2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Ladine "JR" Daniels

Sadly, Ladine "JR" Daniels passed away in his sleep in early November 2014. JR was a loved and respected member of the Corps community. He will be greatly missed. Click to read our tribute to JR. 


Content below originally published in 2012

After being convicted of a felony earlier in his life, Ladine “JR” Daniels says that “I was having hard time finding something to do with my life, and having been to prison, I was only working jobs that were not going very far.”

Once he joined The Sustainability Institute’s Energy Conservation Corps, Ladine gained valuable job skills, secured employment, and made headway toward his goal of starting his own business. While in the Energy Conservation Corps, JR served as a leading corpsmember in the weatherization crew. He inspired others when it came to completing the most difficult tasks and often reached out to younger corpsmembers, offering guidance and friendship.

His growth and desire to learn have been two of JR’s keys to success. He eagerly set out to learn as much as possible with job estimating, planning, and small business creation. JR often volunteers with his local NAACP branch doing outreach and mentoring as part of his choice to take care of himself and his family by learning a valuable trade and offering service back to the community.

In addition to his desire to learn and his strong leadership capacities, JR’s skillset became highly developed while in the Corps. He gained a high degree of proficiency with energy performance testing equipment, instructing others and assisting professional energy auditors through The Sustainability Institute operated Charleston WISE and Charleston WISE Impact Programs. With his newly gained abilities and maturity, JR was courted by potential employers well before his service term ended – though he chose to stay with the Corps and finish his service hours in order to receive an educational award.

JR was ultimately hired by Carolina Green Energy Systems (a local and well-established full-service energy retrofit company) with whom he has established himself as one of their leading weatherization technicians. Although he was competing against other potential hires without criminal histories, JR was chosen by his current employer due to his service, success and development with the Corps.

Even with this success, JR has even bigger goals for the future. He says that “I plan to begin my own company doing weatherization services for low-income families that are sponsored by church congregations here in Charleston. I’m hoping that as my business grows I can hire ECC members as they graduate and give them the same opportunity that Carolina Green Energy gave to me.”

2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Mike Bremer

***Update! Click here to find out what Mike has been up to since receiving his award.***

"When I returned from Iraq with the Army Infantry, I felt like I lost all meaning and purpose in life and I had trouble finding meaningful work. My Corps experience gave me new purpose and a valuable new skillset. I received incredible training and experience alongside other veterans who had similar experiences – we were all looking for a new life after war.”

In April of 2010, Mike Bremer joined Southwest Conservation Corps’ Veterans Fire Corps after serving in the U.S. Army Infantry. While in the Corps, Mike worked in 3 different districts of the San Juan National Forest and also for the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management completing fuels mitigation projects, pile burning, and area burns. He received high ratings in chainsaw safety training and wildland fire fighting and behavior classes. His exceptional ability with a chainsaw also ensured that he could become the sawyer for his crew, an integral and coveted position, especially for a first year firefighter. Based on his performance and the strong bonds he made with his fellow Corpsmembers, the staff of Southwest Conservation Corps promoted Mike to crew leader the following spring.

Mike later secured a job with the U.S. Forest Service as a wildland firefighter and sawyer for the San Juan National Forest. Mike describes it as “the best job I have ever had.”

Beyond his work as a firefighter, Mike is also an advocate for veteran’s issues and an ambassador for Southwest Conservation Corps’ Veterans Fire Corps program. He says that “Service has always been a significant part of my life. My fellow veterans face significant barriers to employment, just as I did. I hope to be able to inspire my comrades to consider the opportunities available through The Corps Network.”

Corpsmember Success Story: Diana Carrillo


Diana could not speak English when she left her home of Mexico City and came to America. Now, after spending three years living in the States, 25-year-old Diana is a confident English-speaker with her eyes set on college. None of this would have been possible, she says, if not for her involvement with Conservation Corps North Bay in San Rafael, California.

Before joining the Corps, Diana's lack of a high school diploma and her limited English made it difficult for her to find a job. This was extremely frustrating for her as she needed to make money to support her then 4-year-old daughter. Fortunately, Diana heard about how Conservation Corps North Bay taught ESL and could help her gain job skills. She was particularly excited to hear that Corpsmembers at CCNB could work and earn money while completing their studies.

