When the fate of the Naselle Youth Camp seemed questionable in recent months, local residents feared a loss of jobs, a hit to the local economy and a decreased enrollment in schools.
Residents and local government officials were adamant in the belief that the youth camp was essential to our community.
Most recently, the young men living in the medium security facility are proving to be essential on the state level as well. Naselle Youth Camp residents, male offenders receiving educational and treatment services, have been on the front lines, among thousands of volunteers working to put out wildfires.
The fires began in the early months of summer and continue with the blazes sweeping across central Washington. The young men, determined to make a change for the better, are donning fire gear and taking a new path both literally and figuratively.
Naselle Youth Camp residents have chosen this work and believe it a better option than their former path toward a criminal future.
In collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources, the young men attending school at the facility take part in a forestry work program. Youth involved in the program attend high school classes under the supervision of Naselle staff and fight fires around the state in the summer.
“Fighting fires gets Naselle residents out of the facility for brief periods of time and allows them to use their new skills in real world settings. The experience also frequently changes their attitudes and helps them avoid making more bad choices with their lives,” said Chris Case of the Department of Social and Health Services.