2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Andrew Zimmer

In the last year, Andrew Zimmer has impressed the Forest Service with the quality and amount of work produced by his crew, fallen in love with Logan Canyon, Utah and developed an unexpected yet clear picture of where his life is heading.

An AmeriCorps crew leader for the Utah Conservation Corps, Andrew showed his crew that anyting is possible. Their assignment was to construct two miles of fencing along a very steep and inaccessible area. This would allow the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout, a rare and declining species, to be protected from the diseases that grazing cattle passed on when drinking from the creek. This project was essential to the survival of the trout population. Andrew, a leader who brings out the best in others around him, took special interest in each crew member to make sure their experience was rewarding and insightful.

Toward the end his term, Andrew was in a bike accident that resulted in paralysis from the chest down. Andrew said that within an hour of his accident, he knew he wanted to work in accessible outdoor recreation. His philosophy about stewardship of our natural resources is that you cannot get sustainable results without the awareness and enthusiasm of people. Andrew has brought this idea and passion to Utah and the UCC. He plans on completing his AmeriCorps term after rehabilitation and continuting to work in the place he loves. 

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor has recently entered college to pursue a degree in psychology. Three years ago, Michael was becoming all too accustomed to the Sacramento Juvenile Center. Having no role models and no high school diploma, there was little hope for Michael's future.

After the Tulare County Youth Corps (now the Sequoia Community Corps) contacted Michael, they saw his potential, in spite of the initial rejection they received from him. He was enrolled in the high school diploma program and maintained a 3.49 GPA. Michael was pleasantly surprised by his success. He was even valedictorian of his class.

Perfecting his public speaking skills, Michael has educated over 15,000 people on proper recycling procedures, including talks with the legislative bodies of the state of California. The entire city of Visalia recognized his work with a certificate of appreciation for extraordinary performance. Throughout all of this, Michael has maintained a sincere attitude of gratitude. He is currently a specialist for the corps in educating the community about environmental and social issues.

Michael said, "This has proven to be a great choice for me. Everything the corps has done has benefited me so much, so I would just like to take the opportunity to thank them." 

(written in 2006)

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Afton McKusick

***Update! Click here to read about what Afton has been up to since she won her award.***

(Written in 2006)

A remarkable and resilient Corpsmember, Afton McKusick has been a fixture of enthusiasm and dedication in the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC). Encouraging several of her friends to join the corps with her, Afton began her successful role as corps recruiter during her junior year of high school. Her love for preserving the northern Arizona landscape continues to bring new members to CREC every season.

Afton's first summer project with CREC consisted of removing the invasive species, cliff rose, off the sides of Walnut Creek. She loved the hard work and since then has worked on trail maintenance and chainsaw crews. Despite already receiving her allotted two AmeriCorps Education Awards she has insisted on spending her summers protecting the natrual environment of northern Arizona.

Afton says the program has helped her realize many life lessons. "Every person we come into contact with will in some way or another have an impact on us," says McKusick, "but we also have an impact on them."

As much as the program has benefited from Afton, she stated that CREC has been equally helpful in her character development. "Without this program, I would not be the person I am today, " Afton said. Explaining her reasons for returning to the prorgram, Afton said, "I came back because...this is a place where I can make a difference." 

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Crystal Ann Lamb


Crystal Ann Lamb wanted a challegne. Completing her undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech and just beginning graduate school, Ctystal Ann knew she needed a different kind of education -- one that would challenge her physically, mentally and vocationally. She found the Southwest Youth Corps (now the Southwest Conservation Corps) on the AmeriCorps website and knew it was the program for her.

Immersed in a crew full of diversity, Crystal Ann thrived and became an example of open communication and enthusiasm. The program included school presentations, where Crystal Ann utilized her deftness for public speaking. Crystal Ann was a big part of the success of her crew, which led to a guarantee of funding for next year's CDTA (Continental Divide Trail Alliance) program and offers for future projects.

She came back in June for another eight-week back country program in Colordo. An immediate transition from sea level to 10,000 feet was a great physical challenge. This only motivated Crystal Ann that "a small number of people can make a big difference." She is convinced she has learned more in those four months of SYC than during her four years of college. Her fellow crew members and the entire CDTA are grateful for her sincere motivation as she continues her work in the conservation field.

(written in 2006)

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Charley Kakel

The youth of New Mexico are thankful for Winston Churchill. It was Churchill's comment that swayed Baltimore resident Charley Kakel to start a whole new existence in New Mexico. 

"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give," said Churchill. 

These words, along with Charley's personal resolutin to give of himself, helped send him to Taos, New Mexico. Charley soon realized his passion for teaching and attended Goucher College to study the social sciences and improve his teaching skills, and later found himself back in New Mexico and working for the  Rocky Mountain Youth Corps's Service Learning Program as an AmeriCorps member. Charley worked daily with over 200 youth in their academic and personal lives.

