Jon Brito, 2014 Corpsmember of the Year, featured on AmeriCorps Alums blog

Kupu HYCC Team Molokai doing trail maintenance in Kamakou rainforest preserve with The Nature Conservancy

Service Learning - Connecting the Past and the Future in Hawaii
by Jon Brito

This blog originally appeared on the AmeriCorps Alums website, November 26, 2014

Today’s guest blog comes to us from Jon Brito. Born and raised on the island of Moloka’i, Jon served with the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps (Summer 2012 and 2013) as a team leader. He also continued his conservation and restoration AmeriCorps service with Ka Honua Momona during the 2012-2013 year. Jon is now a student at the University of Hawaii Maui College.

Born and raised on the island of Molokai, I have the honor and privilege to have my moʻokūʻauhau trace back to the ancients of the past. Having served a variety of AmeriCorps terms, I am currently back in school pursuing an Electronic and Computer Engineering degree with a side study in GIS technology at the University of Hawaii Maui College.

I believe utilizing technology will give us a better grasp of where conservation and restoration is needed with precision to better address any issues. I also believe getting a little dirty and sweaty in the field is food for the soul! This is my experience as an Americorps recipient and service learner.

In the Hawaiian Language there is an ‘olelo noe’au, or wise saying, that goes “ma ka hana ka ‘ike, ma ka ‘ike ka mana” which translates to “it is in the doing that one learns.” This is a life thought that I have heard countless times growing up, yet it is only in my adulthood that I have really come closer to understanding. It is a mantra that I have learned and relearned time and time again over the course of various AmeriCorps opportunities.

In the summer of 2012, I desperately needed a life change from the monotony of university life in California and looked to return to my home island of Moloka’i. I had left the island life with prospects of advancing myself in the social ladder by moving away, however I found myself still missing something. I decided to move home and got the chance to be a team leader for Kupu Hawaii’s Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps where I led a team of four high school graduates to various worksites throughout Moloka’i and the state of Hawaii.  I had so much fun that the following summer I led a second team!

As a team leader it was my duty to motivate and facilitate my team safely through various service learning experience. We definitely worked in the extreme environments from the constant rain of the Kamakou Preserve Rainforest to the sun burnt desert of the island Kaho’olawe.

The majority of my job was keeping these young adults interested in the work that we were doing. To me it was not only showing them the benefit the work had on the ‘aina or land, but also on themselves. We were all learning more about ourselves, each other, and our culture.

Our ancestors had walked and swam these areas, taking care of and nurturing them. Something I tried to get across was that this duty to continue caring for the land and sea came in part as an inheritance from the ancients before us. But, as future ancestors, this duty was also inspired by our need to pass down something worthy to the next generation. A lot of work has been put into the conservation of our natural resources, and it is something that needs to continue to be done.

I also served an AmeriCorps term as a year-long intern for the 2012-2013 year at the non-profit Ka Honua Momona. Ka Honua Momona is tasked with restoring two 500 year-old, thirty acre fishponds from pre-contact Hawaii to operating condition. Being part of the intern team I was charged with removing invasive non-native and maintenance of the pond walls . The work was dirty and wet, yet extremely fulfilling. To be apart of such a magnificent movement of Hawaiians getting out and working to to restore pono to our land and sea is truly a humbling opportunity.

If my AmeriCorps opportunity could be summed up into one word it would be this: more. Even after my time as a Corps member ended, I still wanted more. To continue to contribute and partake in the restoration and conservation of our valuable natural resources is still something that I do every chance I get. I have changed my uniform from the weekday adventurer to the weekend volunteer. While it is not a full time occupation for me (yet), at my core, I will always have that drive and need for more volunteerism and positive contribution to my people, the land, the sea, and to the world. Mahalo nui.

Click here to Learn more about Jon.

Photos of the Month: November 2014

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps Facebook pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from November 2014.


Green City Force 

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - Colorado 

Fresno Local Conservation Corps

Civic Works

ACE - American Conservation Experience

SCA - The Student Conservation Association

Orange County Conservation Corps

Montana Conservation Corps


Heart of Oregon Corps

Arizona Conservation Corps

Maine Conservation Corps


The Corps Network is on AmazonSmile!


