Mile High Youth Corps Expands Number & Diversity of Corpsmembers with Opus Foundation® Grant

Denver-based Mile High Youth Corps​ (MHYC) is committed to helping young adults engage in careers and prepare for life through hands-on career exploration experiences, education and vital support services. To support these efforts, the Opus Foundation®​ awarded $25,000 to the organization to expand the number and diversity of young adults it serves, as well as increase stipends provided to participants.

“MHYC improves the overall economic health of our community by helping young people make transformational changes that support long-term economic self-sufficiency and hope," said Jeslin Shahrezaei, Senior Director of Development and Communications. “This generous grant from the Opus Foundation will allow us to increase our capacity by 25%, engaging more young adults who are neither working nor in school."

MHYC serves vulnerable young adults ages 18 to 24 experiencing the highest rates of unemployment. Often lacking a high school diploma, 74% of participants live 300% below the federal poverty level.

Building Self Sufficiency and Hope for the Future

MHYC provides education and career-readiness training in four distinct career pathways: construction, healthcare, land conservation, and energy and water conservation. The young adults it serves, called Corpsmembers, work 32 to 40 hours a week as part of a crew with six to nine peers. MHYC crew leaders serve as mentors and role models. Participants earn a bi-weekly stipend, industry certifications and an AmeriCorps educational scholarship to use toward post-secondary education.

In addition to gaining workforce skills, Corpsmembers build an ethos of service to the community. Since MHYC was formed in 1992, 4,500 Corpsmembers have built or maintained more than 300 miles of trails, helped build over 1,200 affordable housing units and retrofitted more than 46,000 low-income homes for energy and water savings. MHYC alumni have gone on to become forest rangers, wildland firefighters, electricians, certified nurse assistants and community nonprofit leaders.

“Building empowered leaders with the skills, vision and knowledge to enact positive community change is an essential part of MHYC's mission," Shahrezaei said.

Expanding Its Reach and Impact

MHYC's impact is profound. In 2020, the organization served 145 young adults with their career pathway programing. They contributed 61,393 service hours and earned $221,561 in AmeriCorps education awards.

The Opus Foundation grant will enable MHYC to extend its impact even further. MHYC aims to increase the number of young adults it serves by 25%, grow participation of BIPOC individuals by 10% and increase Corpsmembers' stipends an average of $1 an hour.

For the 2022 program cycle, MHYC staff are conducting on-the-ground recruitment in communities with the highest unemployment rates, including Denver's Sun Valley, Commerce City, Montbello, Aurora and Park Hill neighborhoods. To reach a broader pool of candidates, they are developing new relationships and partnerships with community-based organizations serving BIPOC populations.

I first learned about MHYC at an open house in 2019 because of its close proximity to 1919 At Mile High Apartments project. I'm now serving on their Employer Advisory Council, which contributes to MHYC's job-readiness training curriculum by providing soft-skills training and access to job and internship placements. 


The Opus Foundation®  is the corporate foundation for Opus, and is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families. The Foundation is committed to improving conditions that disproportionately affect historically underinvested individuals and communities by resourcing key focus areas of  early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work. The Opus Foundation is a separate entity from The Opus Group and is led by its own Board of Directors.​