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Youth Feedback – Youth Conservation Program a Great Learning Experience They Would Like to See Continued

[ Photo Gallery ] In May 2011, the Governor signed into effect the Nebraska Youth Conservation Program, also known as Legislative Bill 549. The goal of this program was to collaborate on the conservation and development of natural resources through the employment/education of Nebraska Youth.

The Youth Conservation Program , which ran from June 25 through Aug. 3, identified Game and Parks as the agency to administer the program. A partnership with the Nebraska Department of Labor, the new program would teach life skills and introduce natural resources to at-risk young people across Nebraska, many who had little, to no prior experience with the outdoors, nature conservency or the parks system. No tax dollars were used for the program.

In the Nebraska Youth Conservation Program, youth ages 16-20 years were selected to complete work on projects within the park and wildlife management areas. They were provided hands-on outdoor educational opportunities to enhance their experience with the outdoors.  Participants and crew leaders were employed by Game and Parks. Crew member started work on June 25, 2012 and earned $7.35 an hour, Crew leaders began with the program on June 18, 2012 and earn $14.89 an hour.  Eligible youth participants had to be unemployed Nebraska residents and meet specific criteria set for at-risk youth.

There were 16 crews formed across Nebraska, each having 10 youth and two crew leaders. There were six crews from Omaha, two from Lincoln and one each from Norfolk, Grand Island, Lexington, McCook, North Platte, Valentine, Ogallala and Scottsbluff. Each crew had a facility maintenance leader teaching the youth the skills to complete the projects, as well as a counselor.

The goals of this program for the selected youths were that they would become knowledgable about the upkeep required within the State Parks as paid temporary employees and develop an appreciation for conservation and the great outdoors. Furthermore, through their involvement with the program, the youth would gain skills and pride through their accomplishements and earned wages that would later serve to assist in their development towards becoming productive members of society.

Work projects included building picnic shelters, vault toilets and playgrounds. The youth crews also worked on campground electrical projects, shoreline restoration, fishing access, repairs to docks, painting, landscaping, fencing, trash removal, trail development and maintenance, and aquatic habitat.  Participants also had many opportunities to experience outdoor recreational training and skills education while enrolled in the program that included, kayaking, outdoor marksmanship, fishing and some social activities for team building.

The initial reports back from the youth participants indicated the program was a real success from a variety of perspectives including work experience, outdoor learning opportunities and general valuable experience that the students were very enthusiastic about sharing with their friends or jumping at the opportunity to repeat their involvement in the upcoming year.  While funding and scheduling of any additional monies or seasons for the program remain to be determined – it was clearly a successful program in its premiere offering.

Download Michelle Stryker’s (Project Leadsummary report on the program which includes future recommendations if the program is to continue, educational reports and an accounting of expenditures.

View video interviews with the youth participants and crew leaders below:


Additional Information on the Program

NEBRASKAland Article on the Program

NEBRASKAland Blog Link

Omaha World Herald article  and video on the NE Youth Conservation Program

For questions or comments about the program contact Michelle Stryker, Project Lead (402) 471-5425 or email at michelle.stryker@nebraska.gov

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