>Students making us the summer work crews get an opportunity to earn a wage, build work ethic and give back to the community
August 21 - All across central Oregon crews made up of hard working youth are hitting the trails for reasons other than just taking a hike. These kids are out there mowing down weeds, building fences, repairing trails and restoring watersheds.
   One such work crew was spotted by a Prineville senior citizen recently who immediately called the Central Oregonian saying, "There is a group of young people out there cleaning up the path along Ochoco Creek. It's awful nice of them to be doing that." Youth Employment Counselor and work crew leader Gary Pepperling indicated that the service is all part of the job for the kids making up the local COIC crew.
   Part of Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council's (COIC) fourteen crews, consisting of youth from six central Oregon communities, these ambitious young people are working on conservation projects throughout Ochoco and Deschutes National Forests as part of the largest Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program.
   The program is a collaborative effort between the two Forests, the COIC, Heart of Oregon Corps and Oregon Youth Conservation Corps.
   Whether they're out in the woods, on the bike path downtown or working in the parks the students making up the work crews are making valuable contributions to their communities, developing strong work ethics and earning a wage in the process.
   "Most of these kids were with us all through the school year," Pepperling explained. "Because of their performance during the school year, they were eligible to be part of the summer work crew."
   Applicants, ages 15-18, are selected to participate in the summer program every spring. They are paid $6.50 per hour and work a 36-hour week. Each crew has an assistant crew leader who previously participated in the program and exhibited strong leadership skills.
   Each week crews participate in an environmental education activity that helps them discover more about natural resources and cultural heritage. "This summer, we've done some fence building, some slash piling, and spring development in the Maurys. Every Friday we work for Parks and Rec here in Prineville," Pepperling added. "The first week working for Park and Rec we built some retaining wall by the Crook County Library Park. Today we've been working the bike trail to clear the weeds and clean up along the pathway."
   Keeping a watchful eye on the kids Pepperling issues instructions between explanations. "Students get a good work ethic out of their experience with the work crew," he continues.
   "They get a sense of what life's going to be like if they don't get an education and get themselves some better opportunities," he said. "For a lot of these kids, if it wasn't for COIC they wouldn't be going to school at all. It really helps them out. We do a lot with the kids we get. It's a great program."
   This year the YCC crews also worked on Construction and installation of boat docks and Wildlife surveys. The program continues through August 16.
   "The YCCC program is more than just a summer job. It provides opportunities to learn about natural resource management and the importance of team work while accomplishing valuable conservation work on public lands," stated Lynn Roby, Program Coordinator.
   For more information about the COIC youth work programs contact Lynn Roby at 541-416-6542.
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