Summer jobs at Timberline have given some youths the motivation, skills to succeed

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: SAM HARDY - AntFarm Youth Core workers break up thick mulch mats generated when tree stumps were ground down to soil level. The excess mulch was smothering vegetative growth. Youth Core members demonstrated a commitment to their community, earning a place on the crew.In a partnership with Timberline Lodge in the Mt. Hood National Forest, AntFarm youths have been restoring the natural environment on the mountain this summer.

Because of plans for the construction of mountain bike trails, the U.S. Forest Service had asked for restoration work on some of the ski runs and other places where native vegetation isn’t growing very well.

Along with that work, natural contours are being restored where road-decommissioning projects have taken place.

“Old roads have been used for so long that the soil and the vegetation around them has been (negatively) affected,” said Sam Hardy, AntFarm Youth Core manager. “We’re up there re-establishing what that land looked like before the road was there.”

Some of the work is being done with heavy equipment, but there is a lot of handwork, and Hardy says that’s perfect for the youths he is directing.

“On a lot of the clear cuts for ski runs, they brought in stump grinders,” Hardy said, “which generated quite a bit of pulp and mulch.”

The excess was spread over the former road area and was mixed with soil to help grass seeds grow and slow any possible erosion.

This summer’s AntFarm work, Hardy said, is the second stage in any youth’s development with AntFarm. First, each goes through a workforce development program to enable each youth to apply for, secure and survive in a job. As a part of that development, any who haven’t graduated will be asked to study and earn a GED diploma.

“They’ve all come out and volunteered their time and shown us that they are ready for the next level of responsibility,” Hardy said.

The program of workforce development is really a training ground for employment skills. They normally work and learn in the AntFarm garden, and are evaluated before moving to the next level on a supervised work crew.

Even though Hardy has many experiences in the national Youth Corps, the program for youths at AntFarm is identified with the word “core” rather than “corps.” Hardy says the purpose of that spelling is to remind everyone that AntFarm is teaching some of the community’s core values such as dedication, accomplishment and hard work.

“When we give them a job, it gives them a softer place to test the skills they have learned,” Hardy said. “They get a chance to practice, and we get a chance to hold them accountable through the whole process.”

AntFarm is open to anyone, Hardy said, and he is working with youths who are 16 and still in school as well as with some in their early 20s. He said the “mixed-bag” of youths in the summer program of work spanned the spectrum from great athletes to accomplished theater performers and straight-A students to kids who have moved many times — some with and some without parents — as well as some who have had trouble in school and broken the laws.

“We’re not catering to any one group here,” he said. “We want everyone involved.”

Now that the summer work crews are nearly finished, several AntFarm youths are off to college while others are seeking jobs — with the help of Hardy and other AntFarm personnel.

“We have been excited to get local kids working up at Timberline this summer,” he said. “Timberline is treating us really well, and we’re honored to be working up there.”

The accomplishments of this summer, Hardy said, prove that AntFarm is achieving its mission of engaging local youths in healthy activities.

For more information, call 503-668-9955.

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