YHCC at Brown County State Park

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Clayton Hanson

Clayton Hanson, YHCCWhen Clayton Hanson had the chance to work for the Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps at Brown County State Park this summer, he jumped at it.

“When I found out I could spend my summer working outdoors, I wanted the job. But I really got excited when they said I could work security to help develop skills for a career in law enforcement,” Hanson said.

The 20-year-old, full-time college student from Columbus, Ind., had just about given up hope of finding work relating to his goal of becoming a law enforcement officer. Then Workforce One e-mailed him about the YHCC.

The  program puts Hoosiers between ages 18–24 to work with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Participants work to beautify Indiana’s state parks, forests, reservoirs, nature preserves, wildlife and recreation areas, and historic sites. The deep-rooted intention of the YHCC goes beyond employment.

“We hope to provide young Hoosiers an opportunity to build and develop skills they can turn into careers, or at least utilize in whichever career path they eventually choose,” said Robert E. Carter Jr., DNR director.

Hanson is one of many young adults taking part in the YHCC at Brown County this summer. There are currently 40 working at the park, but Brown County has been assigned a total of 64 workers, set to arrive in waves. The YHCC employees are scheduled to work through September.

“The YHCC employees we have on the property right now are doing a fine job, and we’re excited about the next group coming in. There is plenty of work to keep them busy that we probably wouldn’t have been able to accomplish if it hadn’t been for this program,” said Jeremy Sobecki, assistant property manager.

Hanson is happy with his job as a park security officer. He handles money bags, keeps keys to locked buildings, responds to emergencies, and keeps a watchful eye out for any suspicious activities or structural damage needing attention. He feels the work he is doing at the park is helping prepare him for his dream job of becoming a law enforcement officer.

Other YHCC members at Brown County

Zach Gaither, a 21-year-old Columbus resident, has found a niche he enjoys. He spends his days painting under the tutelage of Mike Moberly.

“I’ve been painting for 25 years. When I’m done with Zach at the end of the summer, he will be a painter,” Moberly said.

A painting career wasn’t something Gaither had considered before his YHCC employment.

“I hadn’t ever thought about being a painter before, but I really enjoy it,” Gathier said. “This is definitely something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.”

Others are picking up valuable skills that might make them more marketable. Brandi Schwering is learning about gardening. The 23-year-old Columbus resident shadows Linda Rothbauer, the park gardener. Andrew McCloud, 23, and Dustin Kindred, 18, both of rural Brown County, work on the mowing crew. McCloud says he is considering opening his own landscaping company someday. Kindred is just thankful for the job so he can save money to attend Lincoln Technical Institute to pursue his goal of becoming a diesel mechanic. Courtney Smith, 18, of Columbus, and Erica Rice, 23, of North Vernon, work on the maintenance crew, cleaning facilities.

“I would like to go to work for the DNR. It’s so nice to be outside,” Rice said.

Many of the park employees take pride in helping these young Hoosiers find their way in the world.

“I try to teach them all I can, because I want them to learn new skills that will help them in life,” said Jeff Cummings, a longtime Brown County State Park maintenance man.

The YHCC is leaving its mark on Brown County State Park. Flowers have been planted, grass mowed, cabins painted, accidents reported, bathrooms cleaned and trails cleared by eager young souls grateful for an opportunity to learn valuable skills while receiving a fair wage.  By the time the program ends in late September, YHCC members will have completed many projects benefiting all who visit Brown County State Park.