2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Kenny Mai


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

Kenny came to the Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LACC) with a number of challenges: gang affiliation, homelessness, drugs, alcohol, limited family support, a single parent household, anger problems, and family conflict with his stepfather. Because English is not his first language, Kenny struggled through school and dropped out. However, he refused to give up on education a second time. At age 19 Kenneth enrolled in Job Corps where he received his GED. Despite the threats and fear of giving up gang life, he started working as a Corpsmember at LA Conservation Corps in March 2007. While training at the Corps he learned carpentry, roofing, plumbing, irrigation and drywall.  Kenny showed up to work daily and to learned how to deal with family, work, and stress. 

Kenny was elected President of the LA Corps Leadership Council where his responsibilities included motivating corpsmembers to participate in partnership with the LA Conservation Corps.  His involvement with the Leadership Council has developed his leadership skills to the point where he now recruits and promotes participation in the LA Conservation Corps's numerous programs.

Kenny said, “Life after the corps will be a bigger step in my life which comes with more opportunities to grow despite drama and stress.  In the near future I see myself enrolled in a community college, working and becoming part of the LA Conservation Corps staff.  I also plan on getting my degree in electronics and continue my career in construction.”

2009 Corspmember of the Year: Sarah LaRocque


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


(Written in 2009) 

Sarah joined Heart of Oregon in August 2007 after a tumultuous childhood filled with drugs and instability. Sarah was extremely motivated to improve her life through education and hard work, and was determined to make it on her own as a single mother.

After attending one quarter of GED Prep, Sarah earned her GED and became taking College Prep classes.  While attending one of Heart of Oregon’s “Career Pathways” classes, she met the Human Resources Director of Bend Broadband, a local cable service provider.  After Sarah completed her term at Heart of Oregon, she reconnected with Bend Broadband and became one of their Customer Support Specialists.

As Sarah stated, “My main goal when I started was to be able to pay all my bills and start planning for my daughter's future, but I thought that was too far of a dream for me. Now I realize that all I needed was the right guidance and constant reassurance that anything can be done.   My life is better because I took that first step by myself, and after that I had my new family to hold my hand.”

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Arthur Jacuinde

 

When Arthur Jacuinde enrolled in the EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps' YouthBuild program in March 2007, he was facing many obstacles in his life.  He was unemployed, on Juvenile Parole, a high school dropout with no work experience, and living in a group home. 

With the support of the Corps, he enrolled in EOC’s School of Unlimited Learning - a charter high school - to complete his secondary education. After just eighteen months, Arthur passed the California High School Exit Exam and received his high school diploma.  With his AmeriCorps Education Award, he enrolled at Fresno City College.  Arthur was also selected as a delegate at the National Young Leaders Conference and has begun working on a pilot program, “Our America,” initiated by YouthBuild USA.  As part of the project, he is talking to other corpsmembers and encouraging them to share their life stories. He is working on initiating discussions about issues affecting corpsmembers and raising awareness about these issues.

Arthur was also recognized by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Division of Parole Operations for his commitment to change and achieve success.

Arthur is currently enrolled in a second term at Fresno and plans on using his education award to continue furthering his education at Fresno City College in the Fire Academy.

As Arthur says:

“I realize now that nothing is impossible. I have learned a few things about what life is and now I have total control over the outcomes in my life. I now understand the value of my freedom and that even though I cannot change my past, I am in total control of my future.”

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Aaron Dennis Crouse

(Written in 2009)

Aaron Dennis Crouse first started working with the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) the summer after his junior year of high school.  He spent his summer decommissioning roads and building trails leading to the Wild and Scenic Verde River. He was happier than he had ever been in his life.  During his senior year, however, he was hospitalized for severe depression.

Going back to CREC the next summer kept him going.  He decided to postpone college in order to stay at CREC.  He spent three grueling months working on a backcountry crew for the Southwest Conservation Corps, based in Tucson, AZ.   By September, he had been unanimously elected as Crew Leader even though he was the youngest person on the crew.   Before the term ended, he had already signed up for a year-long term back in Flagstaff. 

CREC was a life changing experience for Aaron.  As he said:

“This year has brought more than a fair share of tribulations for me: I struggled, once again, with being the youngest member on my crew; I contracted a MRSA infection and had to be hospitalized for 2 weeks after having a golf-ball-sized chunk of flesh removed from my knee; two of my high school friends died, as well as my Grandmother, who was the driving force in my life.  I honestly believe that I couldn’t have dealt with these challenges without my experiences in CREC and the support from my CREC family.” 

Aaron wants to continue working to improve the environmental health of the Arizona landscape he has come to love. 

It fills me with pride to know that I have spent the last year-and-a-half making a positive difference in the environment, and it fills me with elation to know that I will be able to continue this work," said Aaron. "Despite all of the challenges that I have faced this year, I will be graduating with friendships that are stronger than any natural substance, experiences inconceivable to those who have not had them, and a sense of accomplishment that will act as a strong foundation for the rest of my life.”

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Quintin Williams


***Update! Click here to read about what Quintin has been up to since he won his award***

(Written in 2010)

Before joining the Corps, Quintin Williams was like many young people, working an unsatisfying job that provided little challenge.

Quintin sought out the Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) and the Inclusive Crew where Corpsmembers with and without disabilities surveyed campgrounds and trails for Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines. Quintin himself is completely blind, and previous work opportunities had been with others who were blind or visually impaired. 