Did you know that you can support The Corps Network just by shopping on Amazon? 

How does it work? 
AmazonSmile is a program through which Amazon will donate a percentage of your purchases to a charity of your choice. When you select The Corps Network to receive this donation, 0.5% of the cost of your Amazon purchases will automatically be disbursed to TCN.

How do I choose The Corps Network to receive this donation?
Next time you go to shop, you can do one of two things:
2. Instead of typing in, type in This will take you to the same Amazon you know and love, but before you begin shopping there will be a pop-up box asking which charity you'd like to donate to. Simply type in The Corps Network and you're on your way. 
Thank you for choosing The Corps Network!

How to Protect America's Public Lands

The Corps Network's National Public Lands Day 2014 video

Protecting America’s Public Lands and supporting America’s Youth Service and Conservation Corps go hand-in-hand. Every year, Corps do an enormous amount of work to keep our natural spaces clean, healthy and accessible.

In national, state and local parks, Corps build and maintain trails and bridges, remove invasive species, stabilize stream banks, create habitats for native plants and animals, fight wildfires, remove trail hazards, and complete a wide range of other projects that keep our public lands useable and natural for generations to come.

Due to budget cutbacks and the growing number of employees entering retirement age, America’s federal land management agencies do not have the capacity to complete all of the maintenance projects our public lands require. Corps fill in the gaps by providing quality, cost-effective labor. Without Corps, many of our favorite parks and national monuments could fall into disrepair.

Service and Conservation Corps not only do a great service for America’s public lands; they also do a great service for our youth. Corps provide their members (generally people ages 16 – 25) hands-on work experience; leadership experience; hard and soft job skills training; and the valuable opportunity to spend time in some of our country’s most beautiful natural places. Today’s Corpsmembers are tomorrow’s land managers: they are the next generation of environmental stewards who will keep our public lands healthy.

One way to support these important programs and ensure we have a skilled conservation workforce in the future is to support the programs and laws that protect and expand our public lands. Click below to learn about some of America’s most important environmental conservation policies:

Antiquities Act

Synopsis: Gives the President of the United States the power to designate a national monument. Places currently under consideration to become national monuments include: Alpine Lakes - Washington; Berryessa Snow Mountain - California; Boulder-White Clouds - Idaho; Desolation Canyon - Utah; Greater Canyonlands - Utah; Rocky Mountain Front - Montana; San Rafael Swell - Utah; 

Clean Air Act

Synopsis: A law that established regulations and rules for monitoring and addressing air pollution.

Clean Water Act

Synopsis: A law that helps protect our nation’s water by preventing pollution and regulating the clean-up of polluted rivers, lakes, and groundwater.

Endangered Species Act

Synopsis: A law that protects endangered species of animals and plants from extinction, but also encourages their re-introduction into the wild and recovery.

Land & Water Conservation Fund

Synopsis: A federal program that supplies funding for conservation projects on public lands including national monuments. The money is mostly generated through revenues provided by companies drilling offshore for oil and gas as part of their agreements with the U.S. government.

National Environmental Policy Act

Synopsis: A law that mandates government agencies follow certain procedures when developing new construction projects. These procedures include conducting an environmental impact assessment, allowing for public comment, and releasing an environmental impact statement.

Wilderness Act

Synopsis: Created the legal definition of wilderness in the United States and established regulations for how wilderness areas can be used. 

Films about Engaging the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders

Civic Works Corpsmembers featured in Discovering the Boulder-White Clouds

Join The Corps Network at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a film screening and discussion about getting youth outdoors

When: Friday, November 14, 2014
            2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. (EST)

  RSVP required!
  Please respond to Tess Richey ( by 12:00 p.m. (EST)
  on Tuesday, November 11, 2014
  Include your full name, title, and email address.  

