Prior to joining Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC), Yessica “Yessi” Nevarez-Villa had dropped out of four high schools and was involved in a serious car accident as a result of drinking and driving. In February 2019, Yessi, determined to turn her life around, became a Corpsmember in the YouthBuild Construction track. In six short months, she completed OSHA-10 and First Aid/CPR training, earned a construction certificate with a focus on carpentry skills, and completed 450 hours of service building affordable housing. She also earned her High School Equivalency diploma.

During her YouthBuild term, Yessi served as a mentor during Denver City Councilman Chris Herndon’s Northeast Denver Leadership Week (NDLW). NDLW brought together high school students to explore career opportunities and connect with community leaders. During the week at the NDLW, Yessi used the opportunity to explore her own career interests and found her new passion: firefighting. Having completed all of the requirements of the YouthBuild program by August, Yessi entered into a second term of service with MHYC’s Land Conservation Fall Forestry program, and in November was offered a position in MHYC’s highly competitive Winter Fire Program.

To say Yessi is an impressive Corpsmember is an understatement. Since she first walked through MHYC’s doors she has been focused, determined, and motivated— going above and beyond the expectations of her Crew Leaders and peers. Despite continual personal challenges, she takes advantage of every opportunity she is offered at MHYC to better herself and prepare for her next steps, which include using her AmeriCorps Education award to pursue additional fire training. “Mile High Youth Corps has taught me that I’m capable of reaching and manifesting anything I want in life and that it’s never too late to restart, change or build my future. It’s about the present and who you choose to be. I now know that I am not a destructor. I am a builder of myself and those around me.

“Mile High Youth Corps has influenced a lot of my growth and success. I have learned what it means to be part of a community. I have become more goal-oriented, genuine, and reliable. My experience also encouraged me to be positive, and to push myself and my teammates to live out our dreams and accomplish goals we never though would be attainable. “My service at MHYC has taught me that many of us have made mistakes, but those mistakes should not define us for the rest of our lives. We are capable of change within ourselves, and we can help make positive changes in the community, as well. I feel connected to the mission of this community to give back to others and offer others a second chance.”