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Our financial partners are vital to our success

YouthWork’s financial partners are vital to the program’s success and sustainability. YouthWork uses a sustainable financial model with diverse funding sources that include fees-for-services for projects completed.


The more grant funding and donations that are received, the less YouthWork is required to charge for services. This means your investment not only supports YouthWork and our vulnerable members, but our project partners as well.



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Who are YouthWork members?

YouthWork members are young adults ages 17-26+ from central and northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula who want to GET THINGS DONE for their community and learn important job and life skills.

All are welcome at YouthWork and all of us benefit from YouthWork activities. At the heart of YouthWork is an inclusive culture where our vulnerable, diverse members are met with respect and kindness. YouthWork proudly accepts and deliberately recruits members from varying backgrounds, with varying talents and capabilities.

YouthWork members are not typical park visitors, conservationists, or volunteers. As a mission-driven program, YouthWork deliberately targets "opportunity youth," defined as being: in the child welfare system; homeless/at risk of homelessness; on probation or having behavioral issues; living with disabilities/delays; in special education programs; and/or living in persistent poverty. Most face significant barriers to employment have experienced childhood trauma such as abuse or neglect. YouthWork staff are trained in Trauma-Informed Services to better understand and support members.

Coming from settings of rural poverty, YouthWork members often lack stable homes, access to services, and positive role models who support their social, emotional, and academic development. Some may go to bed hungry and show up for the day without a lunch. Many have never had work documents such as an identification card, bank account, or birth certificate - items YouthWork helps them obtain. YouthWork teaches things like completing paperwork, setting an alarm to show up on time, looking someone in the eye as they are introduced, and, sometimes, even basic hygiene. It is these vulnerable youth that we serve, who in turn serve their community.

What do YouthWork Crews Do?

YouthWork members are organized into consistent crews of 2-6 youth supervised by a qualified adult Crew Leader. YouthWork members complete 300- or 450-hour terms over a period of 9-18 weeks, depending on the season/term. Throughout their term, crews receive significant training and experience as they GET THINGS DONE in their local community.

Crews complete various critical projects for nonprofit and public partners such as the Department of Natural Resources, the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, local parks & recreation departments, regional/local land conservancies and conservation districts, and more. Projects might include constructing or improving trails, improving parks or beaches, building boardwalks, planting trees, and much more.

What do YouthWork Members Learn?

In many ways a work eneration of employees while also tackling important local and global challenges. In addition to basic tool use and workplace safety, members are trained in punctuality, communication, professionalism, and financial literacy and independent living skills (budgeting, resume building, interview skills, etc.). Youth also have the opportunity to receive a variety of training and certifications that may include: CPR and First Aid; tool use and safety; MiOSHA Chainsaw Training; Scaffold and Harness Safety; Light Construction; Lead Awareness certification; Herbicide applicator licenses; OSHA certifications of various lengths/proficiencies; natural resources management; Leave No Trace Techniques; and other recognized credentials.

In addition to job and life skills, YouthWork strives to teach our youth the vital importance of sustaining our environment. YouthWork members learn in a variety of places that deepen this connection - in the Manistee River with waders on; alongside experienced Forest or Park Rangers in the middle of a forest; on Fox Island with (gasp) no cell phones; along Sleeping Bear or Pictured Rocks National Lakeshores; or in classroom settings where they learn skills like applying and interviewing for jobs, financial literacy, and more.

The success of YouthWork is measured not only in the habitats improved, but also in how our members learn about the stream they are improving, its history, and how their service will help its future. They experience this while physically standing in the river or stream as they feel the change in the stream’s speed, depth, and temperatures, and visually through the silt removed and gravel exposed.

How is YouthWork funded?

YouthWork is partially supported by a federal AmeriCorps grant that covers a portion of member’s living stipends (paychecks), education awards (scholarships), and some administrative and supervision costs. A community match is required. This match and the remaining program costs (supervision, administrative, transportation, tools and equipment, uniforms and PPE, etc.) are covered by fees-for-services we collect from project partners who pay YouthWork to complete various projects at a fair, often discounted rate.

Grants and donations reduce or eliminate the fees charged for projects and, thus, reduces or eliminates the direct cost to our project partners. This means your investment not only supports YouthWork and our vulnerable members, but our community partners as well.

Completing projects at a free or reduced rate also allows YouthWork to build our reputation and engage new partners that can afford to pay fees-for-services and eventually will. This helps the program grow sustainably and strengthens the YouthWork model. 100% of project partners served by YouthWork noted on project evaluation forms that they were satisfied with YouthWork and would hire YouthWork again.

Demand for YouthWork is higher than ever evidenced by our growing waitlist of projects. Just starting our fourth year, we are earning more and more paid projects from more and more partners and expect the program to be self-sustaining within the next year and potentially even capable of supporting other CFS programs within the next five to ten years.

Is YouthWork qualified?

YouthWork is held to high compliance and accountability standards and holds several local, state, and federal contracts. YouthWork has a Master Agreement with the Department of Interior, is a federal AmeriCorps program, and is an award-winning member of The Corps Network, a national organization supporting corps like ours across the country.

YouthWork has significant experience completing conservation and skilled trades projects. YouthWork’s 150+ partners are continuously pleased with the quality of our work and 100% of YouthWork partners say they would hire YouthWork again. We strategically assign crews to projects based on the skills required and our partner’s individual needs.

YouthWork staff have significant training and experience working with youth and in conservation and the trades. Crew Leaders are under the direct supervision of a licensed builder and undergo significant training and hold various certifications including: skilled trades, light construction, and basic tool/equipment use and safety under direct supervision of a licensed builder; trail design and construction; MIOSHA chainsaw training; various Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certifications of various lengths and proficiencies; American Heart Association First aid and CPR; Herbicide and Pesticide Applicator licenses; four-season proper tree harvesting techniques; Scaffold and Harness Safety; Light Construction; Lead Awareness certification; Leave No Trace; Lead Awareness certification; landscape tool use and techniques; natural resources management; invasive species removal; and more.

How can I donate, learn more, or see YouthWork in action?

Want to learn more, visit a crew, or discuss what your investment means to YouthWork and our community? Contact Linda Sommerville, Development Director, at or complete the contact form below.



Want to learn more, visit a crew, or discuss what your investment means to YouthWork and our community?


Contact Linda Sommerville, Development Director, at or complete the contact form on this page.

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