Where: Jefferson Auditorium
             U.S. Department of Agriculture 
             1400 Independence Avenue, SW
             Washington, DC


Event details: 
The Corps Network is hosting a film screening and discussion focused on engaging youth in conservation and inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders. In addition to premiering our new documentary short, Discovering the Boulder-White Clouds, the event will feature speakers from numerous federal agencies, as well as 4 short films from friends and partners of The Corps Network. 


  • Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Bill Basl, Director of AmeriCorps, Corporation for National & Community Service
  • Carl Rountree, Assistant Director, National Landscape Conservation Systems and Community Partnerships, U.S. Department of Interior
  • U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (AZ)
  • Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President & CEO, The Corps Network
  • Laura Herrin, Vice President, Mid-Atlantic/Southeast Region, Student Conservation Association
  • Davon Baynes, Real Food Farm Corpsmember, Civic Works


Film Lineup:

  • Discovering the Boulder-White Clouds - *PREMIERE* - The Corps Network

Description:  Discovering the Boulder-White Clouds follows eight young adults from Civic Works, a youth Service and Conservation Corps based in Baltimore, MD, as they camp and hike in the wilderness of the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains, a proposed national monument. The film focuses on the parallels between the urban environment in Baltimore and the wilderness of a place like the Boulder-White Clouds, emphasizing the value of preserving the environmental health of both settings. By exploring the pristine public lands of Idaho, the Corpsmembers, who in Baltimore grow healthy food on an urban farm and retrofit low-income homes to improve energy efficiency, gain a new perspective on the importance of conservation.
- Learn more about the video


  • The Colorado River: Our River, Our Story, Our Time - Nuestro Rio

Description: In the Summer of 2013, Latino youth from Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico joined Nuestro Rio Youth Leadership Program for an educational trip down the Colorado River. The trip participants learned about the river and its tributaries, history and importance. 
- Watch the video


Description: The American population is increasingly diverse, but the conservation movement remains largely white. Through Legacy Camp, the Children and Nature Network teaches “natural leaders” – diverse millennials who have demonstrated leadership in engaging their communities in the outdoors – skills and techniques to enhance their engagement efforts. The Legacy Camp trains the next, more diverse generation of conservation leaders how to effectively build capacity for, and interest in, outdoor activities in minority communities in a way that is meaningful and lasting.  
- Watch the video


  • NPS Academy in the Great Smoky Mountains - SCA

Description: Operated through a partnership between the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and the National Park Service, NPS Academy offers paid internships in a national park to undergraduate and graduate students of color from across the country. The Academy is designed to build a skilled, motivated, and ethnically diverse 21st Century Workforce for America’s national parks.  
- Watch the video


Description: In celebration of National Public Lands Day 2014 and the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, Southern California Mountains Foundation brought three busloads of children and families from the Inland Empire region of California, plus youth from Urban Conservation Corps, to experience the San Gorgonio wilderness in the San Bernardino National Forest. For many celebration participants, this was their first time exploring a wilderness area. 
- Watch the video

Photos of the Month: October 2014

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps Facebook pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from October 2014.


Canyon Country Youth Corps - check out more awesome CCYC photos from October on flickr

Arizona Conservation Corps 


Texas Conservation Corps - "watch out for trail zombies!"


Green City Force 

Los Angeles Conservation Corps 


RMYC - Colorado 

RMYC - Colorado 

Greening Youth Foundation 


Utah Conservation Corps 

Mile High Youth Corps 

Maine Conservation Corps 

RMYC - New Mexico 

Heart of Oregon Corps 

Larimer County Conservation Corps 





The Corps Network Thanks President Obama for Designation of San Gabriel Mountains National Monument


(Read our op-ed in response to the San Gabriel Mountains national monument designation).

Today, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate 346,177 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains in California a national monument. This will give protection to the only large-scale open space accessible to millions of residents of Los Angeles County. As stated in a White House press release:

The peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains frame the Los Angeles skyline and offer hundreds of miles of hiking, mountain biking, motorized, and equestrian trails as well as campgrounds to the area’s diverse residents. In addition to providing drinking water, the San Gabriels' rivers support rare populations of native fish, while the vegetation found in the monument supports native wildlife and insect species, including pollinators important to farmers. The area is also rich in cultural and scientific history. More than 600 archeologically and culturally significant sites are found within the new monument, such as the Aliso-Arrastre Special Interest Area, which features rock art and cupules that exemplify more than 8,000 years of Native American history. The new monument is also home to the Mt. Wilson Observatory, where Edwin Hubble discovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way and Albert Michelson provided the first modern measurement of the speed of light.

