2020 is a very special year for Rocky Mountain Youth Corps as we embark on 25 years of service. We want to take this very special time to highlight a very important group of individuals who have made this all possible, our alumni. Throughout this year we will be highlighting one member from each year of service (1995-2020) who have served with us and continue to make a difference in their communities.
2020 – Alejandro Vigil
“This is my second year working with the Canine Leadership Crew, but I’m also working to graduate from senior year in highschool and more. With the Canine Crew I learned I’m a leader – everyone tells me that – and its because I’m always happy and try to motivate people to work hard and do amazing things. Our crew has worked really hard this year, even with COVID. Right now we are working to design a new approach to Canine Crew. I’ve really enjoyed working on that.
“How did you hear about RMYC? “I learned about RMYC from my brother, Antonio Vigil, who worked with kids after school and then learned about the Canine Crew through my sister, Florence Vigil. They are what got me interested in RMYC, but I also wanted to work with RMYC because they have really nice people, work hard and are good to each other.”
What was your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “I’ll never forget my partner in crime, Caramel (dog in training) – people said we make a good team. Probably because I’m kind of the human version of Caramel – we’re both happy, like meeting new people and doing new things!
“What is a word of advice to a future/current Corpsmember? “Work hard and stay happy because thats what makes you motivated and do good work. “
2019 – Zach Darden
“I’m currently working full time with Albuquerque Open Space while studying for my undergraduate degree Geography. One day I hope to be a planner and work for an Organization like open space or the Forest Service, so I’m also shadowing with a USFS representative to learn about their GIS work.”
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “RMYC basically did everything for my connection with Open Space! They were our partners for two seasons which gave me an idea of the work they do and the people who are a part of the organization. As a Youth Ambassadors with RMYC, I met Julie, the lead on Outreach with the Forest Service who helped connect me to the shadowing opportunity with the USFS GIS technician. Basically, Rocky Mountain was a huge stepping stone for me and has helped me apply what I’m studying to the career field. “
What was your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “There are so many! Once we worked with Isleta Pueblo and had the honor of visiting the archeological site Pottery Mound. At that time it was January, so the roads were really muddy, and “Bubba,” the good ol white RMYC suburban, got stuck and we had to push it out of the mud. As soon as it got out of the mud however, it got stuck in the arroyo and then the mud…and then the arroyo. A tough but fun day. This question is hard because at RMYC, every single day was something new. There are so many memories it’s hard to choose just one.”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Definitely take advantage of the connections. RMYC can take you in a lot of directions – if you take advantage of the experience. Connect with your partners. Take advantage of the trainings and certifications. RMYC can connect you to so many opportunities in NM and probably around the world!”
2018 – Elias Roybal
“Right now I’m attending college in Las Vegas NM for automotive studies. This is my first year of a two year program. I really like it. At first I was nervous transitioning from high school but its good so far. “
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “Well, I’ve always planned on studying Automotive since I was 15. Where Rocky Mountain helped me was they helped me get more professional skills – managing money and budgeting, how to answer the phone well and how to be professional. RMYC has also really helped with communication skills. “
What was your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “All the times were funny, but my favorite moment was when we worked with Camp L.E.A.D (Leadership, Empowerment, Advocacy and Dogs), with kids probably ages from 7-10 who all had disabilities. They really enjoyed camp and that made me happy, as a leader, that they enjoyed it. I didn’t like camps when I was young, but this was so much fun, and I’ll always remember it because of that!”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Rocky Mountain Youth Corps is a program that helps with life skills. And if you have a question, even if it doesn’t pertain to RMYC, the staff is willing to sit down and help brainstorm what should be done. “
2017 – Orlando Munoz
“I’m Senior At UNM studying International Relations with Spanish and Russian
“How did the Corps get you where you are today?” The corps definitely helped me get to where I am now! The scholarship with RMYC helped with my decision to go to school. Also, my concentration is “Conflict, Peace and Diplomacy” which was something I became interested in from being with the Corps where you regularly have to use diplomacy and conflict resolution. One season, I was part of a Community Outreach Crew with MRG, and had to bring people together, something that can also tie into my studies.”
