Virginia State Parks offer camps that gives back — in more ways than one!
Virginia State Parks, Virginia
This Youth Conservation Corps is a three week residential program where campers live and work in a state park. Crews are usually ten youth per park with three college or older supervisors directly working with the youth. Park staff and our program coordinators also oversee the program.
The kids prepare their own meals and perform chores related to daily living in addition to working on natural resource projects in the park. Youth participate in environmental and culture programs at the park and in the local community.
There is also lots of fun, outdoor recreation based activities to round out the week. The other advantage over your traditional camp experience, instead of paying to go to the camp, they give campers who complete the three weeks a $500 stipend.
Camp accommodations have no restrooms or kitchens (although there is a refrigerator and microwave) and are basically structures that have room for bunk beds to accommodate the participants. The campers use the campground bathhouse. Meals are prepared using a grill and the bunkhouses have decks or large porches. The whole park becomes the actual camp.
The program is offered in a variety of parks across the state in two sessions. Youth may specify either the first of second session but they don’t get to pick the park. They try to assign youth within a reasonable driving distance but far enough away from home that they experience something new.
What we love
Every park is different – each has its own unique natural and cultural resources and is in an area with great local attractions. If a park has a swimming area, the kids will swim and be able to canoe or kayak, and every park will have hiking. They will visit local museums and attractions — for example, kids in their northern Virginia parks often visit DC, and The Belle Isle State Park program visits Tangier Island, a unique community on an island in the Chesapeake Bay.
They’ll meet volunteers and staff from the park and learn a lot about what goes into operating a state park. All of their parks offer educational programs about the environment, natural world and cultural history of the area and park. They also have a strong geocaching program and all of the programs are able to participate in a great program where you use a GPS device to find hidden treasures.
State parks are all suffering from reduced funding but increased visitation so they took these two needs and put them together with a service learning program that gets kids outside and get some of their projects done. The participants also learn a lot about being self-sufficient and all the work involved getting meals prepared, clothes washed, groceries bought, and keeping their living area clean. They learn to work as a team in a structured environment.
They also learn about nature up close and personal, and participate in a variety of outdoor recreation pursuits while learning about what goes into protecting those natural resources. There is an application process so only youth committed to being part of the program and who do a good job answering their application questions are selected.
More info: www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/ycc.shtml
Phone: 703- 583-5497