National Forest Foundation

Summer Adventures, Unforgettable Experiences: the Kelly Forks YCC


by Zoe Bommarito

While many high school students spend June though August playing video games or lounging on the beach, four U.S. teens had a very different summer. Reuven, Chyanne, Bridgett, and Wyatt participated in the 2019 Kelly Forks Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) completing priority projects throughout Idaho and Montana forests.

The Kelly Forks YCC is a special program.

Each summer, four teens are selected from a competitive pool of applicants to participate in the 4-6 week program. The high school-aged students travel from across the country to the program site in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in Idaho. Youth crew members from as far as the Washington DC-metro area and Southern Indiana were able to travel to and from the program this year thanks to generous support from Southwest Airlines.

The students gain hands-on conservation experience while spending their summer in the beautiful Rocky Mountain West. From fuels reduction to trail maintenance, the crew works alongside U.S. Forest Service professionals on a number of priority projects.

This program not only provides valuable career experience to youth (and is a pretty cool summer job), but it also creates a welcoming and fun atmosphere to learn, explore, and cherish our public lands.

Days are spent traveling and working on beautiful National Forest lands, and nights are spent listening to the bonfire crackle, looking up at a sky full of stars. It’s not uncommon to hear from the teens that the experience has been life-changing.

Not a bad way to spend a summer vacation.

Thanks to generous support from Southwest Airlines, Kelly Forks YCC participants received travel vouchers to minimize program transportation costs. Thank you, Southwest, for your commitment to public lands and youth engagement.

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