Ava King and Ace Beattie have a meeting at the Discovery Academy to discuss future steps of Big Sky Youth Corps. PHOTO COURTESY BARBARA ROWLEY

FOOTING from the FLUX

COVID-19 UPSET PAVES THE WAY FOR BIG SKY YOUTH CORPS

With the world in a state of flux, high school and college students look to a summer that will be startlingly different than anticipated. Lone Peak High School graduate and Yale University Sophomore Ava King noticed the unpredictable nature of life for her younger cohorts. As a natural problemsolver, King sought to provide opportunity, a sense of stability and multidimensional community benefit to inhabitants of Big Sky. Big Sky Youth Corps (BSYC) was created – and is in need of community assistance to gain traction and achieve intended benefits.

“The idea started when I was sent home from school after the onset of COVID-19. Time passed and as I talked with my friends and local students, I realized that almost everyone’s summer plans had been at least partially interrupted by coronavirus,” she said.

A conversation was started with Barbara Rowley to brainstorm a way to make up for some of the students’ canceled plans. 

Lone Peak High School students Madison Rager, Max Romney, Michael Romney, Maddie Cone, Evan Iskandarian, Kassidy Boersma, Libby Flach and Maya Johnsen helped conduct research to assess need. They surveyed 76 Big Sky students.

Those findings include: 90.8% of students will be in Big Sky for the majority of this summer; 72.4% of students have had their summer plans interrupted by COVID-19; 35.9% had a summer camp canceled; 26.6% had a summer educational program canceled; 70.3% had a summer travel experience canceled or postponed; 48.4% had an employment opportunity canceled; 51.3% of students are lacking secure employment; 94.7% of students are hoping to work this summer. “Primary motivations for employment include earning money for college or spending, gaining experience for resumes, and maintaining positive mental health,” a press release stated. The program intends to partner local youths with area nonprofits and businesses as everyone finds footing in the wake of COVID-19 – to provide “purpose and connectivity”.

Anticipated to function under the Discover Academy Community Learning Center umbrella, the non-profit will handle bookkeeping and insurance for the effort.

The team also assessed the need of area operations. Support was expressed by a diverse sampling of community organizations and businesses – from Crail Ranch to Women In Action to the Consignment Cabin.

The plan is to place local students in four or eight week internship positions within the community in which each youth will work 20-25 hours per week. Students will submit a resume and fill-out an application in order to be matched with an appropriate business.

According to the release, the purpose is not to replace current positions with outside paid ones, but to “provide local businesses and nonprofits with the opportunity to embark on projects that may not be financially feasible otherwise.”

“Students will be paid a fixed stipend or $2,000 for an eight-week BSYC placement and $1,000 for a four-week placement. In the spirit of giving, BSYC will also serve as a vehicle for additional short-term volunteer unpaid needs as they arise in the community,” the release said.

King noted that many young people in Big Sky are fortunate and do not ‘need’ to work for money.

“However, many others do need paid work. This inequity means students who work for free build interesting professional experiences while others cannot afford this advantage,” she said. This is why all internships through BSYC are paid. Those students who do not need the money can donate the funds back to the community.

To make all this magic happen and to launch the program with 12 local students, BSYC is securing assistance in raising $25,000 via the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation and other community organizations.

“We believe that Covid-Relief funds, which can be directed to help individuals and businesses hurt by Covid-19, could be used to help with business apprenticeships,” the press release said.

Students interested in participating can submit a resume and fill out an application in order to be matched to a local business or non-profit within their areas of interest. Businesses interested in having a summer intern should also contact the team.

As outlined in the press release: employers will be responsible for training youth to the specifics of the position, but BSYC will provide consistent support “in terms of answering questions and solving problems as they arise.”

King and the team can be reached via bigskyyouthcorps@gmail.com

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