Megan Lovell’s new nickname of “Blisters” is a badge of honor. The 17-year-old earned it breaking in work boots on her first day on the job three weeks ago building trails at Red Rock Canyon Open Space.
“We’re taking nothing and making something out of it,” she said, slinging a shovel at the city’s new park. The Doherty High School student is among 20 local Colorado Youth Corps Association workers making trails, pulling weeds and doing other intensive-labor improvements on public lands. This is the first year for the local chapter, Colorado Youth Corps Association Colorado Legends and Legacies Youth Corps, one of 11 independent, nonprofit youth corps programs in the state. Workers get more than farmers’ tans and blister scars to show for their summer. Based on the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s New Deal days, workers ages 16 to 24 make $210 a week and get a $1,000 voucher for college or trade school. The local project has two 10-person crews supervised by adults. Megan is on the day crew, which is transported to work sites in the Colorado Springs area and returns home each night. After the stint at Red Rock Canyon is finished, they will go as far as Lake Pueblo State Park. A camping crew stays on-site in the southern Front Range region, sleeping in tents all week and coming home on weekends. Director Michele Hanley plans to double the number of crews next year and expects another surge of applicants. “We had twice as many people apply as we had openings,” she said. Workers were selected based on factors such as enthusiasm, team spirit and maturity. “Let’s face it, it’s not like a job most of them have ever done,” Hanley said. “I have not lost one crew member yet.” The day crew is a diverse bunch. “I shoveled snow a couple times,” Wasson High School student Destinee Fields, 18, said of her manual labor experience. Her last job was working at a movie theater. “I like being outside, instead of being locked inside,” she said. The only drawback? “I’m still sore.” The day crew named itself Solid Rock, after the Red Rock Canyon terrain. Justin Ray, 18, had visions of his muscles “being like Arnold’s (Schwarzenegger).” It wasn’t the only false impression he had of the job. “I thought of prison people working by the side of the road,” the recent Doherty graduate said. Workers don’t sing the “Chain Gang” song. They prefer the “ba-ba-ba” beat of “Barbara Ann” led by Chris Ference. “I keep the enlightenment going,” said Chris, 17, a Community Prep Charter School student whose usual tool is a pool stick. Hoe. Rake. Slice. Dig. Lug. Rhythm helps get the job done. “We kind of get a train going,” said Kai Ordahl, 19, a Colorado State University wildlife biology major. “Somebody will take out the grass. Another will come by with the rake.” He likes it. “I did construction for a summer and that was a killer,” he said. Danille Randall, 17, often spends her summer traveling. “This is kind of like a vacation because I get to be places in the mountains that not a lot of people can go to,” the Widefield High School student said. “The more I do this, the more I learn. When you see what you’ve done, it’s like this is yours and you’ve accomplished something big.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0253 or firstname.lastname@example.org For information about Colorado Youth Corps Association, go to: www.cyca.org Michele Hanley, director of the local chapter, Colorado Legends and Legacies Youth Corps, can be e-mailed at: email@example.com