With any spare time he had, Charley would travel across New Mexico and spread the inspiring message to any youth he could find. He loves the youth of Taos and wrote and received a grant for improving the middle school's baseball field. Charley now works with RMYC - After School Tutoring Program where he will be helping ten at-risk youths. Charley plans to continue his close relationship to the people of Taos by teaching at the middle school.

Charley reflects on his journey, stating it "has proven that I am capable of being a leader in making positive change happen." Churchill may have been Charley's inspiration for becoming a teacher, but Charley has inspired the children of Taos to care for each other, to become active in their communities, and to make lives for themselves by what they give. 

(written in 2006)

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Michael Bridges


***Update! Click here to find out what Michael has been up to since he won his award.***

Nothing can keep Michael Bridges from reaching his goals. Moving a total of eight levels through the Conservation Corps of Long Beach (CCLB) program from the blue hat all the way to the white hat, Michael has raised the standard for corps excellence. He served as a Corps council member, was awarded seven Outstanding Achievement Awards, and earned more than $5,000 in scholarships through the AmeriCorps Education Awards Program and CCLB scholarship funds to use toward his post high school education.

Michael's exemplary work ethic and positive outlook on every situation have helped to bond the crew into more of a family. His peers respected him so much that they nominated him for the keynote speech at the CCLB graduation. Michael is currently a staff member at CCLB, supervising five corpsmembers in independent projects around Long Beach. Making use of the Corps resources, Michael was awarded his high school diploma. He even attended the California Leigislative Day as a guest of CCLB.

Michael said, "My time in the Corps has greatly changed my life because it gave me the second chance I was looking for when I failed to graduate from high school. Now I have a high school diploma in addition to a great opportunity to attend college.

2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Alana Svensen

***Update! Click here to find out what Alana has been up to since accepting her award.***

As a Corpsmember with the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), Alana helped coordinate the first rotation of 600 NCCC members to the Gulf Coast in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In other NCCC rotations in the Northeast Region, Alana framed homes with Habitat for Humanity, helped with education programs in Maryland and the Bronx and became a Certified Wild Land Firefighter in upstate New York.

Unsure what she wanted to to do when she graduate college in 2003, Alana joined the Corps to "give back to society." During her time deployed at the Red Cross staging area in the Gulf Coast, teaching children in the education programs, and building trails and homes, Alana feels she learned a lot about other people but even more about herself and what she can do. She plans to use her newly discovered logistical and building skills, as well as the insights she has gained, to continue to serve through a nonprofit or government agency. 

2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Tatiana Rodrigues

As a Corpsmember with the Sacramento Local Conservation Corps (SLCC) in Sacramento, CA, Tatiana has been able to turn her life around. When Tatiana was 15, her mother was incarcerated. Later, she was expelled from high school and learned about SLCC through a friend.

At the Corps she worked on a variety of community projects including a team that helped school children learn the value of recycling. During her time with the SLCC, Tatiana earned an AmeriCorps education award to help pay for college and she plans to complete her high school diploma by the end of this school year.

As Tatiana said, "Things only get worse if you don't keep your head up. At the Corps I've had a change of heart, change of attitude and a change of behavior. I've learned to become more focused on my goals. Nobody in my family ever went to college. I'm going to be the first!"

2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Cop Lieu

***Update! Click here to read about what Cop has been up to since he accepted his award.***


As a Corpsmember with The Work Group in Camden, NJ, Cop excelled quickly and became a "peer reinforcer," counseling new members coming into the program. Although just years ago he trekked by foot through the jungles of Cambodia into Thailand to come to America with his family, Cop's toughest times were actually his early years in the U.S. when he got caught up in street life and fighting, was expelled from the traditional school system, and spent time in juvenile detention.

After joining The Work Group at the recommendation of a friend, Cop passed his GED test, earned his customer service credential, obtained his driver's license, and was promoted to a peer advisor due to his natural ability to relate to and influence his peers.

Cop plans to go to school and learn more about the real estate business and has started the process to get his citizenship. He also currently works as a Support Services Associate at a Philadelphia hospital. 

(written in 2007)

2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Kiwannie James

 

As a Corpsmember with the Northwest Piedmont Service Corps in Winston-Salem, NC, Kiwannie is now drug-free, confident and happily working for the city of Winston-Salem. Although he was raised by a single mother in a violent home where he eventually turned to drugs and alcohol, Kiwannie always believed that he would show someone that he was a good person with a problem who truly needed help.

After the birth of his second child in 2005, Kiwannie decided to change his life by joining the Northwest Piedmont Service Corps and seeking mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Kiwannie is now employed, the proud father of two beautiful children, and now is accomplishing his goals. 

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