The Corps Network and fourteen of its member organizations have issued a thank you letter to President Obama. A PDF of the letter can be accessed by clicking here, and the full text is published below. 

Full Text of The Corps Network's Letter to President Obama:


October 10, 2014

The President
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500


Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of Service and Conservation Corps across the country, we write to thank you for your recent action to protect the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument.

Although the nation’s 100+ Service and Conservation Corps are diverse in mission and membership, we all strive to improve quality of life for our participants and in our communities.  From building trails and campgrounds on our nation’s iconic public lands, to creating and caring for urban parks and gardens, to improving the energy efficiency of low-income housing, to helping communities prepare for and recover from disasters, Corps provide communities with valuable services and participants with the job training, academic programming, leadership skills and more, to improve lives and the environment.

It is this dedication to the betterment of future generations that leads us to strongly support your recent action to create the San Gabriel National Monument.  Protecting these pristine public lands will help to secure recreational opportunities for local communities and encourage more Americans to spend time in the great outdoors.  This will help boost local economies, support public health, and inspire future generations to embody the conservation ethic we all hold dear.

We also want to thank and recognize Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell for her tireless leadership on behalf of Service and Conservation Corps.  Her support of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps has been extraordinary, and her recognition of the importance that land conservation policies play in furthering the missions of Conservation Corps everywhere is integral to our future success.

Thank you again for acting to protect the San Gabriel Mountains, and we look forward to seeing other special landscapes protected in the future.


Mary Ellen Sprenkel
President and CEO
The Corps Network

And the undersigned Corps:


San Gabriel Valley Conservation and Service Corps
El Monte, CA

Orange County Conservation Corps
Anaheim, CA

Farmworker Institute's Kern Service and Conservation Corps
Tehachapi, CA

Great Basin Institute / Nevada Conservation Corps
Reno, NV

Conservation Legacy
Durango, CO

Environmental Stewards
Durango, CO

Southwest Conservation Corps
Salida & Durango, CO and Acoma Pueblo, NM

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps
Taos, NM

Arizona Conservation Corps
Tucson & Flagstaff, AZ

Southeast Youth Corps
Chattanooga, TN

Wisconsin Conservation Corps
La Crosse, WI

Vermont Youth Conservation Corps
Richmond, VT

American YouthWorks
Austin, TX

Texas Conservation Corps
Austin, TX




National Council of Young Leaders shares their Recommendations on Capitol Hill


Washington, D.C. -- On Friday, October 3, 2014, the National Council of Young Leaders held a Congressional Briefing to share their Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America. The Council, comprised of 16 diverse opportunity youth from across the country, developed these six Recommendations in response to some of the most pervasive problems faced by low-income young Americans.

All of the 16 councilmembers contributed their different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives to creating the Recommendations. Some of them spoke about their experiences and personal connections to specific Recommendations during the briefing.


Recommendation 1Expand effective comprehensive programs.

                Philan Tree (affiliated with The Corps Network - Flagstaff, AZ) spoke of how comprehensive programs, like Service and Conservation Corps or YouthBuild, provide the wraparound support many opportunity youth need in order to advance their careers and educational goals. Childcare and family responsibilities, transportation issues, the need to work and make money – these are all common barriers faced by low-income young people trying to access the educational or career opportunities that could help them get ahead. Comprehensive programs address these problems, making sure youth don’t have to sacrifice in order to go to school or learn new job skills.

Recommendation 2Expand national service.

