Eco village gives at-risk youth new perspectives

By Pam Bryant

EcovillageClemson’s Youth Learning Institute has established a village where students learn to live a deliberate life, relying only on the essentials: food, water, a campfire and each other.

The Village at Crooked Branch is located at the Youth Development Center, part of Clemson’s W.W. Long 4-H Leadership Center in Aiken. It’s the first of its kind in South Carolina.

 The Youth Development Center is a partnership with the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice. It provides an alternative placement facility for non-violent juvenile offenders who take turns living at the eco village. There, they learn how to plan and prepare meals over a campfire, purify water, and build temporary shelters. Daily chores are shared among group members, and a key goal is to limit impact on the natural environment.

Jen Collier, assistant director of program support, says students consistently demonstrate a shift from focus on self to concern for the needs of the community.

“Students take on different roles and responsibilities to manage the community and survive. The eco village is an environment where trial and error leads to the practical application of acquired skills,” said Collier. “The result is a community environment where group camaraderie and selflessness is at the heart of the village, and students gain new respect for themselves and others.”

For information: Jen Collier, 864-878-1103,