than ever as the YCC received 400 applications last summer seeking 100 positions to staff the corps’ education and work programs. Those hired are assigned to work crews that will provide natural resource assistance for conservation projects on the Ochoco and Deschutes national forests and the Crooked River National Grassland. Projects include building trails, maintaining fences, piling hazardous fuels, restoring campgrounds, improving wildlife habitat and other types of conservation work.

“All work will be performed in the outdoors and is labor-intensive, related to conservation and public lands,” explained Yancy Wilkenfeldt, COYCC Program Coordinator. “Work will consist of pulling noxious weeds, piling slash for hazardous fuels reduction, maintaining hiking trails, maintaining and constructing fences, cleaning campgrounds, and other types of conservation work.”

Wilkenfeldt added that conservation activities will include working with natural resource professionals and those taken part will benefit from provided conservation education as well.

According to Laura Handy, executive director of Heart of Oregon, 56 Crook County youth have been hired over the past three years, with over $146,000 paid in wages and benefits.

“These youth worked on over 1,100 acres, while 24 miles of public land trails were improved,” she said. “This year we will be hiring 22 youth and four crew leaders. Our partner, COIC, will also staff one additional crew, for a total of five crews and 27 young people.”

Handy said that the crews will be dispatched to projects throughout the Ochoco National Forest and the Crooked River Grasslands.

“Projects will include invasive species removal, fire fuels and juniper reduction in the McKay watershed and Aspen restoration in the Baily Butte wildfire burn areas,” she said. “We will also be working to restore the riparian habitat at McKay, Dick, and Trout Creek along with campground maintenance at Sugar Creek, Wolf Creek, and Big Springs.”

Selected applicants will earn $9.25 an hour, working 36 hours a week, logging nine-hour days from Monday through Thursday. Starting on June 22, and working through Aug. 13, crews will be based in Crescent, La Pine, Bend, Sisters, Redmond, Prineville, Madras, and new this year, Warm Springs. Eligible applicants may also receive a one-half high school credit and a $1,195 AmeriCorps Education award.

The Central Oregon Youth Conservation Corps program is operated by Heart of Oregon Corps in partnership with the US Forest Service and receives funding, in part, from the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, United Way of Deschutes County, The Autzen Foundation, and The PGE Foundation. In Crook County, funding from the Facebook Prineville Data Center and the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps grant program, coming from lottery proceeds, matches Forest Service funding.

Handy also said that this summer’s crews will participate in what she called “engagement days.”

These engagements will include a career exploration day in which volunteers from area nonprofits and state organizations will work with the youth on day-long projects and a college exploration day where crew members will learn about post-secondary opportunities, college life, financial aid, and then enjoy a meet-and-greet with current college students.

Applications must be received by May 1 to be considered for work this summer, and Handy is still looking for applicants.

“As of April 14, only 29 Crook County youth have applied for the summer of 2015,” said Handy. “I encourage youth to apply today!”

Applications for working with the Youth Conservation Corps are available online at and must be received by May 1. Those selected for this summer’s program will earn $9.25 an hour, working 36 hours a week, Monday through Thursday, from June 22 through August 13.  Projects include building trails, maintaining fences, piling hazardous fuels, restoring campgrounds, improving wildlife habitat and other types of conservation work.

Work crews will be based in Prineville, Crescent, La Pine, Bend, Sisters, Redmond, Madras, and Warm Springs.

For more information contact Yancy Wilkenfeldt at 541-633-7834 ext. 24 or via email at


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