Montana Conservation Corps expanded its Helena youth program to middle school students this year, and on Thursday they were joined by Gov. Steve Bullock to spruce up Ten Mile Creek Park.
The corps is a service-based organization enrolling young people in AmeriCorps programs. Often known for its trail construction and other work in open spaces for young adults, the organization also offers programs for high school, and new this year, middle school students in Helena.
“With the middle school program it’s learning about hard work, the communities around them and the wild spaces that they can contribute to and give back to in the future,” said Madie Padon, youth program manager for the corps.
Helena now has the third middle school program in the state, with the others in Missoula and Bozeman. The program lasts for six days and students enroll at no cost with the idea of training for the high school program, Padon said. The students also worked with Montana State Parks and the Montana Watershed Coordination Council this week.
On Thursday the middle school students helped build pads and stain wheelchair accessible picnic tables at the park. Prickly Pear Land Trust has only had the park open for a few years and has been working to make improvements and increase accessibility for visitors, said Executive Director Mary Hollow.
“MCC is one of the major contributors to our volunteer labor that Prickly Pear Land Trust relies on every year to get the work done that we do both on the trails and at this park to make it more accessible,” she said.
Gov. Steve Bullock joined the students to offer some encouraging words, tout the importance of public access and help stain one of the picnic tables.
“What you’re doing today will impact not only tomorrow but for years and years to come,” he said.
Sarah Sadowksi, grants manager with the Governor’s Office of Community Service, said a recently signed bill more than doubled the amount of funding state agencies can leverage to pay service programs like Montana Conservation Corps from $5,000 to $12,500 each year.