What was your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “A memorable time was a season in Taos working on conservation projects. As many might say – its difficult work, and also difficult to balance personal and professional life. At the time, I was quite nomadic, living out of my car, couch surfing and working at the local hostel. When I graduated, I felt rather accomplished to have made it the whole season and balance it all.
“What is a word of advice for a current member? “Discipline is important, with life and personal goals and work. Discipline is how you can get things done, despite frustrations in your personal life. Stay objective and absolute in your goal and you’ll succeed.”
2016 – Augustine Quintana
“I work two jobs depending on the season, one with the Forest Service as a Forestry Technician. With that position we work on fuel reduction. I also got my WFR through that job. My other position is with the Sandia Pueblo as a Bosque Crew Technician where we also work on fuel reduction and also do invasive species removal and wildlife rehabilitation with native species such as beaver, mallard ducks and more.
“How did the Corps get you where you are today? “With RMYC, I worked a season on a day crew where we were part of miscellaneous projects from swamping to trailwork to wildlife monitoring. Both jobs I got through a relationship with RMYC project managers. “
What was your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “First week of RMYC, we came to Sandia Pueblo where we were out in the Agricultural Field where they grew alfalfa. That whole week was in the full sun, cleaning weeds and the ditches. It was tough work only made more difficult by red ants that decided to greet the crew. It was a hard first week but prepared me for similar hard work like when I obtained my wild land firefighter certification – its hot, you’ll feel pain but you’re there for a reason and someone’s gotta do the work. “
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Whatever passion you have – conservation or art or biology etc – just stick with it and keep in contact with your project managers. If you’re like me, you could possibly work for those same managers or related agencies after RMYC. “
2015 – Libby Branham, Wildland Firefighter
“I just completed my third season as a wildland firefighter where I proudly got to serve Taos Pueblo and the diverse landscapes of NM. I am now using my education award at NMSU studying Borderlands and Ethnic Studies where I am working on a land based solidarity project to support migrants and refugees”
How did the Corps get you where you are today?
“RMYC taught me that I can live in the woods and get paid for it! A concept, I hadn’t dared dreamed of. RMYC taught me collaboration always requires more humility and diverse skill sets are needed for a well functioning team. It also taught me to respect varying forms of intelligence and a deep respect for the land and the people who steward it. Learning to run a chainsaw and RMYC staff respecting my ability to do so while wearing lipstick, set the stage for me to feel empowered enough to pursue fire.”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC?
“It is hard to reflect on the past with RMYC, because the connections I made have transcended into the future. The memories are constantly being updated with laughter and growth with my fellow corps members. Every season, we would end with a presentation of learning where folks who might otherwise shy away from the limelight got a moment of undivided attention. I was always blown away by how the often quiet kids burst with tangible creativity and impressive interpretations of the world. It was an invaluable and for most an absolutely dreaded day. Ha. “
What is a word of advice for a current member?
“I think if I could go back and advise myself, I would remind myself to jump in with an open mind and an open heart because even if I were resistant to letting it transform me, that process was inevitable. I have seen RMYC support people in so many diverse ways, on and off of the clock, I would recommend that people trust that there is an organization absolutely here to support the community it serves.”
2014 – Bianca Gonzales, Research Assistant with the Smithsonian
“Currently I’m working as a research assistant with the Smithsonian (forest ecology research) but I’m about to start a new job as a Land Planner with the New Mexico State Land Office in October. The position will work cross organizationally with federal, private and tribal entities to designate appropriate land use plans that address stakeholder’s needs, interests, and the economic health of New Mexico.