                Deon Jones (affiliated with Be The Change - Washington, DC) spoke of how people in poor communities often feel like their situation is a problem that someone else can fix. They don’t feel like they have the power to be part of the solution. Deon talked about how expanding national service to engage more low-income individuals in programs like AmeriCorps or YouthBuild is a way to give people the empowerment to make a difference. When a generation of young people realize that, instead of being served, they can be the “architects” of making healthier, stronger, safer communities, there will be an overflow of prosperity into the generations to come.

Recommendation 3Expand private internships.

                Adam Strong (affiliated with YouthBuild USA - Hazard, KY) talked about how many American employers are looking for workers, but our young people don’t have the skills required to fill available positions. Expanding internships is an excellent way to address this issue because interning gives a young person exposure to the work world, hands-on experience, and the chance to develop hard and soft skills. Young people also find mentors through their internships, and build a network of professionals to help them find a job in the future. Comprehensive programs like Year Up provide intensive job skills training and access to corporate internships that give young people a solid footing in the work world.   

Recommendation 4Increase all forms of mentoring.

                Ramean Clowney (affiliated with Jobs for the Future - Philadelphia, PA) spoke about how mentors made, and continue to make, a huge difference in his life. Many opportunity youth who reconnect with education or work have a mentor to thank for encouraging them along the way. Anybody can be a mentor, regardless of his or age, and can help someone simply by answering questions, being a good listener, and showing that they believe in their mentee’s potential. Ramean talked about the benefit of having multiple mentors, including people who share your background and can relate to your issues, as well as people who can expose you to new opportunities and communities.

Recommendation 5Protect and expand pathways to higher education.

                Shawnice Jackson (affiliated with Public Allies - Baltimore, MD) talked about her own experience navigating the confusing world of college applications and financial aid without guidance or support from people who understood the processes. Shawnice spoke of how students need to be protected from predatory loans and should be equipped with the financial literacy to make good decisions about how to fund their education. She talked about the need for more affordable college options, as well as the need to help students realize their eligibility for certain resources and access financial aid.

Recommendation 6Reform the criminal justice system.

                Lashon Amado (affiliated with YouthBuild USA - Brockton, MA) talked about how America is quick to lock people up, but we forget that over 90 percent of prisoners are eventually reintroduced into society. Our system is flawed in that approximately 2/3 of former inmates recommit and once again find themselves behind bars. Lashon spoke of his own experience of “having society turn its back” on him once he had a record. We need to make sure that those who once committed a crime are not shutout from the community and forced back into the illegal activities that landed them in trouble in the first place.

                Ladine “JR” Daniels (affiliated with The Corps Network - Charleston, SC) also spoke from experience about how difficult it can be to reenter society after a period of incarceration. He talked about the need to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act in order to protect young offenders. Ladine talked about how, like Lashon, finding a job was nearly impossible with his record, but, through national service, he was able to get back in the work world and develop a set of skills and credentials to build a career. Second chances for offenders are few and far between, meaning that those who find these opportunities will go into them with all the enthusiasm they can generate. People who might have made mistakes in the past have the potential to do great things and succeed if only given the chance. 

Where are they now? Updates from The 2014 Corpsmembers of the Year


Jon Brito 

Since the conference I have completed my fellowship with Hawaii Energy through a program of Kupu, called RISE. Through various technical retrofits and behavior changing programs, we helped save tens of thousands of kWh from Hawaii's electrical grid. This saved barrels of oil used and reduced CO2 emissions across the board.

I am still in school, still working towards my Electronic Computer Engineering degree on Maui through the University of Maui. I am also working on a GIS certification.

Something I have gained through my experience in the Corps is some amazing networking opportunities. Doing my GIS certification has led us to map out some of Maui's premiere environments and preserves. There is also this need to continue my work in conservation even though I currently am not directly employed.

I still continue to volunteer at the fishpond, and have cleared a whole shoreline of the invasive mangrove. Roughly 3 acres have been removed from the time I started at the fishpond. Currently I am still looking for more volunteer opportunities, but I am lucky because on Maui they are plentiful.


