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Senior wins Corps Member of the Year

Published: Friday, March 4, 2011

Updated: Friday, March 4, 2011 12:03


OSCAR MARQUINA, above, won Corpsmember of the Year for his work with Latino high school students. BRECK BYNGTON photo

    Utah Conservation Corps member Oscar Marquina, a senior at Utah State and one of the pioneers of the Bilingual Youth Corps, has won Corpsmember of the Year for the National Corps Network.

    "To be selected out of the whole nation was huge honor and a great experience," Marquina said.

    Marquina said his work involving Hispanic students in the valley has been a great way for him to reach out to the "under-served community."

    Since immigrating to the U.S. in 2001, Marquina said he feels very attached to the Latin culture and is still "very much a Latino." He said he wanted to focus on Latino high school students because he wanted to give them a realization of what they have in their backyards.

    Every summer since 2008, Marquina and a group of Latino high school students have a chance to see the outside world in a new light. Marquina said one of the biggest keys to the program has been to open up  the students' eyes to the world and help them realize what kind of jobs are out there and what can be offered to them.

    The program continues to grow every year. 2008 started with five students and that number grew to 10 in 2009. This past summer that numbered doubled to 20 and Assistant Director for Utah Conservation Corps Kate Stephens expects that number to continue to rise. She said the Utah Conservation Corps has developed a successful model that will be able to adjust as the numbers grow.

    Utah Conservation Corps is linked with USU, so every summer speakers have been able to address the members of the Bilingual Youth Corps and answer questions about education. Marquina said this summer program is something different that high school students can do that keeps them busy and involved in something positive.

    A part of Marquina's work has been to integrate the Hispanic parents of the students and get them more involved as well. He said they translate the pamphlets and other educational material into Spanish and include an educational section each summer.

    "It has been a remarkable experience for me, but also I think for Cache Valley. It has been something new and innovative for them," he said.

    Jessica Vyera, who won a full-ride scholarship to USU, was a member of the Youth Corps in 2008 and she said the work they did that summer was hard, but it was also a great experience. Vyera said she learned independence through her time spent that summer and it taught her how to take care of herself. She said Marquina was a great leader and always willing to help her with her schooling.

    "He made us feel comfortable," Vyera said.

    Stephens said Marquina's ability to be a great leader was one of the reasons why she nominated him for the award.

    "He is an incredible leader," Stephens said. "he is a huge reason why this program is a success."

    Stephens said a program like the Bilingual Youth Corps is important for a community to have because, among other things, it gives job skills to students who otherwise probably wouldn't have that opportunity.

    "Youth unemployment rate is pretty high so it gives kids the chance to make a little money and explore public lands and hopefully develop a connection to those lands," Stephens said.

    Work that members of the Bilingual Youth Corps have done includes working on trails up Logan Canyon, cleaning historic culverts at the Golden Spike National Monument and building a fence at Bear River Bottoms to protect the habitat. Marquina said building the fence was one of the most fulfilling projects.

    "We worked our butts off for two weeks and just as we were finishing there were some deer that came up to the fence and jumped over it," he said. "it showed us that our project was going to accomplish exactly what we wanted."

    Marquina said his favorite thing about his involvement has been working with high school students and working in the outdoors.

    "Having the mountains, canyons and desert be my office is a combination that have made the best summers I have ever had," he said.



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