On the Trail with Mike Leavitt and MassLIFT-AmeriCorps

Pathways to Youth Empowerment in Berkshire County
Written by Dee Robbins for a Mass Service Alliance newsletter. 
MassLIFT-AmeriCorps member, Mike Leavitt, splits his full-time position between two hosting organizations in Berkshire County, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC -www.outdoors.org) and Greenagers (http://greenagers.org/).   Mike’s service activities are multi-purpose, combining goals of community building, environmental stewardship, and youth empowerment.  Mike engages local high school students in a variety of activities, from helping families build front yard vegetable gardens to removing invasive species from public parks.   Many of the youth volunteering with Mike do trail work. 

Mike's AMC Teen Trail Crew
Traditionally, AMC’s teen trail crews work along the Appalachian Trail or on state park trails (http://www.mass.gov/dcr/).  With the help of MassLIFT-AmeriCorps, AMC has been expanding its relations with other non-profit organizations in Berkshire County and connecting with trails on land conserved by local land trusts.  This summer, the youth on Mike’s two teen crews will provide both the Becket Land Trust (www.becketlandtrust.org) and the Monterey Preservation Land Trust with 400 volunteer hours of building and maintaining trails.
If you ask Mike, he will tell you that leading these teen trail crews has been the “pinnacle” of his AmeriCorps year.  Over their week of service, these young people “deal with sleeping in tents, not showering, the rain, the bugs, the heat and a lot of dirt.  By the end of the week, the vast majority of them have made several close friends and go home with smiles on their faces.  The amount of growth that a youth can go through in a week is unbelievable and helping make that happen is a great feeling.”

“Being able to provide some of that volunteer labor to a local volunteer run land trust just makes it even better.  It allows some much needed work to be done on some of the best conservation areas in southern Berkshire County while asking very little from the land trusts themselves which are usually over extended already.  The collaboration between the AMC Teen Trail Crews and the local land trusts is one where everyone involved gets a lot out of it and will hopefully continue over the coming years.”

Photo by Max Crystal