Edgar Galvez

Hi, everyone. This is Edgar Galvez - I attended The Corps Network 2014 conference as a Corpsmember of the Year. Let me tell you, that conference was amazing. I had a blast in DC, and getting to know the other Corpsmembers of the year. After the conference I came back home and started working for the union.  There have been so many projects that I’ve been working on, like schools, freeways, bridges. It's been incredible to see how things are built and destroyed.

I also go back to Fresno YouthBuild and talk to the new Corpsmembers that are coming in about my life, and how the Corps changed my life, and how it could happen to any of them if they truly believe in themselves.

The other wonderful thing that happened after the conference is that my wife just gave birth to my baby boy, Damian. It's truly a blessing.

What I gained from the conference is public speaking experience. That was my biggest fear or obstacle, but ever since I read my speech in front of all those people I believe in myself more. When it's time to speak in a group or conference, I think I can handle it now. 


Eliseo Nunez 

I woke up this morning and noticed my doormat was backwards. Instead of wondering what happened, right away my love for life made it clear.

“Welcome to planet earth, anything is possible!”

Since my trip to D.C. I’ve really been putting in the time and effort to make San Diego a better place. Clearly it has not only been an amazing opportunity for me to grow, but I feel that I have planted thousands of seeds. For starters, I am now a full time supervisor with San Diego Urban Corps. I find it hard to forget where it all began. My plan is to be the best supervisor I can be and to keep furthering my education. When it’s time to go, I’ll have such an amazing bag of tools I can use out there to keep making my city a beautiful place.

The San Diego Union Tribune has written two articles about me, the city council has awarded me with my own day in early March. Last night I just got a certificate of appreciation signed by an honorable judge here with the superior court. Everyone asks who, what, why?

Well, going back to my doormat. Nothing has changed, I welcome each day with open arms. I do my best to find the gain in the pain, the good in the bad, and the happy in the sad. Thank you guys for sharing these special moments with me and I pledge to continue to take it one day at a time!!!!!


Linda Santana

Since the conference, I’ve moved back to Los Angeles, CA. During the summer, most of my time was spent volunteering at a high school and doing things with my family. Most recently I got a job working for an afterschool program. I work with 2nd grade students, not only helping them with their homework but also providing them with other activities that will allow them to be successful.

As I reflect back on the past year and my term with RMYC, I can’t help but feel grateful for the experience the Corps provided me with. It inspired me, gave me confidence and provided me with personal growth. Although currently I’m not working in an outdoor/ conservation field, the skills I learned have helped me tremendously. My leadership skills have improved, I’m more assertive when it comes to getting things done but I’m also conscious of when I need to step back and allow others to do their job. I learned to have patience and let things go. Living in L.A. my personal as well as professional lifestyle are different but I still find time to go on occasional hikes and am trying my best to live a healthier and more fit lifestyle. 



Ruby Simonian

After my California Conservation Corps experience, I am now working for State parks in the beautiful redwoods of northern California. I will always take my corps experience with me in my future endeavors and will forever be grateful for my past excursions. I plan on continuing school and working towards my goal to become an ecopsychologist.




Candace Washington

Since the conference I have continued being actively engaged in public environmental events. Shortly after the conference I was invited to New York City for a fundraiser for Civicorps by Reeta, she is on the board of directors for Civicorps.  In May I was asked to be the emcee and say a speech to over two hundred people for Civicorps’ Gala. This was also an event to raise money for corpsmembers who graduated and went off to college.

I am still enrolled and attending community college where I am earning my credits needed to transfer. Currently I am working at the City of Oakland Environmental Services division; I received a one year extension. I was also offered a possible permanent position that pays twice as much as what I make now with the City of Oakland Public works call center. I have accepted the offer and I will start next year once I have a full two years of public experience.

Photos of the Month: September 2014

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps Facebook pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from September 2014.


Arizona Conservation Corps

Heart of Oregon Corps

Limitless Vistas

Greater Miami Service Corps - packing meals for seniors

Urban Corps of San Diego - taking a stand against texting and driving

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa


Civic Works

Larimer County Conservation Corps

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - CO

Washington Conservation Corps - responding to flood damage

Youth Conservation Corps - beach cleanup

Montana Conservation Corps