This week at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument we have the privilege of having a Hopi Youth Crew of seven young men and women from the Ancestral Lands-Southwest Conservation Corps, which is associated with the National Park Service (NPS) Native Conservation Corps, working with us in the park on our ongoing Vegetation Removal Project! Their help is much appreciated as we are usually only a crew of three, it’s typically over 100 degrees by 9 a.m., and there are 60 sites within a one square mile area that need creosote removed this summer. Their energy and passion for the work they do is contagious, and just when cutting creosote was getting a little redundant the youth crew has brought morale and fun back to the project! They work hard and always have on a smile.
Much like the Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP), the Ancestral Lands-Southwest Conservation Corps presents opportunities to crews to engage in meaningful conservation while gaining valuable experience and career guidance within the NPS, in their case specifically projects on Native Lands. They have programs in the Acoma Pueblo, Navajo Nation, Hopi Nation and most recently Zuni Pueblo, and the crews work on projects with historical preservation, traditional agriculture, chainsaw crews, hiking clubs, stream restoration, fencing, and trail construction. Also, the part I think is most unique about the program is that they aim to incorporate traditional culture and language as part of crew lifestyle and project work.
Not only am I happy that they are joining us for eight days to help with the workload, but I am also very happy as well to have the opportunity to meet like-minded youth who are passionate and excited about the work they do. I wish that I would have known about programs such as the Southwest Conservation Corps when I was their age, between the ages of 16-22. It is a great and proactive start to exploring and finding a path that you love and a future you want to pursue. And that is why I am so thankful I have this opportunity now with LHIP, because what the Southwest Conservation Corps is doing for this youth crew is what LHIP is allowing me to do.
It is bound to be a exciting week, with a lot of hard work, laughter, jokes, story telling, field trips, group meals and positive energy that I am really looking forward to! And we’re going to make a serious dent in our project while having lots of fun!