Labor and Economic Opportunity
Tequila Duncan, a YouthWork AmeriCorps member completing her fourth and final term in the program this fall, is a testament to the positive impact service can have not just on those being served but by those that are serving as well. As a mission-driven program, YouthWork intentionally recruits members who live with disabilities or delays, face barriers to employment, have experienced trauma such as abuse or neglect, are homeless or at risk of homelessness, or face other challenges at home or in their community. Through service completing environmental conservation and service projects for nonprofit and public agencies throughout Michigan, the YouthWork AmeriCorps members learn important job and life skills that will open doors for employment opportunities in their future.
Tequila gradually developed both her physical strength and confidence in her abilities while completing over 40 different projects. Her crew leaders marvel at her toughness and resilience, a sentiment shared by all who meet her. Last summer, her crew spent a week camping on Fox Island, clearing brush and invasive species away from trails and historic buildings. The very next week she was camping on Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, replacing boardwalks, staircases, and stream crossings. After YouthWork temporarily suspended projects due to COVID-19, Tequila was among the first to return to the field, helping plant 10,000 trees along the Boardman River.
Tequila is a leader and mentor for other YouthWork AmeriCorps members. This was especially evident on one particularly difficult project on the North Country Trail of Pictured Rocks. Tequila and her crew hiked 2-6 miles hauling 50-60 pounds of lumber on their backs through rough, wet, and hilly terrain to the project site. They made 5-8 trips each day, then once the lumber was on site, they constructed 75 feet of boardwalk to protect habitats and increase recreation opportunities.
Tequila’s journey as a YouthWork member has helped her become an independent adult with her own apartment, new skills, and a bright future! Her next step will be joining YouthWork this winter as an Assistant Crew Leader.