FARMINGTON — Youth Conservation Corps is not a typical summer job.
That is why YCC Coordinator Ricky Torres received over 100 applications of teenagers and young adults eager to fill the 34 available positions this year.
"It's really nice," said 20-year old team leader Katy Clafton. "You learn teamwork and meet lifelong friends."
Clafton has been inspired by her work with the YCC to study Environmental Science in college, and would like to work for the National Park Service.
The program runs for nine weeks long during the summer, and the work day starts at 7 a.m. and goes until 4 p.m. Most of the participants also juggle afternoon classes when their YCC work is done for the day.
YCC workers are split into teams and work either at the college, for the City of Farmington or on BLM land.
Under Clafton's supervision, teenagers Noah Moore, Isaac Torres and Sarah Veceloio are in the process of building a 5K trail that wraps around the San Juan College campus.
Torres visits the site and delivers supplies and water, but the team has full responsibility for the project itself. They started out by mapping the trail and choosing a path that required the least ammount of brush removal.
Thorugh the process, the group learns many valuable lessons on how to avoid erosion and much more. After the trail was cleared, the group marked it by lining it with river rock on both sides.
"Two people wheelbarrow and two people lay rocks," Torres said. "They alternate so that no one job gets too monotonous, but every job is hard work."
Another team is in the process of landscaping in front of the Intertribal Affairs Office on Elm Street where before there was nothing. They have planted shrubs and are currently installing an irrigation system to water the plants.
For many, the YCC serves as a first job.
"Some kids are saving up for a dirt bike, some are helping their families," Torres said. "We try to instill work ethic."
Employees of the YCC program are encouraged to work their way up the ladder in the program each year. They can become a team leader once they turn 18 and, when they have worked in the program for four years, they are eligible for a $1,500 tuition voucher.
Most employees take a class during the summer as well. San Juan College offers an Experiential Education class, or they can take a high school chemistry class.
Participants are also introduced to career opportunities. Most Fridays, guest speakers present different jobs to the YCC crew.
The YCC is funded by a reimbursement grant from the state, and 70 percent of the $150,000 grant goes toward paying the wages of the workers. The rest is used to purchase supplies.
Students ages 14 to 25 interested in applying for the YCC or who have questions about the program can email Rocky Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are taken in March every year.
Molly Maxwell covers outdoors for The Daily Times. She can be reached at email@example.com