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Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC)
The Green Team
Mile High Youth Corps Engages Youth to Help Save the Planet

Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) is a nonprofit organization that provides pathways for young adults ages 18-24 to a more promising future. Rooted in the tradition of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, the Corps addresses the employment and educational needs of youth by putting them to work on projects that benefit the community.

One of MHYC's programs is in energy and water conservation. Corpsmembers provide water and energy efficiency measures to low-income households and nonprofit facilities. Corpsmembers work in small crews and gain the skills and training necessary for careers in the “green” industry. In the proces of changing out fixtures, MHYC is changing lives.

© Frani Halperin/H2O Media, Ltd.

Jamie: Although it’s been a rainy summer in Denver, water conservation is still critical in the western US.

Frani: We are always on the lookout for people who are making a difference in conserving resources and we found an organization that’s doing just that, plus at the same time providing job training and self-empowerment to young people.

On today’s show, we catch up with Mile High Youth Corps and see first-hand how changing a water fixture can change a life.

Jamie: It’s a hot July morning and a group of young men and women are in a huddle in the parking lot of a small apartment building in east Denver listening to last minute instructions.

Frani: They’re corps team members and they’re getting a pep talk before they’ll grab their power tools and equipment and head inside to install high-efficiency toilets, low-flow showerheads and aerators as part of a water conservation program.

Jamie: That’s Sam, the Project Supervisor of Energy Conservation for Mile High Youth Corps, and while some 18-24 year olds might be enjoying summer at the pool, this group is choosing to hone skills and get training necessary for careers in green industries.

mile high youth corpsFrani: The members politely knock on doors to introduce themselves and to explain to homeowners what they’ll be doing this morning.

There’s much curiosity by tenants, many of whom don’t speak English as to what’s going on- especially when they see lots of young women at work hauling boxes of toilets and operating power tools.

Jamie: What’s your name:

Lauren: Lauren.

Jamie: What’s your role here today.

Lauren: I am a corpsmember. As of right now I am going to be building the toilet.

Jamie: How do you like it..

Lauren: I like it a lot. It’s really cool interacting with people and seeing their reactions.

Jamie: Have you ever had people who are not really comfortable with you coming in?

Lauren: Not not comfortable, but very curious. Like kept on peeking as to what’s going on, cause I think we seem to be a little young to be doing this work. There also very curious, like, “Oh wow kids this young are doing this kind of extensive work.” So they’re really curious about it.

Frani: And they do acquire a broad range of skills, and when things don’t go according to plan they learn how to adjust and be flexible.

Jamie: So what are you doing now?

Alex: After he takes out all of the water, what he’s gonna do is start taking off the bowl. But it looks like they’re corroded, and the bolts got loose so we’re going to have to break it. And then pull it out, and then that’s when we’ll be able to install the new one.

Jamie: And Alex, you know this work, right?

Alex: Actually this is my second term doing this.

Jamie: And so when you have a bolt that’s rusted out, you break it off and then reinstall another one?

Alex: We install new ones and then, just in case cause it might be the flange also we’ll install a new one too so everything will come out good.

Jamie: So what do you think about the Youth Corps?

Alex: I like it. It helps out a lot people. I mean we save a lot of water doing this too, like we play a big part in our community so I'm honored to be on this.

Frani: There’s no shortage of enthusiasm for the program among this group. Listen to Devon.

Devon: I actually enjoy the fact that we are helping people save water and energy cause right now in our county that is a pretty big topic. So I just enjoy helping people out.

JennyFrani: Corps members acquire a wide range of skills, get paid for their time and can even earn AmeriCorps scholarships, but what kind of impact are they making?

Bill Cleary: We started the program back in 2007 so at this point we’ve put in over 13,000 toilets in the City of Denver as well as Aurora.

Frani: That’s Bill Cleary, Water Supervisor for the Conservation Program. He told us that last year alone MHYC visited about 4,500 low-income homes throughout the Denver Metro area to conduct energy and water retrofits. Those retrofitted households will conserve over 53 million gallons of water each year: the equivalent of 82 Olympic size swimming pools. In money they saved nearly half a million dollars on water bills in the life cycle of those retrofitted water fixtures.

But the impact on Mile High Corps members? Immeasurable.

Jenny: It was very rewarding and it was one of the best experiences I've had in my life.

Jamie: That’s Jenny. She served two terms in Mile High Youth Corps. One for five months and one for ten months. She’s tells us why she found the program challenging, but incredibly rewarding.

Jenny: It showed me that whatever I put my mind to I can learn and I can achieve. I can work with my hands and work with tools. That's just something that I never had done before. It challenged me as a person and it challenged me to open up to the world in ways that my previous jobs didn't. It empowered as a person to know that I can make such a difference in the community.

Music: SamyO - "That's What They All Say" [Creative Commons]
Story Co-Producer: Lyle Whitney

Mile High Youth Corps

Published: August 2014   © Copyright H2O Media, LTD.

Journalism About Water and the Environment
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