The Inclusive Crew’s mix, including mobility disabilities, gave Quintin a more complex understanding of accommodation. In addition, Quintin inspired his crewmates and used humor to break down barriers and honestly communicate about differences in ability, demonstrating a natural leadership that led him to promotion as crew leader.

Under Quintin’s leadership the crew took a local project and made it national: developing a new accessibility information database for the Forest Service that will provide the public with information on accessible campsites, facilities, and services.  The database is a leap forward for the Forest Service in its transition planning—and, by no accident, accessible to those who use a screen reader.

Quintin is a leader and ambassador for accessibility on public lands—one of the nation’s rising leaders in the field of service.

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Alisha Peters

Alisha Peters moved to Ohio to live with her sister to escape an environment where she was getting into trouble, especially with drugs.

WSOS Community Action, Inc. gave Alisha her first work experiences—and she excelled.  She welcomed new Corpsmembers, sharing her cell phone number in case they needed someone who would listen or provide support. She offered any Corpsmember a place to stay and a hot meal if they needed it. And in the Corps, she served as an Ohio Benefit Bank Counselor, assisting low-income families with issues ranging from homelessness to applying for heating assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, and tax preparation.

Alisha traveled through four counties, setting up evening and weekend tax clinics to be sure that working families could get the help they needed when they needed it. When families came in for a tax appointment with her, they often walked out not only with tax refunds, but with food stamps, transportation benefits, and Medicaid support. Most remarkably, the record shows that Alisha Peters assisted more families than any other OBB Tax Counselor in the state of Ohio. She went from being a person needing help to being a person who was exemplary for giving help to others.

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Alejandro Lopez

Alejandro Lopez was incarcerated at the age of 15 for a gang-related drive-by shooting. He lost two years of his life behind bars, and feels he could easily have wound up living a sad stereotype: the son of farm workers, with a criminal record, likely to end up back in jail or worse.

Fortunately, EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps recruited from his class of parolees. In the Corps, the once reserved young man blossomed and recovered from past mistakes.

Alejandro began vocational training on an irrigation crew while attending the Corps’ School of Unlimited Learning. The boy with the record became a man with credentials: earning a high school diploma and AmeriCorps Education Awards which took him to Fresno City College.

In 2009 Alejandro was selected for the Division of Juvenile Justice Outstanding Achievement Award for Juvenile Courts – recognition reserved for young ex-offenders who have changed their lives.

Today Alejandro has reached accomplishments his parents hardly dared dream of. He owns his own home, building a stable family for his child. To give back to others living the life he once had, he works at EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps, aiming to grow into a supervisory role.

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Shanice Long

Observers who see Shanice Long advise Corpsmembers on how to master the requirements for the high school diploma, or hear her representing Corpsmembers in second chance appeal, might not suspect that this quiet young woman, who leads by example, came to Oakland’s Civicorps homeless, without a mom or dad, a sixteen year-old 11th grade dropout with 9th grade credits, with just the clothes on her back. 

Shanice Long walked in the door and then, as she says, “my life changed 100 percent.” She joined a crew working 32 hours a week in exhausting heavy trail maintenance. After hours Shanice headed straight to class and worked just as hard on getting her diploma—and so was able to give up the chainsaw and post-hole digger for the computer, working at Civicorps’ Learning Center, where she rapidly mastered a range of software and demonstrated a real gift in helping others achieve. 

Today after work, she still goes to school—but now that means community college, where Shanice is in her second semester, focusing on paralegal studies, using one of her two AmeriCorps scholarships. She just moved into her first apartment, bought a car, and has plans to continue at a four-year college.   

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Corey Brown

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

Corey Brown’s mother’s severe mental illness made parenting an impossibility. From a young age Corey lived with and cared for his father, who had severe physical disabilities. Corey did everything: buying family groceries, cleaning, and earning money to help pay the bills, without complaint. 

In college, Corey juggled a full course load with a forty to fifty hour work week, while maintaining the family household. “I was miserable, poor, burnt out from all the work and terrified that if I messed up one thing that would be the end of it. I did not have parents or support to rely on. I was alone.”

Then Corey made a dramatic decision. He would move cross-country to live with a mentor in Denver, building a new life for himself. Corey was hired by Mile High Youth Corps.

On the Water Conservation Crew, Corey became a problem-solver and leader, taking on increasing levels of responsibility. The support of the Corps allowed him to share the strengths that he had always relied upon in youth.

Corey plans to dedicate his life to instilling that same confidence in others by eventually earning a Master’s degree in psychology and working as a counselor or social worker.

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: William Brandt

Once a wildly undisciplined youth, William Brandt’s lack of direction was aggravated by substance abuse and a defensive, angry attitude.  He got into trouble with the law.

But when he heard about the Urban Corps of San Diego—and the opportunity to get paid, get trained, and earn a diploma, all at the same time—his goals came quickly into focus.  The Corps staff treated him as a young professional, and William rose to the challenge. 

Today William is a self-possessed young man who represents the Corps in outreach events, is currently studying at the community college, with the aim of getting his associates’ degree in drug and alcohol counseling with an emphasis on social work. 

At the same time, he will be serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the Restoring Youth and Communities program in San Diego, which works within parole and corrections offices, counseling and mentoring youth in the justice system. 

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