As a participant in Conservation Corps North Bay’s educational program, Diana earned her GED and is just a few credits away from obtaining her high school diploma. In addition to what she learned in the classroom at CCNB, Diana also learned how to use a chainsaw and is now an expert sawyer. She earns money by working with CCNB crews on environmental conservation projects that have involved everything from habitat restoration to fire and flood prevention. Diana currently works with CCNB’s recycling program and earns enough money to support herself and her daughter.

After she passes the California High School Exit Exam, Diana hopes to begin attending the College of Marin in January 2013. While studying she will also earn money working at CCNB’s organic farm on the College of Marin’s Indian Valley campus. Diana is not entirely sure what she wants to study, but she says she really enjoys her conservation work at CCNB and is considering pursuing a degree in environmental studies.

When Diana emigrated from Mexico with her family to try and find more opportunities, she had no idea what the future held for her in California. Three years later, she is well educated, employable and self-sufficient.

“I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “Now I have time for work, for study, and for my daughter.”

Corpsmember Success Story: Carmen Curry

Without a high school diploma or GED and with little work experience, 21-year-old Carmen Curry found it very difficult to find work. That all changed, however, when Carmen joined Conservation Corps North Bay.

Carmen heard about the Corps from her brother who had participated in a CCNB program for middle school and high school students. Intrigued by how the Corps offered job training and assistance for those trying to further their education, Carmen joined CCNB in August 2011.

After taking classes through CCNB’s educational program, Carmen passed her GED test on the first try. She has already passed the California High School Exit Exam in Math and English and is just a few credits away from earning her high school diploma. Carmen said her peers at CCNB have been extremely helpful and supportive throughout her educational experience.

When she's not in the classroom, Carmen is out in the field working alongside fellow Corpsmembers on various conservation projects. CCNB taught Carmen how to use a chainsaw and paid her to work on habitat restoration, creek cleaning, and other efforts to help protect and maintain the natural beauty of local parks and public lands. Carmen became such a skilled sawyer that she is capable of prepping a gas-powered chainsaw in just 46 seconds.

Carmen plans to attend Berkeley City College in January 2013. She hopes to take classes in early childhood education and eventually pursue a career as a preschool teacher. Carmen says she has been interested in becoming a teacher for a long time. After watching her brother struggle with reading, she feels she has ideas about how to make learning more engaging and exciting for students who would otherwise get frustrated in school. Carmen also feels she is well-equipped for a teaching career because she knows she can relate with students who are experiencing a tough time at home.

In addition to job skills and an education, one of the most important things Carmen gained from her experience with Conservation Corps of North Bay is self-confidence. Carmen says she was once very shy and quiet, but now she feels like a leader and is happy to be able to set a good example for her children.

“If you’re really in a rough spot, the Corps’ the place to go,” said Carmen.

Carmen has a 3-year-old son and a second baby due in February 2013. She lives in Richmond, California.

Corpsmember Success Story: Joshua Edwards

Before attending the Green City Force graduation on June 29, 2012, 21-year-old Josh Edwards had not participated in a graduation ceremony since the 8th grade. For Josh, completing the Green City Force program was not just an accomplishment – it was a new beginning. As Josh said:

“[After] graduation, I got home that night and I just looked at the awards. You get an acceptance award and you get a completion award and I had them both in my hand and it felt so special knowing that I started something, I got into something on my own, and I finished it on my own…It was empowering.”

 Josh grew up in public housing in Brooklyn. His high school career is not something he is particularly proud of; he says he fell in with the wrong crowd and struggled to do well in his classes. He ended up needing to go to school for an extra year to complete all his credits. Josh says he felt lost and started to accept that he might spend his life working dead end jobs. Then his mother received an email about Green City Force – a Brooklyn based organization that trains and educates disconnected young New Yorkers (ages 18 to 24) for careers in the green industry. Josh was so intrigued by the opportunity to join Green City Force that he went all the way to Harlem to attend an information session about the program.

 As Josh says, getting into the program was not easy, but just the application process alone was a very good experience.

 “There are tryouts, an interview. It’s like you’re getting a real job,” said Josh. “You’re treated like an adult, you’re treated like a professional. And that’s just the entry point.”

 Josh says he was completely blown away by his first few weeks with Green City Force. He had never learned about green industries before and was amazed to hear facts and figures about water usage and ways to reduce utility bills in public housing buildings like the one where he lives.

