Boulder County Accepting Applications for Summer Youth Corps
February 17, 2016
Once kids reach high school, it’s usually time for them to get their first summer job, which has become increasingly harder to find. The Boulder County Summer Youth Corps program offers jobs to students ages 14-17 who are looking for a different and unique summer job.
Beginning in 1996, the Youth Corps was created to address the problem of very few jobs for students. It focuses on hiring first-time workers, many just 14 and 15 years-old. Program Manager Judy Wolf said the eight-week summer program is a great way for kids to learn teamwork and leadership skills.
“It’s all team based,” Wolfe said of the program. “When a young person is hired, they’re put on a team and they stay with their team all summer. They’re really building connections with each other and learning how to work together as a group.”
The Youth Corps has teams that work all around Boulder County, for different cities and departments and divisions in Boulder County Government. Wolfe said this year there are 19 teams. “This summer we’re going to be having teams in the City of Boulder, Lafayette, Louisville, Longmont, Superior and the new town we added is Erie,” Wolfe explained. “We actually have six municipal teams and we contract with those cities to have a team. They put together the projects, and we send the team to them and they work together through the summer.”
The remaining teams work for Boulder County government in various divisions, including public health, sustainability, parks and open space, and forestry.
Corps members are usually placed on teams in the city where they live or close by. They can expect to do projects such as trail construction and maintenance, historic preservation, forest thinning, construction and repair of fencing, landscaping, and removal of Russian olive trees and noxious weeds.
“They’re learning how to work with each other, they’re learning how to communicate, they’re learning how to be professional in the work setting,” Wolfe explained. “We have high expectations for them. They have to come prepared for the day, otherwise they’re sent home.”
At the end of each summer, corps members are evaluated on their attendance and willingness to work among other aspects, and must receive an above average or excellent rating to return the next summer, which about 50 percent do.
“They take away an ability to communicate with a wide variety of people,” Wolfe said “They’ll be working not only with the diverse members on their team, but their assistant team leader and team leader, and then also the project sponsor. Those are all adults that they’ll have interaction with over the summer, so they’re learning how to interact with those people to accomplish a task.”
The Youth Corps is also hiring team leaders, who must be 21 or older and have applicable experience. “The team leader and assistant are responsible for training their team to work with the tools that are provided, [and] keep them safe,” Wolfe explained. “They evaluate their work and give them feedback on how they’re doing. They supervise them on a daily basis—they’re there with them in the field all the time. They help motivate them, because sometimes on those really hot days they need that extra push to help them finish.”
Most returning corps members ask to be placed on the same team, because of the lasting friendships they formed the year before. “They’re making friends with people that are not in their ordinary circle of friends,” Wolfe said. “We don’t only place kids from one school on a team, there can be kids from seven or eight different schools and they don’t necessarily know each other on the first day. But they form lasting friendships.”
Applicants are hired based on their application, letter of reference, interview and availability during the summer—they are allowed one week off. They also must be able to lift 40 pounds by themselves or with the help of their team. Wolfe doesn’t want that to intimidate applicants, though most Corps members say they feel more in shape after the program.
“We have a question on their final evaluation if [they] feel more physically fit, and last summer 93.5 percent said they feel more physically fit at the end of the season than when they came into it,” Wolfe said. “We track that every year and it’s always been in the 90 percent [range].”
Wolfe hopes to one day have an equal amount of girls and guys in the corps. “I would love to get to the day when we get to 50 percent girls and 50 percent guys,” Wolfe said. “I think last year we were at 47 percent female and 53 percent male, so I just keep wanting to get the word out there that girls are encouraged to apply.
“Girls don’t always see themselves doing this kind of work, but what we’ve seen is girls are very successful in the Youth Corps. So they shouldn’t be put off by the physical nature of it, because a lot of the girls really thrive in our program.”
Corps members are also paid $8.31/hour, with the possibility of earning a $100 bonus at the end of the summer, based on merit and strong attendance. Team leaders start at $15/hour and assistant leaders start at $13/hour.
The Boulder County Youth Corps is accepting applications through March 25, which can be found at bouldercounty.org/youthcorps. For more information on the Youth Corps, visit bouldercounty.org/youthcorps, or call the Youth Corps office at 303-678-6104.