“How did the Corps get you where you are today? “I worked with RMYC for a season in high school and later as a Supervisor for two seasons. My experiences with RMYC helped me get scholarships for college and gave me the skills that got me the jobs I’ve had so far. RMYC also helped me, although it may sound cheesy, build character. Through those 3 seasons I learned that I have a voice in the context of the professional world and helped me realize my strength and ability to try anything!”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “When one of my crew members made a rap for their POL – they were one of the most shy crewmembers for the whole season, his POL made everyone laugh as it made fun of us all and put the season into the perfect perspective.
“What is a word of advice for a current member? “Make the mistakes you need to, but at the end of the day, don’t over complicate decisions and go with your gut. “
2013 – Curtis Maynard, RMYC Middle Rio Grande Field Coordinator
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “When I started with RMYC in 2012, I had just come back from the middle east where I taught English and I felt pretty lost and uncertain on next steps. At the corps working in the woods and on youth development and reminded of what I always enjoyed doing. I felt really empowered and ended up continuing with RMYC for a few more seasons, then joined the Texas conservation corps and later spent several years working with an arborist. Chainsaw experience with RMYC put me in the trees and gave me that opportunity. Now, full circle, I’m back in the Corps world and with RMYC.”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “In 2013, our crew went out to New Jersey for disaster relief after a hurricane. At one point, I took the crew up to New York to walk to Brooklyn Bridge, and one Corpsmembers with typical Northern New Mexico charm, insisted on saying “Howdy” and chatting with everyone passing by! New Yorkers seemed surprised, but everyone could use a little New Mexican charm in their lives. “
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Always come prepared for any kind of weather, because it’s New Mexico. Also I like to remind Corpsmembers that they don’t need to know everything and that it’s important to be flexible in life. Corona Virus and this season have also accentuated that.”
2012 – Anna Vasquez, HR Recruiter for Holy Cross Medical Center
How did the Corps get you where you are today?” RMYC got me to where I am at by showing me good work ethic, interacting with others, teamwork and to have fun in a job as well.”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC?” My most memorable moments were working with all of the kids, helping them in whatever challenges they were facing and creating friendships with them as well. Even seeing the kids I tutored today out in the community remembering me and the time we spent together and the parents remembering me as well makes it that much more special.
“What is a word of advice for a current member?” Take advantage of what RMYC teaches you because it will definitely impact your future and all your future goals.”
2011 – Drew Holsapple, Data Coordinator for the Taos First Steps program
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “Before working with RMYC, I took a break from college and had no plan of what to do next. RMYC seemed like a good job and the scholarship money was also very appealing. I ended up working with RMYC for two seasons, first on a forest service crew and then my coordinator suggested I look into the health crew. She and RMYC ended up being the catalyst for where I am now. On the health crew I assisted as a medicaid determiner, something I still do with my job at First Steps today.”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “We had a lot of laughs over the months, but one really memorable part was with the health crew went to visit another Americorps sister organization in Silver City. We camped in the mountains and had a great time.
