Transition students in Central Oregon have many opportunities to build their employment skills. Students can try job shadowing, internships, or visiting different kinds of businesses through a job club or on their own time. Many of these experiences focus on stores or offices—yet in Central Oregon, many work opportunities are found in the forests, on trails, and in parks. Wouldn’t it be great to try out this kind of work environment?

For students who love the outdoors, or who are ready for a fun summer challenge, Camp LEAD offers a work experience like no other. Camp LEAD is a program of the Heart of Oregon Corps, with support from the Youth Transition Program (YTP) and the Oregon State Parks.

Young adults with disabilities can participate in one-week camps this summer at LaPine State Park or at Silver Falls State Park. During their week, campers learn skills needed for jobs in natural resources, trail crews, or park maintenance. The work may involve clearing trails, maintaining campsites, or keeping up park buildings. There is no cost for Camp Lead—in fact, campers are paid for the work they do during their week.


Tyler McRae serves as the Summer Program Coordinator for the Heart of Oregon Corps, and he helped us out with answers to questions that transition students might have about Camp LEAD.


Why is it called Camp LEAD?

LEAD stands for Leadership, Empowerment, Advocacy, and Development. Those are our themes during the camp week. We pick one theme to focus on each day, and plan our goals and activities around that theme. This week is about more than learning job skills—we also learn to be part of a team and push the boundaries of what we think we can do, in a healthy way.


What kind of work do the campers do?

We do projects in the park that the rangers need help getting done. Sometimes we trim trees along roadways, or clear away brush for fire breaks. We may clean out fire rings that are clogged with old ashes, or paint a building. The work is active and physical, and we provide all the safety gear and equipment. All campers need to supply are their work boots! Campers are paid minimum wage for their work.


What’s it like to spend a week at Camp LEAD?

Every camper has their own tent, and all the camping equipment is provided. We cook our meals together, and have campfires and activities in the evening. We work about six hours each day. The state parks have toilets and showers for us to use. Every Camp LEAD session has 10 young adult campers and three camp counselors. It’s not all work – we really have a lot of fun!


Can I spend more than one week at Camp LEAD?

Six sessions of Camp LEAD are planned for the summer of 2020; three sessions take place a LaPine State Park and three sessions at Silver Falls State Park. Most campers attend just one week, but some may keep working with the Central Oregon Youth Conservation Corps for three more weeks.


How can I apply for Camp LEAD?

Camp LEAD is open to young adults in Central Oregon who are between 16 and 22 years old, and who are part of the Youth Transition Program (YTP) or Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). Students should talk with their transition teachers and YTP specialists about whether Camp LEAD is a good fit for them. General application forms for Camp LEAD will be available through the YTP and online, beginning in late February. Interested students need to complete a more detailed application form in March, and transition teachers can help with that application as well.


Learn more about Camp LEAD at