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New Conservation Jobs Corps Program Launches

What’s it like to work in a national park? Would this be a good fit for me?

This spring and early summer, a group of teenagers from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the National Park Service have had the opportunity to answer those questions as participants in a new Canal For All program developed by the Trust to inspire these young people to aspire to a career in the Park Service they may not have yet considered.

Working in partnership with the Montgomery Department of Recreation, the Trust is managing from five to 15 high school students, first as volunteers during the spring semester, and then as paid members of a Conservation Jobs Corps (CJC) crew, working along the C&O Canal on a variety of conservation, historic preservation, and Park maintenance projects. The Trust is also providing opportunities for the students to hear from Park staff about career opportunities in the National Park Service, what skills they will need, and what steps they should take to become fully-fledged members of the Service.

The new program builds on the Canal For All pilot initiative launched by the Trust in 2017 to give young people from demographic groups currently underrepresented in the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) the opportunity to “play, learn, serve, and work” in the Park. During the pilot period (2017 and 2018), the Trust partnered with community groups to bring a total of 385 youth and young adults to the Park to play, learn, and serve. This year’s initiative launches the work component.

With funding from Montgomery County Council, the Trust has hired Ben Bender to coordinate the program. He is also tasked with laying the groundwork for a Relevancy, Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Plan to inform the development of next steps on the Trust’s Canal for All program. He is also developing a “Tree of Involvement” that lays out different ways for people from a wide array of demographic backgrounds to deepen their involvement with the C&O Canal NHP through volunteerism and federal employment.