However on the car ride, there was an incident..with all the windy mountain roads, I woke up car sick and well…we laughed about it after the fact. “
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Stay open and curious because you never know what possibilities are going to come up in life! With RMYC, I came in contact with people and organizations I never would have, leading me to where I am now. And last bit of advice, always eat a good breakfast. “
2010 – Sherrie Duran, Licensed Mastered Degree Social Worker, Community Behavioral Health Clinician at Taos JPO
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “Working at RMYC gave me experience working with youth and with younger kids and how much an emphasis this would provide me into my career and education. During my season it was a real introduction to CYFD and the work that happen with families in our community. I was able to meet foster parents with kids that I was tutoring and really helped me decide what I wanted to do for career.”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “Our crew leader was funny and would always make us laugh. We we would be coming back to the corps at the end of the day and she would honk and we would wave to all the people that would be walking. Another memory would be working with a student who had a lot of trouble in math and she would always come to me for help. One day when she came in she ran up to me and told me she got an A and said her mom was going to be so proud of her. I still see her and her mom in community and just knowing that a difference and relationship was made is amazing to see.”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Enjoy working there and the experience it provides. Embrace helping the community and getting to know people and work with others. I think being in RMYC can really help benefit community and something you can’t just find in other jobs and really learning from it and knowing what you want to do. I am so glad I had experience to help me find what I wanted to do in profession. “
2009 – Marissa Romero, Operator and Clerk at El Prado Water and Sanitation
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “The Corps was a good influence because they encourage you to do something more. They placed me here, they encouraged me to be a better me.”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “One day we were playing musical chairs with the students and it became an epic battle between two of my best friends in crew. All the kids were out and it was just between Elijah and Ashley and one chair. Ashley got the chair pulled out from underneath her and all the kids laughed cheering them on. It is very rare to not only work with your friends but to also grow with your best friends through that experience and who are still your best friends to this day.”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Just enjoy it, take that time and learn as much as you can. Learn from your supervisors they are learning from you and you are learning from them. Today I still volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and my experience with RMYC had a huge influence from the after school program being a mentor and gave me tools to give back and be a part of my community. Just because your season ends doesn’t mean you stop giving back to the community and showcasing you becoming successful in your communities.”
2008 – Bettina Sandoval, Pueblo Education and Training Division Director, Head Start
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “As a senior in high school, I worked with the RMYC after school tutoring program and that crew set me on my path in a lot of ways. We would help kids with their homework, talk to their parents and more. At UNM, where I got my degree in Elementary Education, I also worked as a tutor and was able to get that job really easily due to all the training with RMYC. RMYC was my first introduction to working in education, without that experience I might not be where I am today.”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “Definitely moments with the kids were the best because they can be the funniest. When you’re still in high school you have energy to run around and play with kids, and that was a lot of fun. How RMYC set up crews also introduced me to peers I may never have gotten to know. I was shy in high school, but working with kids, their parents and other students quickly made me not so shy. With this job and working in education in general, you get to know their community, and they get to know you. I think this Crew model was really important for my age students due to all those different factors – working with kids, their parents and the larger community.”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “From my experience of going to college and pursuing a degree in education, I would say don’t avoid your passion because of how its payed…just do what your passionate about and get through it! You cant give up on things your passionate about. Life will throw many different things your way, but you just have to push through. If you have a degree, you’ll succeed. Don’t give up and stay determined! You have to be like that in all areas of your life.”
2007 – Amber Ramos, Preschool teacher at UNM-Taos, Kids Campus
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “I was a part of the after-school program for RMYC and after working with the children I decided that I wanted to go into teaching.”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC?” There are so many, but what I remember most about my time at RMYC were the people and the friendships I formed within my crews. They were bonds that got me through a lot at the time.”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “To enjoy their time working for RMYC, take advantage of all the opportunities and experiences that come with working for such an amazing organization.”
2006 – Dustin Torres, Senior Firefighter with Santa Fe Hotshots
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “RMYC helped me obtain an internship the Taos BLM. From there I went right to work as an administration employee and just stuck with it and moved into fire.”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “We did a lot of cutting and I was super eager to run a chainsaw. My supervisor at time was on a hotshot crew previously, described what that job was like and I was always intrigued.”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Rich or poor alike no one is exempt from life’s experiences you just gotta stick with it! It’s hard when you’re so young and don’t know what you want to do, stick it through. I never expected to be where I am at today, all odds against me. I graduated college, used my AmeriCorps scholarship and experienced quite bit of success since then”
2005 – Christal Martinez, Financial Aid Officer at UNM-Taos
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “I think it made me step out of my comfort zone. I did this program right after high school and at RMYC they didn’t see you as a child. Up until that point it was like we were treated as kids. At RMYC they held you accountable and they believed in you. I was tutoring with kids, and it was really cool be on other side, helping kids when until this opportunity we were kids ourselves. RMYC instilled that we were more, that we are professionals, and that we could do anything. The training and team building was fun and changed how you viewed your peers and the importance of that in professional job. We were put in situations where you’re not sure or always agree but this gave skills to view different situations and help towards the future and our goals.”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “When a fellow crew member took me flowers to the corps and everyone made such a big deal and I was so embarrassed but it was so sweet.”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “I feel like RMYC pushes you outside of your comfort zone but just go with it! I remember before being shy which is the complete opposite of who I am now as a person. Alway push out of comfort, go with it, because at the end it is something valuable.”
