Story by Amanda DeVos/Photo by Corey Kopischke
Gretchen Van De Carr
Gretchen Van De Carr’s heart beats for youth and the outdoors. She had her first experience combining these two passions in 1989 as the crew supervisor for the Northwest Youth Corps in Oregon.
“I had no idea that was going to be my life,” she says.Van De Carr is the executive director of Rocky Mountain Youth Corp in Steamboat Springs, overseeing its operations since its birth in 2003 and helping it mature into a $1 million nonprofit organization that engages youth with the environment. RMYC teens and young adults spend the summer building trails and working on service projects in the backcountry.
“You’ll see these shy, clean-cut youth come in June, and they come out at the end confident and healthy, with dirt under their fingernails,” says Van De Carr with a smile.
Furthermore, since her arrival in Steamboat in 1990, Van De Carr has been involved in founding local youth organizations like Partners in Routt County, Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, the Steamboat Springs Teen Recreation Center, the City of Steamboat Springs’ Teen Programs and the Routt County Family and Adolescent Resource Council.
“There were few youth programs when I got here 22 years ago, so anytime there’s been an opportunity to start something that’s needed, it’s been fun to help,” she says.
Van De Carr enjoys sharing what she loves with her two young sons, Otis and Oliver. “I have poured so much energy into how to find a balance between my work and my family and myself,” she says. “The conclusion I’ve come to is you’ve got to integrate them. I try to give back to the community and instill that instinct in my own kids.”
After receiving the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation’s “Livingston Fellowship” award in 2009, Van De Carr created the Routt County Youth Services Coalition for the purpose of uniting community organizations to best meet the needs of youth.