Congratulations to John Fountain for the in-depth series on the Earth Conservation Corps ["On the River," Metro, June 27 to June 30]. His achingly realistic portraits of Donnell Whiteside and Roshawn Thompson document the barriers that many young people face in trying to change their lives for the better. In turn, Mr. Fountain's profile of crew supervisor Rodney Stotts proves that it can be done.
Because the series ended on a less than optimistic note, I'd like to point out that across the country more than 100 service and conservation corps annually enroll 20,000 young people in comprehensive community service, job training, education and life skills development programs. It is true that many conservation corps members do not "make it," but it is also true that each year thousands of them do succeed in earning their GEDs or high school diplomas, winning an education award, mastering marketable job skills and becoming good workers, good parents and good citizens, while simultaneously delivering 13 million hours of valuable service to restore the environment and their communities.
Indeed, a recent rigorous multi-site control group evaluation, conducted by Abt Associates/ Brandeis University, documents that:
The corps generate $1.04 per service hour in monetary benefit over and above all costs.
Significant employment and earnings gains accrue to young people who join a corps.
Positive outcomes are particularly striking for young African American men.
Arrest rates drop by one-third among all corps members.
Out-of-wedlock pregnancy rates drop among female corps members.
The picture for the nation's disadvantaged out-of-school youth is certainly not rosy, but thanks to the corps and similar programs, it is a little brighter than the one painted by Mr. Fountain.
Of Service and Conservation Corps