2004 – Pascual Maestas, Town of Taos Council member, math/science teacher at UNM TECC high school equivalency and Taos Municipal Schools board member
How did the Corps get you where you are today? For one of the multiple seasons I worked with RMYC I worked with the community health crew and had the chance to work with an organization that did a lot of community collaboration. There were many occurrences that I was in the same room with chief of police, sheriff and other influential people and talked to people about making changes for the better and for our community. From that came the idea and possibility that one day that could be me in that position to make change happen.
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Enjoy the process of growth and embrace it!”
2003 – Charlotte Jeantete, CPA at Swinehart CPA
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “It taught me work ethic. I started the summer before my junior year of high school doing work on trails and then during the school year did the after school program. Durning ASP I would go from finishing my work day at RMYC to then go help a CPA firm and help simultaneously after. I fulfilled those terms and used the stipend and education award to help pursue my education at NMSU. One of the greatest things now is seeing a lot of the students I helped mentor/tutor in the community doing big things. One of my students was the most amazing artist and is now doing great things with meow wolf. I enjoyed team building and exercises it was so much fun and cool and glad it still around!”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “During the summer we were working on trails and stopped in Questa at fawn lakes and decided to get into the water. After we all laid out in sidewalk to dry off and when coming back to the corps it smelled really bad in the vehicle. We then realized that one of us when drying off laid in dog poop and we had to deal with that all the way back into town.”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Enjoy the process of growth and embrace it!”
2002 – Casandra Romero, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps Substance Misuse Preventionist
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “I think by believing in me, there was huge network that wanted to see me be successful. The education award helped me but the people were the ones who influenced and allowed me to work in prevention and that led to something that I am really passionate about now”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “I will say the most amazing part of that year was that we were all from different walks of life and communities. It was such a lesson in how despite our differences we were a team and were able to work so beautifully together and genuinely appreciate our diversity. It was an amazing year for me. I will say our supervisor Lindsey was an english teacher and she spent the good part of the summer correcting our grammar and would repeat at nauseum “my friends and I” among other corrections :)”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “I think just to know that there is a community behind you and people that want to see you succeed and agencies that can help you get there!”
2001 – Amber Ohlinger, Director at Los Angelitos, early intervention for ages 0-3 in Taos County
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “I did the After School Program and got a lot of early experience working with children. Working with this program and RMYC was my first intro to working with children and led to a college degree in early childhood development and where I implement that in my career now.”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “When I was a member we went to Las Cruces for a conference and we got exposed to so many different things that I had never been exposed to. We did ice breakers, trainings, and so much more. It has laid the foundation for everything I have encountered and the foundation that builds as you become a working professional. I get to see the kids I tutored in the After School Program now having children and working with them as parents and working with their children, it has become a full cycle!”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “I would share the idea of keeping an open mind, and knowing that each of these experiences that you get to have are going to build to the next step in your life. From trainings that seemed out of our comfort zone just remember if you keep an open mind it helps lay that foundation.”
2000 – Sage Polchies, Fire Engine Operator (FEO) for Carson National Forrest
How did the Corps get you where you are today? Working at the corps gave me the opportunity to know what outdoor work was like. It also gave me the opportunity to work as a team and know what that is like in terms of trying to get projects done as a crew”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “My most memorable moment at the corps was taking a picture on top of Gavilion trail with my crew. I still have that picture to this day!”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Be open to learning new things in life!”
