Statewide organization will focus efforts on expanding programs for Montana youth
The Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) – dedicated to the empowerment of youth through volunteerism and environmental stewardship – is ready to move forward, in a big way. That’s not really a revelation, however, since that’s how the organization operates on a regular basis.
But with the infusion of $50,000 in the form of a recent Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® (HKHF) grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT), the nonprofit organization has the means to further expand youth and tribal programming in Big Sky Country.
MCC also was awarded an HKHF grant in 2016. That money helped MCC revise its Positive Youth Curriculum, hire four Youth Program Managers to serve in each of its four regional offices, and to appraise and modify evaluation protocols to emphasize the long-term impact of youth programs in volunteerism, academic success, school retention, extracurricular engagement, mental and physical health, and outdoor activity level.
With that work done, MCC will use the 2018 grant funding to serve 266 Montana youth as follows:
- 138 high school students in four-week Youth Service Expeditions;
- 42 high school students in four- to eight-week Youth Conservation Corps Expeditions, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service;
- 60 middle school students in one-week Middle School Expeditions; and
- 20 Native American high school students and six Native American middle school students in Native Youth Outdoor Service Learning Expeditions, in conjunction with the Billings School District and Great Falls Public Schools.
The purpose of these programs, according to MCC, is to introduce youth to physical activity through conservation stewardship, increase recognition of the immediate and long-term value of physical activity, and increase youth confidence and self-esteem to reduce the likelihood of suicidal ideation, and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
“MCC’s work is both relevant and timely,” said John Doran, vice president of external affairs and chief of staff at BCBSMT. “Enjoying the outdoors and having an active role in safeguarding the natural world, physical activity, camaraderie, community service, are all things that contribute to mental and physical health. Youth are the foundation of our future, and whatever we can do to help them make a positive change in their lives is worth every drop of sweat and every penny.”
HKHF is a signature program of BCBSMT and part of an ongoing commitment to invest in and partner with nonprofit organizations that offer sustainable, measurable programs to reach children and their families in the five following areas:
- Physical activity
- Disease prevention and management
- Substance abuse prevention
- Suicide prevention
The $50,000 HKHF grant is one of four BCBSMT awards each year.