It has been over 25 years since the Forest Stewards Guild partnered with New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps (NMYCC) and National Forests in New Mexico to begin providing youth from rural communities with an opportunity to get natural resource management experience through the Forest Stewards Youth Corps (FSYC). Although FSYC has been around for almost three decades, recent additions to Guild staff, Gabe Kohler and Rhiley Allbee, share their fresh perspectives of the recent crew member training.
“As the rain fell and the temperatures dropped on the first night of the FSYC crew member training, we expected spirits to fall and excitement to wane. In a rush, we worked to dole out hot chocolate to the 21 trainees to warm their fingers and moods, but we needn’t have worried. A fire was quickly built, and the laughter and smiles continued as the sun set beyond the horizon.
On the second day of the training, the trainees spent their time learning about the forest and fire ecology of New Mexico, trail establishment and maintenance, tool maintenance, and different career paths such as wildland firefighting, wildfire investigation, forestry, recreation management, AmeriCorps, and Peace Corps. On the final day, they put the technical knowledge that had been gained to good use, working on trail and fencing projects at Hyde Memorial State Park and on the Santa Fe National Forest.
For many, this is their first job and it may have been their first time camping or spending time away from friends or family. And yet, every single one of the trainees came into the training with confidence and a willingness to open themselves up to new people and new experiences. Over the course of the three days, we had the opportunity to watch the trainees grow from their training and lay the foundation for new friendships and career paths. Saying goodbye to each of the crews at the end of training was bittersweet, but I am confident that they all have an interesting and fun summer ahead of them.” – Rhiley Allbee
In addition to all the great learning and experience, the FSYC program fosters a strong connection among these kids through a shared appreciation and understanding of forested landscapes.
“What struck me most about FSYC was the amount of experience that these kids have living and working in forested landscapes. They swapped tips and tricks for fixing fences, shared opinions about the brands of boots they like, and have experience hunting and fishing in many of the forest types we introduced during our forest ecology sessions. In fact, when we asked them to form groups with other kids based on common ground, almost all of them shared a deep love and appreciation for the outdoors.
Throughout the three day crew training at Hyde Memorial State Park, we got to see the power of this shared appreciation of natural landscapes foster unexpected friendships and understanding amongst teenagers. These teenagers are at a notoriously difficult time in their lives when it is easy to feel misunderstood or isolated. It was refreshing to see kids come together over a simple appreciation of things like sniffing the vanilla scent of an old ponderosa pine or roasting the perfect marshmallow.” – Gabe Kohler
The Guild offers our sincere thanks to the organizations and individuals who helped make this training a success, including:
- Jennifer Sublett, Santa Fe National Forest
- Scott Chalmers, New Mexico State Forestry Division
- Alvaro Garcia and Randy Bates, Hyde Memorial State Park
- Zach Close and crew, City of Santa Fe Wildland Fire Department
- Penny Rodriguez, YouthWorks! Culinary Program
- Rangeland Management Staff, Santa Fe National Forest
- Guild Staff