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Bootstraps transforms young adults

Posted 6/3/2008

UNCE program helps struggling 18-to-21 year olds transition into adulthood

Many young adults, for a variety of reasons, need help transitioning to adulthood. With a tighter job market, more experience and skills are becoming necessary to succeed.

"It reminds people of the old CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camps of the 1930s," said Lander County Extension Educator Rod Davis, who works with fellow faculty members Marilyn Smith, Amy Meier and Bill Evans. "These young people need the work and life lessons are inherently learned by doing the work. The real growth is a result of work and learning the value of being a team member."

Bootstraps, a program that works with young adults 18-to-21 years old, helps young people prepare for the world of work. The program is in its fourth year in Battle Mountain, while the Tonopah group began its second season in April.

Young adults get the opportunity to strengthen life skills, which can eventually help their transition into adulthood and helps them find meaningful work; getting a GED; obtaining experience; saving money; or entering trade schools or colleges.

"They learn and practice important skills such as communication, goal setting and problem solving," Meier said. "Bootstraps participants have positive experiences in the program because of a team of people who are directly and indirectly involved in their education."

Thanks to funding from the Bureau of Land Management, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Nevada Division of Wildlife and Nevada Bighorns Unlimited, Bootstraps has been successful in transforming lives and growing more interest. The Battle Mountain program has doubled its field season to six months this year and the crew increased to 12 individuals. The Tonopah program graduates two crews of five or six with each crew working for three months. Each program graduated 11 in 2007.

Bootstraps has impacted many young adults by teaching valuable skills necessary in the job market. They include chainsaw use, safety maintenance, pesticide application techniques and safety, emergency communications, BLM dispatch, satellite phones, off-road driving and many more.

Davis said that most of the participants have never been given the opportunity to learn the most basic job skills.

"I think the reason these youth have failed in the past is that nobody taught them the simple rules of being on a job," said Davis, who works with the Battle Mountain group. "The change in participants is dramatic. It is amazing what a little respect and hard work can do for all of us."

Intense problem solving, diligence and continuous assessment during the first year in Tonopah resulted in a second season that is running smoothly and demonstrating impact in both human development and natural resources management.

"Most young adults entering the program are not prepared to find meaningful work," Meier said. "They tend not to even be aware of what career field they’d like to be in. Bootstraps helps them figure this out and come up with a plan to get the type of job they want."

Under the guidance of its job coach, Mel Easton, the Tonopah crew mapped and treated more than 545,000 acres of weed infestations last year, treated 100 acres with herbicides and monitored the post-treatment of 1,650 acres throughout public land in five counties. The 2008 Tonopah crew is completing a 12-week course that consists of safety and technical training and fieldwork coupled with classroom time. The Battle Mountain crew helped remove pinion and juniper encroaching on sagebrush ecosystem in the Fish Creek Mountains in Lander County.

"Bootstraps graduates walk away with work experience in the natural resources field and good work ethic gained through 10 weeks of fieldwork controlling noxious weeds on public land," Meier said.

The crews have accomplished more work than expected by the BLM during the first three years of the project. As a result of the program’s success, participants successfully entered the workforce or returned to school.

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