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Local teens benefit from YES expansion

| July 27, 2005 12:00 AM

By STEVE KADEL Western News Reporter

Cassy Youso slogged through 90-degree days last week as she helped build a walking trail near the Troy museum.

It was hot, dusty work as temperatures flirted with 90 degrees. Youso, 15, and Josh Brothers, 14, used loppers to clear the trail. They wore yellow hard hats despite the heat, and never complained as an adult Montana Conservation Corps crew leader worked alongside.

"I'd rather be working in the woods than siting around home watching TV," Youso said.

Brothers agreed, saying he applied for the five-week MCC stint "so I wouldn't be bored. I like to be out in the woods."

Four other local youths joined the two Libby residents. Aaron Rogers and Brett Landon of Libby, plus Tiah Davenport and Stephanie Fairbrothers of Troy were chosen to participate in a program called Youth Engaged in Service.

This is the first summer YES has expanded to Libby, Troy and Kalispell although it has operated elsewhere in the state since 2000.

To take part, teens had to submit an application to the conservation corps and undergo interviews.

"Just like they're applying for a regular job," said Beth Radefeld, one of two adult crew chiefs.

The kids must put in 200 hours of work during five weeks. Those who persevere receive a Presidential Service Award consisting of a certificate and pin, along with $350.

"And a great resume-builder," Radefeld said of the experience.

The Troy trail, where a Frisbee disc golf course will later be constructed, is scheduled to be finished by Friday. Then the youths will tackle projects in Libby, including painting fire hydrants throughout town. They also will pull weeds at a nearby weigh station, and paint the building.

Other activities involve learning about noxious weeds from U.S. Forest Service personnel, and getting rid of some of the offending plants.

There are "recreation days," too. Radefeld said those involve hiking down trails — possibly the Cedar Creek or Granite Creek trails — and setting up a camp. Teens and leaders will fan out from camp during the days to do maintenance projects such as placing water bars across the trail so water runs off.

The first project completed at Troy involved putting borders of large rocks around decorative plots in the museum's front lawn. Museum director Beth Schweitzer and staff member Sharon Dent complimented the job.

"The kids are really nice and they've done excellent work," Denton said.

Schweitzer, a recently retired educator, taught the four Libby children when they were middle school students.

"They are work-driven kids who care about things," she said.

The YES volunteers usually go home after each day's work is through. The camping trips are exceptions.

The MCC youth program is being funded in Lincoln County this summer by Lincoln County Commissioners, Stimson Lumber Co., the Lincoln County Port Authority, and Kootenai River Development Council, Radefeld said.

The crew leaders keep a close eye on their young workers. Strict safety rules are followed, including the requirement to wear sunglasses or protective goggles.

Youso said none of the kids have been hurt while working with equipment such as Pulaskis and loppers. However, that doesn't mean work has been free of stress or small discomforts.

"Mosquitoes," Youso said. "I hate 'em."