The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps received a $1.3 million grant to build a new workforce-development training facility in Taos. The 5,000 square foot center will house offices and classrooms to support the nonprofits Conservation, Prevention and Canine Leadership programs.

"This has been a pet project of the Corps for some time," said Ben Thomas, the group's executive director. "We're super excited about the project and the funding opportunity that has come with it."

The grant money, provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration, will be matched with $315,000 in local funding from private foundations and other sources.

Founded in 1995, the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps provides workforce development training and educational enhancement programs to the state's youth and young adults. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group served around 200 17- to 25-year-olds at their Taos and Albuquerque locations.

RMYC members work on land conservation, recreation and historic preservation projects with local, state and federal land management agencies. The group operates as a private nonprofit grant recipient of the national initiative AmeriCorps.

The new grant earned support from New Mexico's federal leadership in Washington, D.C.

"National service is a critical and cost-effective approach to solving problems," said U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, the first AmeriCorps alum to serve in the United States Senate. "I am proud to support this funding for Rocky Mountain Youth Corps that will allow them to continue providing up-and-coming outdoor leaders and advocates with restoration and conservation skills," said Heinrich in a statement.

"As a member of the Senate Commerce and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees, I'll continue working with the Biden-Harris administration to strengthen workforce development programs to create new opportunities," said U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, in a statement. "These investments are how our state will recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic and keep our homegrown talent right here in New Mexico."

Senators Heinrich and Luján recently introduced legislation in Washington to create the Civilian Climate Corps, a climate-focused national service program that brings communities and federal entities together to help solve the climate crisis.

"Most of our work happens within New Mexico. Our largest program is our conservation-based program, and that's what AmeriCorps is supporting," said Thomas. "We work with federal, state, local and tribal land managers, or land-managing agencies."

"We don't do much work out of state, but we do send our crews -- on occasion -- for disaster response. We are an AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team," said Thomas. "If there is a natural emergency, our crews are poised to respond -- typically, that's hurricanes and floods -- we come in and help with the aftermath."

The new facility will be built on a 20-acre plot of land the group bought 20 years ago, at the intersection of Salazar and Este Es roads, and would replace the group's current location on King Drive.

The projected overall budget for the facility is $1.8 million. RMYC contracted Living Design Group to design the building, and is now shopping for a builder. The group expects to break ground in June and complete the facility by the end of the year.

"This project will allow RMYC to expand our ability to support New Mexico's youth and young adults, [who] are all-too-often seen as one of the problems within our communities," said Thomas. "RMYC sees youth as our next leaders -- change-agents -- and worth a substantial investment. This project will allow for that."

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