by Ruth Ann Grissom
August 23, 2017
On a Friday morning in late July, Jan Pender left her home in Raleigh and headed toward the Uwharrie National Forest. (I use the term “morning” loosely – it was 3:30am.) Pender, director of the NC Youth Conservation Corps (NCYCC), had allowed plenty of time to stop at McDonalds, wait for an order of 20 biscuits, navigate the gravel roads through the Badin Recreation Area and still reach the campground by 6:30am. She wanted to surprise her crew in the Uwharries with a filling breakfast before they began another day of strenuous work.
Similar youth crews built trails in the Uwharrie National Forest in the late 1970s. The Student Conservation Program was modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps, part of the New Deal effort to put people back to work during the Great Depression. Federal funding for the student program ended abruptly in 1980. Afterward, several states funded their own programs (with additional support from private foundations), but the Southeast lagged other regions. In 2011, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) decided a Youth Conservation Corps program would be a great way to help cultivate the state’s next generation of conservation leaders.