1999 – Naomi Concha, Taos Pueblo Youth Outreach Coordinator
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “It was one of my fist jobs, I was 16 when I first started with RMYC and did the after school program as well as the summer program. I developed a good work ethic and earned two scholarships to pursue my education. Through this experience I was able to get the feel for being in the work field and have kept a job every since. The RMYC experience kick started my experience in the workforce especially in education and being able to work with students propelled me to stay in field of working with youth. I found my niche working with youth through my experience with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “It was all around a great experience for being first experience in work force. There is no job like it, it was fun, active,and an experience being and working with kids as well as being with friends and creating life long relationships.”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “I still encourage students to sign up for the corps, especially with the help of the education award that they would receive.A word of advice would be to stick with it, follow through and see where it leads you and work towards that scholarship I never thought working with RMYC point me in direction of working with youth and 20 years later I’m still doing it.”
1998 – Dwayne Lefthand, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps Taos Pueblo Program Conservation Coordinator
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “It provided me the education award that opened door to go to school.Through this program I was able to work on many different projects that required many different skills within our community like working on the trail around Kit Carson Park, weatherization, building hornos and even having the opportunity as a member to go to Washington D.C to speak on behalf of conservation programming on a national level. I was always interested in natural resources and fire and it was that stepping stone that gave me the opportunity to advance into my choice and career of fire and conservation”
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “A memorable moment was when my crew and I went and removed vigas by hand out in Lama. What really stood out was the team work that came from moving these huge vigas and dropping, rolling them especially all by hand.”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Have an open mind and open heart. Take criticism with grain of salt because the people who work here provide support to grow and in a team and with an open mind that can take you a long way with a lot of options and the friends and people you meet are resources you may need later in life.”
1997 – Tony Struck, Town of Taos Recreational Director
How did the Corps get you where you are today? “Being at the Corps had a significant role in where I am today and Carl played a huge role in getting me out of the street. I was apart of the service learning crew which included working in classrooms as reading buddies, the afterschool program and working with youth in general which has led me to the path of working with youth through my current role”.
What your funniest/most memorable memory at RMYC? “One of the funniest moments was working out in Questa at Eagle Rock Lake and we actually threw a fellow member in the water, all out of good fun”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “We are all responsible for our choices and the blame for where we are at in life. The person in the mirror is responsible for where you want to be in life. Carl helped instill this mindset in my life and those words changed by life and made a difference”
1996 – Jason Struck, Mechanical Contractor, plumbing and gas fitting
How did the Corps help you get where you are today? “It put me out of my comfort zone all the different situations and experiences. It has all brought me to where it has benefited me now”
What was your most memorable moment at the corps? “Through my experience we did it all. We had contractors that came out and were teachers from the field, working along side and teaching us skills. We did everything, forestry, parks,building,restoring hiking trails, got involved with UNM, worked with kids in the classrooms about gangs and sharing stuff we went through. We had fun and and had a good time learning and growing”
What is a word of advice for a current member? “Stick with it! All the stuff that they teach you that you learn in the field and out is all an opportunity. Don’t take is as a paycheck or joke take it as a life experience.”
1995 – Brent Vigil, Operations Supervisor for ABQ Convention Center
How did the Corps help you get where you are today?”It broadened my horizons and opened up a whole new world in terms of jobs and experiences from forestry to even working with kids. My son even did a season recently with the corps.Being apart of the first crew we would talk about this new beginning and how it was the start of something huge and the fact that it has makes me so proud to be apart of it all”
What was your funniest/ most memorable experience at RMYC?“Camping in Lama was nice to be around people and learn about everyone. Being the first year it was an experience for us all. It was hands on work and experiences with different individuals. The memories that were created from working to eating bagels by the campfire, I didn’t even like bagels before working there. The hands on aspect is what was the best part of it all”
What is a word of advice for a current RMYC member?“Stay strong! It’s a wide world out there and there are many ways to fall apart but if you stay strong, there is nothing you can’t do”