Part of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps’ mission is to “inspire young people to make a difference in themselves and their communities.” We had a wonderful opportunity in Wagon Mound, NM in the spring of 2011 to directly put that mission into action. With a broad training program ranging from awareness of climate change to operational safety of running an insulation blower, the “Green Crew” developed a strong knowledge base and the practical skills that allowed them to successfully complete their projects. Through training and team service, crewmembers developed the capacity to improve themselves and make an incredible impact on a small New Mexico community.
Wagon Mound is a village in Mora County with a population of 300 people. The village is named for the butte which stands in the flats which was once a landmark for covered wagons and traders coming down the Santa Fe Trail. Today, the village is mostly inhabited by retirees, highway workers, and artists. The village was recognized by the North Central New Mexico Economic Development District (NCNMEDD) as a community in need of a home weatherization program. NCNMEDD partnered with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to implement weatherization services in order to reduce dependency on non-renewable energy by making housing units more efficient and less susceptible to energy and heat loss. By saving residents money on monthly utility bills and educating them on the importance of energy conservation, the project fulfilled both short-term and long-term goals.
In order to complete this type of project, RMYC has created a curriculum for our Green Crew members. We start with broad topics that focus on the issues related to climate change and energy dependency. Once crewmembers have the foundational understanding of concepts that will allow them to understand the importance of their work, we move to hands-on skills that are necessary for the completion of the project. Crewmembers learn how to operate blower door systems and associated diagnostic tools to assess the drafts in a home before and after their repairs. They learn how to use carpentry tools to make small improvements that make a big difference in the overall efficiency of the house. Also, they learn how to take accurate measurements and report data in terms that the average homeowner can understand. Finally, crewmembers learn customer service skills that ensure client satisfaction and connect youth to different populations in the community.
The reward of well-trained Corpsmembers is an efficient crew. With an eye on numbers, the Green Crew is a shining example of productivity: in just two months, the crew performed weatherization on 61 homes in the community! They installed nearly 500 CFL light bulbs, changed 120 faucet aerators, and installed 50 water heater blankets. They provide power strips to all homes and eliminated energy loss sources by caulking leaky cracks and applying weather stripping to doors and windows. When all of this work was completed in each home, they gave a presentation to the homeowner on the importance of conserving energy and offered tips for continuing to reduce their energy costs. At the end-of-project celebration in the local community park, it was clear to residents and crewmembers alike that the service completed had made a large difference in the community. For many years to come crewmembers will build on their experience in Wagon Mound and community members will continue to benefit from a youth development program dedicated to improving the lives of rural New Mexicans.