Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps

During my last week in Taos, I finally got the chance to meet up with Rosie from the Training Dept. of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC). I was primarily interested in this corps because it is different from a job corps or a conservation corps in that they look at the whole development of a person rather than focusing on training for a specific job. Sure, they have trainings for the field crew in cutting down trees (fondly labeled the "saw crew") and conservation techniques, but they also have time on Fridays where they spend part of the day with Rosie and her cohort Jamie in team bonding exercises, personal development activities, etc. I think this becomes probably the most important part of this youth corps, and something to incorporate in all kinds of training corps, youth programs, etc.

There is always a burning question at the back of my mind while interviewing organizations like this one that are training youth...who is the target audience, and why? For RMYC it seems that there is a mixture of both educated college graduates applying because they are enthusiastic about hands-on programs and helping the environment, and locals who would be labeled as more or less "at-risk" that are in need of a job. I asked whether she felt as though hiring completely competent college grads for low-skills job decreased the number of people that RMYC was helping in terms of their hireability (in other words, should they only focus on hiring high need folks rather than letting in folks with a low need for this program). Rosie answered both yes and no...on one hand, the college grads have no hands-on experience exiting school and they can help raise the bar for the other people in the program, but at the same time hiring them decreases the number of spots available for an "at risk" population. It seems when forming a corps, you either have to be comfortable in reaching all types of people or reaching just a target population...but if you accept all types, would that mean eventually that the "at risk" might be crowded out of the program because of the number of qualified college grads applying? Or would it enhance the program, raising the expectation level? It seems like it would largely depend on the individual group, no? And how would you know that before, during the selection process, whether it would be one way or the other?

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