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YouthWork, Getting Things Done!

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

This month, members of the YouthWork team were grateful to attend the 2023 Corps Network Conference in Washington D.C. This was the first in-person conference held by the association since 2020. Nationwide conservation staff gathered to share time-tested expertise, innovative ideas, and inspiring stories from programs all over. A variety of constructive sessions were held, allowing YouthWork to gain well-rounded insight, perfectly accommodating its evolving practices and growing potential.

Throughout the event speakers and panelists facilitated larger conversations that included professor and filmmaker Dr. Gilda Sheppard, author and attorney Gyasi Ross, former New Mexico politician and current US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, activist and former president of the Black Prisoners’ Caucus Kimonti Carter, and many more influential leaders within our national community. These discussions focused on fostering inclusive environments within our programs, welcoming all communities into the corps experience and empowering marginalized youth into leadership positions throughout national conservation efforts.

This urgent discourse resonated powerfully with YouthWork, as the program continues to expand intentional partnerships with diverse Michigan communities. These partnerships extend experiences to youth who wouldn't typically be engaged in the field, allowing them to significantly impact public lands near home and throughout the state.

YouthWork values the support it receives from all project partners, and its admin team is honored to highlight ongoing endeavors with the US Forest Service (USFS), National Forest Foundation, and SER Metro-Detroit, as well the program’s developing plans this upcoming summer. Since 2021, YouthWork has been able to join forces with SER Metro, recruiting Detroit youth to serve within forests and parks across Michigan. Throughout its eastern region, the USFS’s Urban Connections program and its coordinator, Lisa Perez, also aim to engage urban communities and build alliances that amplify the Forest Service mission of “Caring for the Land and Serving People”.

To build upon this shared goal, YouthWork, with support from SER Metro, Urban Connections, the National Forest Foundation, and four Tribal Nations, plans to recruit BIPOC youth from both urban Southeast Michigan and the rural indigenous communities of Northern MI, to serve within National Forests during the summer of 2023. This growing, synergistic initiative will not only complete vital projects, impacting vast acreages of National Forests, but also allow for cultural exchanges between a diverse range of youth, connected through the most beautiful and historic lands in Michigan.

These essential projects will provide youth with versatile lifelong skillsets which include restoring shorelines and riverbanks, correcting erosion, mitigating invasive species, maintaining wildlife openings, enhancing young forests, and improving trail systems. The service will take place in ecologically breathtaking environments like the Hiawatha and Huron-Manistee National Forests, and encompass activities within culturally rich and historically significant areas like Idlewild, once known as Michigan’s “Black Eden.” Taking new perspectives—gained from the D.C. conference—into consideration, YouthWork hopes to witness the continued positive outcomes of these partnerships, seeing youth from all backgrounds take pride in their culture, share it with others, and feel empowered to take on proactive leadership within their communities.

To learn more about YouthWork, to apply or share the application link, click here.

Click to watch speakers at the Corps Network 2023 Conference!

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