Home > Meet Our Alumni

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.


Alumni Member, 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.”

Alumni Member, 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!”

Alumni Member, 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”