Connecting summer youth program participants with college & career resources

by Teresa Butel, college and career coordinator - 8/8/2019

Growing up, my favorite summer memories were spent at the lake, at parks, or near the river; yet, as a teenager in Missouri, I didn’t know of any paid opportunities to spend time outside. In fact, I knew very little about outdoor careers in general until I was a college student. My own experience with learning about this career path, having already declared a college major, motivates me to introduce youth to these possibilities when they are just beginning to consider what they’ll do after high school.

Fortunately, this summer Conservation Corps MN & IA was able to engage sixty high school youth in our eight-week “Summer Youth Corps” (SYC) where they earn $250/week while working to improve local state and national parks by managing invasive species, maintaining and building trails, and promoting positive stormwater management. Additionally, the program provides college and career connections by encouraging youth to consider how this job is the start of their professional stories.

Specifically, we consider: How to Tell Your Professional Story…

Confidently, because other people will be engaged in your story if you are too!

Authentically, with your own voice and style to transform templates into something that represents you

Dynamically, through elevator pitches when you are networking with potential employers

Concisely, written with bullet points overviewing your skills and accomplishments on a resume

Comprehensively, written as a cover letter stating what led you to apply for specific opportunities

Persuasively, during interviews when you ask a potential employer to invest in your professional story

Intentionally, while choosing from the range of post-high school opportunities that are available to you!

To build out this focus over the summer, I met with youth five times and hosted three events:

1: During the first week of youth training, I introduced College & Career services and our goal for each high school youth in the program to develop confidence in telling their own professional story

2: On the Fourth of July, our twenty-one AmeriCorps members, who are completing a seasonal term of service as crew leaders for SYC, led a college and career workshop day reviewing: resumes, interview skills, networking skills, post high-school opportunities, and natural resource careers.

3: After the first month, I began having 1:1 coaching with youth who are interested in pursuing afterschool jobs during the school year, applying to college, or joining the workforce

4: After six weeks in the program, we hosted a College Visit to the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Swenson College of Science and Engineering to learn about their sustainability efforts on campus, how to apply to college, and what kinds of interactive lessons they lead in their Civil of Engineering labs. We also hosted a Career Fair at our camp in St. Croix State Park, where professionals from Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps, MN DNR Hinckley Area Fisheries, MN Zoo, Pine County SWCD, and the University of MN, spoke on a panel about how they got to their current jobs and allowed youth to practice networking in small groups. The Career Fair was capped off by a Budgeting Scenario game called FAB Life, created by Educational Credit and Management Corporation, where students were given a career with an annual salary and asked to visit 20 different stations and balance out a monthly budget.

5: SYC’s season will wrap up in just a week and a half, and we will celebrate everything youth have accomplished with a banquet and award ceremony with families. To encourage youth to continue building their professional stories intentionally, we’ll also send them home with worksheets and tips about resumes, interviews, networking, post high-school opportunities, and natural resource careers. As new alumni, we also encourage them to stay connected with me if they want continued support navigating college or career opportunities and to consider our AmeriCorps and college programs.

As we continue to build out the College & Career connections for our high school youth and AmeriCorps young adult members, we’d love to hear what you WISH you knew about outdoor careers or what you already know and want to SHARE with young people in our programs. Send your inquiries and resources to me, Teresa Butel at teresa.butel@conservationcorps.org