Thomas Hark’s Corps experience stretches back to the federal Youth Conservation Corps, where he served as a crew leader in 1979 in Young Harris, Ga. It was an experience that changed his life. Hark applied to Minnesota’s state youth program a few years later and was hired as the camp director in 1984 and 1985. He was instrumental in bringing together what were then two summer youth camps: one based at St. Croix State Park and one for deaf and hard-of-hearing members at Tettegouche State Park. Today’s Summer Youth Corps remains an integrated program with about 15% deaf or hard-of-hearing participants.
Hark went on to found the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps in 1986. That first year, four youth served for six weeks. Since then, programs have grown steadily and now include a year-round program for the blind, high school leadership, a robust traditional summer program and agricultural leadership/farming programs. Hark said Conservation Corps Minnesota was the stepping stone that allows him to do what he loves doing now. “I pinch myself every day. I do not think anyone could be as lucky as I have been, to spend their life in education AND conservation!”