Working for the Maryland Conservation Jobs Corps (CJC) was awesome! I believe it is a fantastic use of tax dollars, though I am admittedly biased.
CJC is a summer jobs program that aims to employ teens living in urban settings throughout Maryland and expose them to nature through completing conservation and restoration projects in MD state parks. The program is in 7 of Maryland's state parks, at Gunpowder (where I was stationed http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/gunpowder.asp), there 16 crews of young men and women between 14 and 19. The program operates on the SPIRIT principles of stewardship, professionalism, initiative, respect, integrity, and teamwork.
As a crew chief, I supervised a team of 5- 14 year old boys from East Baltimore to do trail maintenance on the Gunpowder South trail in Whitehall, MD (very close to my parents). Tues-Thurs, we trimmed, lopped, hacked, and raked mountain laurel, ferns, and other over growth as well as created stone river crossings.
Mondays we did "Community Action". We went into Baltimore City (I drove the kids in a 12 passenger van) to remove trash from Herring Run. Along with 2 other crews, we removed around 200 lbs. of trash each week. The river running through it was closed by the Health Department (deemed hazardous).
Fridays were for enrichment. Each crew had the opportunity to build rafts, kayak, go on a 3 day camping trip, hike, and fish. This was amazing. For so many of the kids each Friday was a completely new experience. It was awesome to see the kids grow in their confidence, willingness to participate, and enjoyment of these activities.
The Super 8 Almighty was the name of my crew. An awesome group of characters. For most of them it was their first job, experience outside, and work as a team outside of sports. We really developed a great bond, established teamwork, mutual respect, and had fun together. Though there were definitely times of disrespect and dis-synergy within the group (and times they drove me completely crazy), but overall I think everyone had a great experience. Because we were stationed super close to my parents house, I had the opportunity to show the boys some of my favorite spots including the Gunpowder Bison Farm, Bluemount swimming spots, and a horse farm. We were even able to meet my mom to be treated to snowballs!
With the possibility of summers off when working in the schools, I would love to do this again next year!