Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, September 7, 1998

MCC camp work and fun for Winsted youth

By MAGGIE SCHUETTE-VOSS

Joey Kozitza spent his summer getting paid to camp. Of course, he did work, too.

This past summer Kozitza was hired by the Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC), a program patterned after the Citizen Conservation Corps of the 1930s. It provides jobs to teenagers, ages 15-18, and hires hearing, hard-of-hearing, and deaf teenagers.

Kozitza spent his summer traveling to state parks around Minnesota were he and other crew members would clear trails, clear old campsites, lay sod, build bridges, and perform other maintenance work that needed to be done.

He was sponsored by the Private Industry Workforce Council 5, which paid him wages of $4.35 an hour. Kozitza worked 35 hours a week.

At first, Kozitza was not thrilled about going to MCC camp.

"My mom found out about it from the counselor at school. I already had another job lined up with the city, but then that fell through," he said.

Kozitza filled out the application on deadline day.

Despite his early lack of enthusiasm, Kozitza is glad he went to the camp.

"You meet cool people and the crew leaders were cool," he said.

For the first two weeks, Kozitza was in a residential camp at St. Croix State Park, near Hinckley.

There, he took up residence in a cabin and meals were served family style. Most of the other campers were from the metro area, but a few were from small towns.

During this time, he said, the crew leaders were very strict, letting the teenagers know early on who was in charge.

"Two kids got kicked out right away. One had brought some marijuana and another got kicked out for smoking," he said.

For the remaining six weeks of the program, Kozitza was at several "spike camps," where crews of seven would go to different parks, work, and sleep in tents.

"We did get lucky and at a YMCA camp were in like these little apartments that had a bathroom and electricity," he said.

The majority of the time during spike camp, Kozitza slept on the ground in his sleeping bag.

After so many weeks on a hard surface, Kozitza said he had a hard time when he returned home and slept in his own bed.

"It felt like I was drowning in it, too cushy," he said.

While on spike, Kozitza saw a lot of deer and a few bears. "One of the other camps had caught some trout, and after they cooked it, they just left the skin in a bag at their campsite. They had a bear walking around all night," he said.

The crew leaders relaxed after the first two weeks and were pretty laid back with Kozitza's group while he was at spike camp. The leaders didn't always stick with the 10 p.m. bedtime, but everyone still had to be up at 7 a.m.

The work, he said, wasn't too hard.

"They're not out to kill ya," but there was plenty to do. "We had to haul these big timbers and that was hard."

Kozitza said at another job they had to pound rebar (used when pouring concrete) into the ground. "It was funny watching some of the girls trying (to do that.)"

On weekends, the teenagers' time off was also busy. Each was responsible to do his/her own laundry and there were many activities.

"You barely had time to shower and it was busy all weekend," he said.

Kozitza only had a few regrets about spending the summer with MCC.

"I missed going fishing every day, and you do miss TV and electricity," he said.


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