Youth Corps FAQ

Who is Polk County Conservation Youth Corps for? 

• Participating crew members must be ages 15-18 during their session. Crews of 10 teens and 2 adult leaders will work together during each session.

• Youth Corps is for any high schooler who wants to spend time working and learning outside. No prior outdoor experience is needed. Participants should be excited to try new outdoor activities, improve social skills, explore scientific concepts, and help care for local parks and trails. 

• We especially encourage students to apply who are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds or who belong to groups underrepresented in science and environmental conservation. Our program is committed to forming diverse crews inclusive of teens from all backgrounds and racial or gender identities. 

Is there a cost to attend the program?

• There is no cost to attend or to apply. All participants will receive a stipend of at least $300 for their participation - the amount varies based on the session. If you are selected, we expect you to attend every day of your session. More details can be found on the "Crew Members" page.

What is the schedule like?

• Spring crews meet afterschool on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (4:00pm-7:00pm) and select Saturdays (8:00am-3:30pm) for about 6 weeks.

• Summer crews meet every weekday, Monday – Friday for a four-week session. Crew Members are present from 8-3:30. There are two summer sessions and a break the week of July 4th. There may be an option to work both four-week summer sessions for returners or other exceptional candidates.

• Fall crews meet afterschool on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (4:00pm-7:00pm) and select Saturdays (8:00am-3:30pm) for 10 weeks. 

What type of projects and activities can I expect to perform with PCCYC?

• Projects will focus on land management that may include invasive plant removal, trail construction/maintenance, planting native seedlings, prairie seed harvesting, river cleanup, debris removal, park maintenance, and more. 

• Activities include team building exercises; developing and maintaining a social contract with your crew; life skills lessons including leadership and career exploration; and environmental science topics such as ecology, land stewardship, watersheds, climate change, and others driven by student interest. 

• Outdoor recreation is a fun part of every session. Each crew does a different mixture of activities that have included kayaking, canoeing, fishing, pond study, hiking, mountain biking, geocaching, archery, bouldering, fire building, disc golf, stargazing, orienteering, and archery. Every group will attend an overnight camping trip where we do a service project and recreation at a new park.   

• Approximate time breakdown: 75% completing projects and 25% education/recreation

• Daily activities will usually include safety briefings, breaks (a morning snack and 30 minute lunch provided by us), environmental education, and a reflection/debrief.

Where do we do projects?

• Most projects support parks managed by Polk County Conservation. Many crews will help at Jester Park and Jester Park Equestrian Center, Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt, Fort Des Moines Park, Easter Lake Park, Yellow Banks Park, Brown's Woods, and Fourmile Creek Greenbelt/Strasser Woods.

• Our crews have also completed projects for other places that are used by the public: Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Blank Park Zoo, John R. Grubb YMCA, Pottawattamie County Conservation Board’s Hitchcock Nature Center, Harrison County Conservation Board’s Willow Lake Recreation Area, Whiterock Conservancy, and Des Moines Parks and Recreation Gray's Lake Park. 

Are all projects outside?

• Yes! You will spend nearly all of the program time outside completing environmental stewardship projects or trying outdoor recreation. Occasionally, time will be spent under covered shelters to complete environmental education activities. Crews are expected to be willing and able to work in variable weather conditions that may occur in Iowa. In the event of severe weather such as thunderstorms or tornados, crews will retreat to a safe environment.

Do I need special gear to participate?

• No, you probably own everything you need! Corpsmembers are required to wear sturdy work pants, structured shoes or boots, and warm layers as needed. PCCYC provides corpsmembers with PCCYC uniform shirts, work gloves, safety glasses, hard hats, earplugs, water bottles, and day packs. Any other necessary tools, materials, recreation equipment, and protective safety gear will be provided. During COVID-19, reusable masks may be distributed along with individual bottles of hand sanitizer.

Do I need transportation?

• Crew members are responsible for getting themselves to and from their assigned meeting site each day. Some meeting spots are set ahead of crew selection, and others are set after finding where the majority of applicants live. Summer locations have included the John R. Grubb YMCA, Northwest Community Center, Polk County River Place, Jester Park, and Easter Lake Park. Spring and Fall crews usually meet at one or two high schools. 

• From the daily meeting site, PCCYC vans will transport you to project sites before returning to the meeting site at the end of the day. During COVID-19, some participants may have to transport themselves to the project site.

Will my crew be camping?

• Each crew is expected to camp at least once during their session. This is a fun opportunity to bond with your crew while visiting a new place. Essential camping gear is provided by PCCYC but some personal gear is also welcome. During COVID-19, there will be no tent sharing.

What kind of supervision is provided?

• Each crew consists of 2 crew leaders (ages 19+) and approximately 10 crew members. Crew Leaders are responsible for providing daily supervision to ensure projects are completed and all youth are engaged. The Youth Corps Coordinator provides active oversight of all crews. Other Polk County Conservation staff may help lead a particular project or lesson for a crew. Crews will often meet our park rangers, naturalists, ecologists, natural resource technicians, horticulturalist, and park maintenance staff. 

How do I apply?

• It's easy! Submit an application through our website. Use the "apply" on our home page by clicking here!

Around the closing date for each position, we will send you an email. If you've submitted a strong application, we will arrange an interview time when we can get to know you better. After that, we will select our crews for each session. We always maintain a waiting list when we can't fit everyone on a crew or when folks apply late.

More questions?

Reach out to Youth Corps staff at