 Josh continues to work for Green City Force on a part-time basis. He now does maintenance work at Planter’s Grove: an 8,000 square foot park – constructed by 2011 Green City Force Corpsmembers – located in New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA) Lillian Wald Houses in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Josh is now looking forward to starting college in January 2013. He hopes to study accounting and perhaps one day combine accounting skills with his passion for the environment.

 “I maybe want to become an accountant for a green business or something like that. That way I’d be doing two things that I love at the same time,” said Josh.

 Josh says Green City Force helped him build his confidence back and helped him understand that he is just as entitled to opportunities as anyone else. He says that before his Green City Force experience, he never knew his own potential.

“I’m already 21 and I already kind of lost three years since I was 18,” said Josh. “But I’m going to get back. This is a fresh start and I want to take everything that I can.”

On April 1, 2013, Josh began serving a second AmeriCorps term with Green City Force as a Junior Team Leader.

Corpsmember Success Story: Christopher Morgan

(Chris - left - working with his Crew Leader, Kenta Darley-Usmar)

Chris Morgan loves learning about sustainability and how to be eco-friendly. He only wishes someone had taught him about the environment when he was younger.

“I just started learning about going green. I want to inform everybody; my little sisters and my family and my friends and everybody else that there are ways to lower carbon emissions and reduce the climate change in the world with little things,” said Chris. “It all starts with one person.”

Chris’s recent interest in the environment can be attributed to Green City Force; a Brooklyn-based Youth Corps program that engages disadvantaged New York City youth in service and conservation projects and helps prepare them for work and college. Chris might not have known much about the environment before joining Green City Force, but – more significantly – he also did not know what he wanted to do with his life.

Chris grew up in public housing in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. He graduated from high school and started taking college classes, but he had to drop out for financial reasons. Chris ended up working at McDonald’s and held a series of other unsatisfying jobs. Then, as someone living in a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) property, Chris received an email about Green City Force. The Corps’ offer of a stipend, metro card, and the chance to learn valuable job skills seemed like a great opportunity. Chris went through the application process and ended up being one of 40 young adults selected for the Corps out of the hundreds who applied.

Chris still has a few months left before the end of the 6-month-long Green City Force program, yet he already has his eyes set on going back to college. He knows he wants to study somewhere in New York so he can be close to his two children (a 5-year-old daughter and a 5-month-old baby) and he knows he wants to pursue an education that could further prepare him for a green job.

“I’m taking everything that I’ve learned and I want to progress with this, I don’t want to look back,” said Chris. “So I feel like if I’m in [Green City Force] now and I’m learning about these things – there are opportunities and there are going to be 7 million jobs in the green economy, why not take advantage of that?”

Chris says that if a green job presents itself before he goes back to school, he may take that opportunity over college. Whatever his future holds, however, he is determined to succeed.

“Instead of struggling at McDonald’s or at Papa John’s delivering pizza – I don’t want to do anything like that. I want a career, maybe start my own business in the green field,” said Chris. “I know a lot of people from Brooklyn don’t have a lot of opportunities and I just want to take advantage and really embrace what [Green City Force] is letting me do.”

Chris currently serves as a Green City Force Junior Team Leader.

Improved Opportunities for Corps Created by New Surface Transportation Legislation

On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law P.L. 112-141, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). Funding surface transportation programs at over $105 billion for fiscal years (FY) 2013 and 2014, MAP-21 is the first long-term highway authorization enacted since 2005.  MAP-21 takes effect on October 1, 2012.

MAP-21 establishes a new program to provide for a variety of alternative transportation projects that were previously eligible activities under separately funded programs. This program is funded at a level equal to two percent of the total of all MAP-21 authorized Federal-aid highway and highway research funds, with the amount for each State set aside from the State’s formula apportionments. Eligible activities include:

• Transportation alternatives (new definition incorporates many transportation enhancement activities and several new activities)

• Recreational trails program (program remains unchanged)

• Safe routes to schools program

• Planning, designing, or constructing roadways within the right-of way of former Interstate routes or other divided highways.

Unless a State opts out, it must use a specified portion of its TA funds for recreational trails projects.

