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. 

2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Yvette Chischillie

As a Corpsmember with the Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) in Durango, CO, Yvette was part of a Special Diabetes Project of the Navajo Nation, led a crew in constructing a brand new trail in the Chuska Mountains of New Mexico and was a leader of the Wild Fire Prevention Program.

Yvette was the first SCC Corpsmember from the Navajo Nation and her positive experience inspired so many to apply in the following years that there are now more applications from the Navajo Nation than there are available member spots.

Yvette graduated from vocational school in welding in bricklaying and plans to use her AmeriCorps education award to go into a apprenticeship program in bricklaying.

2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Rosalio "Lio" Cardenas

 

(Written in 2007 - update at the bottom)

Rosalio took an unusual path to becoming a Corpsmember.  After spending two and a half semesters working towards a civil engineering degree at San Diego State University, and working much of that time in the university library and as a math and science tutor, Rosalio decided his college experience was lacking.  In the CCC, Rosalio saw his opportunity to work outdoors, provide a valuable service to his state, meet new people from various backgrounds, and earn scholarship money to assist him in completing his degree in the future. 

As a CCC corpsmember, Rosalio initially engaged in fire hazard reduction work, removing burned and dead trees from communities hard hit by the San Diego wildfires of 2000.  In early spring with heavy rains threatening flooding and mudslides, Rosalio and his crewmembers again served their communities by working tirelessly to divert debris, flood waters, and mud from residential neighborhoods.  Because of his high standards for performance and eagerness to assist others, Rosalio quickly established himself as a leader among his peers.  By April, Rosalio was ready for the next challenge that the CCC had to offer: the Backcountry Trails Program.

Choosing to leave the comforts of home life in southern California, Rosalio joined a crew of 15 Corpsmembers who committed themselves to spending 22 weeks living and working in the wilderness of Klamath National Forest.  The trials faced by backcountry Corpsmembers are daunting, but once again Rosalio was unflinching in his determination to meet them.  Rosalio stood out not only for the unprecedented results he achieved on the grade, but also for the amount of time he committed to performing communal chores and providing mentoring and guidance to his fellow crewmembers. He went beyond expectations by creating an extensive evening curriculum program aimed at developing a greater sense of community, environmental awareness, and communication skills.   His compassion, integrity, and consideration for others were widely respected among his peers and earned him the moniker, “Papa Leo.”  Peter Lewis, the CCC’s Backcountry Trails Supervisor, said of Rosalio “in the 28 years we have been sending Corpsmembers to the backcountry, I can think of no finer person to represent the program or the youth of America.”

Leo now plans to use the AmeriCorps education award he earned with the CCC to finish his degree in Civil Engineering and has applied to the California Highway Patrol so he can continue to make an impact on his peers and community. 

*** Sadly, Rosalio was killed in a motorcycle accident on the morning of Wednesday, December 12, 2012. 

The Corps Network sends condolences to Rosalio’s wife, family, and friends. To honor Rosalio, we have posted the speech he gave at our National Conference in February 2007 upon accepting his Corpsmember of the Year award. 

2008 Corpsmember of the Year: Francisco Vizcarrondo

 

“It’s motivating to see a person who was in desolation and misery, then witness them in their weakness become strong and successful because of their drive to live a better life and improve on the skills and talents they have acquired.” 

Since his enrollment in the EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps, Francisco has received perfect attendance awards, been recognized as Corpsmember of the Month, earned his high school diploma, and completed a 675-hour term of service resulting in an AmeriCorps Education Award. He gained experience in concrete work, framing, drywall, roofing, landscaping, and sprinkler repair. He was also elected treasurer of the Corpsmember Council of FLCC, as well as the Youth Council at his transitional living center.

Francisco is currently studying Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning at Fresno City College.  It is hard to believe that he is the same person who enrolled in the Corps in December 2006 – a homeless, twice-convicted, drug-addicted high school dropout. 

“The experience has helped me reconstruct my life," said Francisco. "I plan to get certified in HVAC and Carpentry, have my own business, and present opportunities of advancement to others as they have been presented to me.”

2008 Corpsmember of the Year: Keith Storr

 


 

When Keith left his first term of service with the Greater Miami Service Corps for a music scholarship at Edward Waters College, his crew and supervisor of nearly seven months were sad to lose him but proud of his opportunity. When he found out a short time later that his mom had a terminal illness, he withdrew from his first semester of college and came home to take care of his mom and younger brother. When his mom passed, he knew he had to be strong for his little brother. 

Keith asked to return to the Corps. As he said, “At the time when I re-entered the Corps, my mom passed away and my younger brother and I had to move in with my grandmother.  The Corps staff helped me get back on track.” 

Keith is on the landscape maintenance crew for the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer. When he was sent on a special project to The Everglades National Park, his team, and especially Keith, received praise from park management.  Upon his return from the Everglades, Keith was asked to fill the gaps on a crew that was down to only two Corpsmembers and a Supervisor.   His hard work, along with the assistance of his fellow Corpsmembers, maintained 93 acres of grass and trees, ensuring the project was never behind.  As Keith said:

“I learned how to get the ‘job done’ and how to work smart and not hard.  Many Corpsmembers view me as a leader.  I am now enrolled in Miami-Dade College studying psychology.  I intend to use the skills gained at the Corps to assist me with my future goals.” 

Pages