By Steve Lynch, program coordinator for conservation at Mile High Youth Corps. Lynch served two yearlong terms of service with Mile High Youth Corps, participating in the Water Conservation Program as a Corpsmember in 2009 and 2010.
With much of the West mired in drought, water shortages have forced innovators to take a closer look at anything that uses water. This includes an ancient piece of technology – the toilet.
Low-flow, pressure-assist and high-efficiency toilets have become the standard in new construction. But Denver is an old city, and many of its homes have old toilets. These toilets use twice as much water per flush than their modern counterparts, which raises a red flag in a city where water efficiency is a way of life.
As part of its commitment to conservation, Denver Water offers rebates for customers who purchase and install high-efficiency toilets. Not everyone can afford the upfront cost of a brand new toilet, however, and many are not comfortable replacing a toilet on their own. Enter Mile High Youth Corps.
Built on the principles of conservation and youth development, Mile High Youth Corps is able to offer job skills to young people (18–24 years old), while helping Denver Water’s commitment to conservation through the Water Conservation Program. The program is simple. Denver Water supplies the high-efficiency toilets, and Corpsmembers identify qualified high-need clients and perform the installations in their homes. Most important, the toilets and other water-saving appliances the program participants install in low-income homes are provided at no charge to the customer.
Over the past seven years, Mile High Youth Corps crews have installed more than 10,000 high-efficiency toilets in low-income single- and multi-family homes across the Denver metropolitan area. Based on annual water consumption numbers, this is a savings of more than 200 million gallons of water. That’s enough water to fill 315 Olympic-sized swimming pools (roughly the size of 42 city blocks).
Of course, those conservation numbers would not be possible without the support of Denver Water, thanks to its commitment to conservation and youth development. Over the years, Denver Water employees have taken participants on tours of water treatment plants, provided educational opportunities for young people interested in learning more about water conservation, and supported the intensive development programs that Mile High Youth Corps offers to its Corpsmembers.
Along the way, hundreds of young people have learned job skills, gained confidence and emerged as the future leaders of their generation. In the past four years alone, the Water Conservation Program has produced three Colorado Youth Corps Association Corpsmembers of the Year, including Kelsey Bowers, who was honored at the state Capitol as Corpsmember of the Year on Feb. 3, 2014. During the morning session at the state Senate, Bowers was recognized by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and introduced by state Rep. Steve Lebsock, who shared some of Bowers’ amazing accomplishments.
Because Mile High Youth Corps has such a strong focus on youth development, our participants represent a non-traditional approach to performing conservation-based tasks. Involvement on the Water Conservation Program is not a job, but rather a term of service. Upon completion of a five-month term, participants receive an AmeriCorps Education Award. Many participants have used this award to pursue post-secondary education or pay off costly student loans. This structure makes it important for Mile High Youth Corps and our partners, like Denver Water, to emphasize education and leadership development.
As the program coordinator for conservation, I am fortunate enough to receive calls and notes from clients about our Corpsmembers. From an elderly man calling to praise the work of our youth, to a woman who was so impressed with the teamwork of the crew that she took the time to say thanks in a hand-written note – these testimonials are some of the most inspiring parts of working for Mile High Youth Corps.
Mile High Youth Corps is proud to continue the partnership with Denver Water through 2014 and beyond, and we look forward to being able to provide services to clients while working to empower the future leaders of the communities we serve.
To learn more about these services or to see if you qualify, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or call 720-974-0500, ext. 527.