Thanks to hard work by The Corps Network and several of our members, the new law includes several provisions that are beneficial to Corps, if not putting them at a big advantage. Essentially, MAP-21 provides exceptions to certain requirements regarding pay rates and contracting requirements for projects using contracts and cooperative agreements with qualified youth service or conservation corps.  The new law includes language that:

• Defines youth service and conservation corps

• Encourages states and regional transportation planning agencies to enter into contracts or cooperative agreements with qualified youth service and conservation corps under the National Scenic Byways Program, Recreational Trails Program, Transportation Alternatives Program, Bicycle Transportation and Pedestrian Walkways, and the Safe Routes to School Program

• Sets that any project carried out by a qualified youth service or conservation corps will be subject to the living allowance or rate of pay that is established by the Secretary.  Any project that is carried out within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway will be subject to this special rate of pay as opposed to the prevailing minimum wage rate.  The legislation also exempts contracts and cooperative agreements with youth service and conservation corps from Federal-aid highway program contracting requirements, which allows a State or regional transportation planning agency to sole-source contracts and cooperative agreements to qualified youth service and conservation corps for working undertaken for byway, recreational trail, TA, bicycle and pedestrian, or SRTS projects.

For more information on MAP-21 please visit the Federal Highway Administration MAP-21 summary on the Use of Youth Service and Conservation Corps. 

Wendy Spencer Confirmed as CEO of Corporation for National and Community Service

Yesterday, wrapping up a round of nominations before the Easter recess, the Senate confirmed Wendy Spencer as Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Originally nominated last fall, Spencer was confirmed along with several new members of the CNCS Board of Directors. The Corps Network and its 151 members are delighted with the confirmation of Ms. Spencer. Her extensive history and experience in the world of service are just what is needed at this time.

Ms. Spencer served on President George W. Bush’s Council on Service and Civic Participation and was appointed by three governors to lead Volunteer Florida, the Governor's Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service since 2003. Volunteer Florida is the official statewide coordinating agency for volunteers and donations in times of disasters. During Florida's record-breaking 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, Volunteer Florida coordinated more than 252,000 volunteers, as well as donated items totaling more than $85 million in value, which was the largest mobilization of volunteers in the history of U.S. natural disasters at that time. Ms. Spencer has worked across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to mobilize citizens to address problems facing their communities, and she is uniquely qualified to lead the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Many members of The Corps Network, as well as the organization itself, rely on programs administered by the Corporation, and Ms. Spencer’s proven leadership will help ensure that these programs continue to serve the thousands of people across the country for years to come. Additionally, in these trying economic times, it is important to have someone at the helm who can advocate passionately about the true importance of these programs, not only to the people who serve in them, but to those being served. With funding for the Corporation squarely on the table for cuts, and more and more Americans applying for Corporation programs to serve, having a CEO who can make the case for the importance of service is required, and Wendy Spencer is just that person.

Infographic and Data Visualization Fun with Mile High Youth Corps

Mile High Youth Corps recently launched an excellent monthly infographic series, titled "Mile High Youth Corps by the Numbers." The infographics are designed by Kate Prestine, an Americorps VISTA working for Mile High Youth Corps. They've been posting the infographics to Pinterest but have also been providing some additional context for these data visualizations in blog posts. We will post links to the blog posts that exist so far below the graphics. Enjoy!







The Corps Network Joins the Outdoor Alliance for Kids



The Corps Network is pleased to announce that we have joined the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. Here's some more information about OAK:

The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with the common interest in expanding the number and quality of opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors.

Shared Values
The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the well-being of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. While childhood is the best time for instilling and fully benefiting from a connection to nature, in today’s world children are increasingly moving away from an understanding of the natural world. Although families have the leading role in connecting children with the outdoors, local, state and national decision-makers have a critical role to play to ensure that children, youth and families have the access, opportunities, skills and encouragement to connect with the great outdoors.

To reconnect with nature OAK believes that every child should have the opportunity and encouragement to play outside, touch soil, feel rain, watch leaves fall, sleep under the stars, count waves, eat food fresh from the garden, roll down a hill, catch a fish and enjoy the satisfaction of climbing to the top of a hill or a tree. Such simple acts create a pathway to longer hikes, an appreciation for wildlife, a desire to care for special places, healthier bodies, deeper family relationships and wiser people, which in turn OAK believes offers hope for a better world.

OAK's Membership
View OAK's Membership

** For more information, contact jackie.ostfeld [at] sierraclub.org; 202-548-6584 or visit our website: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org