Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Launches

Rhea Suh, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Budget and Management at the Department of Interior (DOI) talks about the vision for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.

Yesterday in Washington, D.C. the Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps launched with a meeting attended by over 50 people from numerous federal agencies, nonprofits, and youth policy groups. The Partnership is an effort to support the development and implementation of the 21CSC to reach its goal of engaging 100,000 young people and veterans per year in conservation service.

More specifically, the Partnership provides an interface for private partners to regularly interface with members of the National Council established earlier this year by 8 federal agencies to guide the implementation of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, following the completion of work by a Federal Advisory Committee that provided recommendations on how to structure, organize, and implement a program of this kind.

At the meeting Rhea Suh, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Budget and Management at the Department of Interior (DOI), spoke about the work that had occured so far to establish a 21CSC. Suh said that despite sequestration cuts and a general lack of new funding, that DOI plans to continue the momentum toward the large vision that the Federal Advisory Committee for the 21CSC mapped out. Another key theme throughout the discussion focused upon how Corps can help federal agencies, cities, and other partners to accomplish essential work during this era of limited budgets with a high degree of professionalism and low cost. Getting this message communicated to potential partners would be essential.

The Partnership next plans to focus the efforts of working groups upon key tasks such as finding funding with the government and from private sources for building the program, developing essential branding and marketing messages, sharing how-to-guides for facilitating partnerships, and planning simultaneous 21CSC launch events for the Fall.

Greater Miami Service Corps and The Corps Network Meet with U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson

Greater Miami Service Corps along with Mary Ellen Ardouny and Tyler Wilson from the Corps Network were happy to be able to meet with U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson at her Miami District Office recently.

During the meeting Representative Wilson learned about the great work Corps are doing in Miami and nationwide to engage youth and how that can be replicated through The Youth Corps Act. We also learned of Rep. Wilson’s passion for youth development and the non-profit she started called the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project.

International Students Benefit by Growing Food with Vermont Youth Conservation Corps [w/ Video]

From Vermont Youth Conservation Corps

Ali Al Jarah glides around the VYCC commercial kitchen like a seasoned chef.  He balances cooking pots and trays being wrapped for overnight storage.  It is like Ali has done this before, but this is new.  Very new.  Ali, a 16 year-old resident of Winooski, moved with his family from Iraq only seven months ago.  He wants to improve his English. “I am working to speak more English, but it is hard.” Ali is not one to give up, that much is clear.

At Winooski High School, over 30 different languages are spoken, and Ali has found a community there.  He’s also joined the VYCC community - Ali is participating in VYCC’s new after school internship for Winooski students.  Friday marked the halfway point in this six-week program, which is funded by the VYCC Annual Fund as well as a Community Based Learning grant from the Partnership for Change Education Reform Initiative.

Each afternoon, after donning VYCC uniforms in the VYCC schoolhouse, Ali and 27 peers eagerly meet outside for a stretch circle or cooperative game and a short group meeting to discuss the goals of the day.  So far, students have planted over 11,000 onions, and kale and cabbage in the fields behind the West Monitor Barn.  In the greenhouse, they have potted celery, peppers, celeriac and tomatoes.  Students also receive tutorial help as needed.

Food is a way to engage students in community-oriented activities and helps them learn more about each other.  This past Friday, students prepared food for a special evening presentation by leaders in the Conservation and Farm programs. In addition to sharing traditional dishes, students gain valuable skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership, and personal responsibility.

Farm Apprentice Caelyn Keenan observes, “Students who didn't speak to each other a few weeks ago are now comfortable in each other's company. We may not always have profound conversations, but the ease they have with one another is remarkable. I think hard work and food have a lot to do with this 'coming together.’”

They are also engaged in the issue of food security in our communities.  On June 7, students will plan and host the Friday Night Food Affair, a free community meal for residents of Richmond and surrounding towns.  To deepen their learning and make a positive impact in their hometown, the students will plan and host their own fall harvest community dinner in Winooski in September.

10 Conservation Corps Receive New Funding from Department of the Interior

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announces new project funding at an event with Northwest Youth Corps.

Last week we previewed an announcement of grants to be made by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell that she made at an event with Northwest Youth Corps (see more photos here).

Ten conservation corps who are members of The Corps Network were among the recipients of new grants to support youth employment and stewardship on federal lands. They include

Montana Conservation Corps
Student Conservation Association (California)
Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (NM)
Southwest Conservation Corps
Northwest Youth Corps
Nevada Conservation Corps
San Joaquin Regional Conservation Corps
Western Colorado Conservation Corps 
Los Angeles Conservation Corps
Urban Conservation Corps (Southern California Mountains Foundation)

Full descriptions of each project that was funded (including those of the Corps above) can be seen here. We congratulate all of our members on this great success!   


Student Conservation Association Highlighted by Washington Post for Summer Programs in DC Area

SCA Corpsmembers work at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, a National Park Service site.

The local section of The Washington Post published an article earlier this week about "service camps" for teens in the Metro DC Area. Among the programs highlighted are those of the Student Conservation Association (SCA).

One participant from last summer said, "You meet so many new people . . . and when you’re done with the work, you feel super satisfied, and that’s an awesome feeling."

Kevin Hamilton, Vice President of Communications for SCA, explains that increasingly these types of experiences are resume builders for young people, especially given the more competitive climate for college acceptance and jobs.

Read the full article on The Washington Post.

Southeast Youth Corps Prepares for Launch

From Southeast Youth Corps

Last evening, May 28th, a small group of local teens and parents gathered at the new Southeast Youth Corps office in Chattanooga, TN.  The topics of the evening centered around preparing these young adults for their upcoming experience as Corpsmembers on this summer’s inaugural Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew.

In addition to taking care of the necessary paperwork business, we all took this opportunity to discuss gear, camping logistics and details of  a-day-in-the life of a Corpsmember.  Most importantly, SYC recognized these youth for being pioneers within the community, and applauded them for stepping out of their comfort zones to participate in this challenging, yet rewarding experience. These youth will help set the standard for future SYC crews, and create a legacy that future Corpsmembers and Crew Leaders will discuss around campfires for years to come.

June 15th marks the official beginning of the YCC season, so stay tuned to the SYC Facebook page and blog for weekly updates on what these amazing youth are up to.

Video Features California Conservation Corps Veterans in Fisheries Work

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service has produced an outstanding video on a program involving former military veterans.  The veterans, working with NOAA, the U.S. Forest Service, the California Conservation Corps and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, are monitoring fish populations and restoring habitat.  The work has included completing 152 spawner surveys and surveying 228 miles of stream along California's North Coast.

The video can be found here (in the event the embedded version isn't working below).

California Conservation Corps Members Doing Ok after High-Speed Chase, Accident

From the California Conservation Corps Staff

The California Conservation Corps members hurt in a high-speed chase last week are all doing well, despite a harrowing experience.

The Fresno crew was working on fire hazard reduction project along the highway, not far from the Lake Tahoe area, when a state transportation worker alerted them to a car chase with the California Highway Patrol in pursuit.  Less than a minute later, the speeding car, traveling in a coned-off lane, drove up to the area where the CCC was working.  The driver lost control and went airborne.  The car grazed one corpsmember's hardhat, before the vehicle flipped over and killed the driver.  The car came to rest just  feet from the CCC's vehicle.

One corpsmember was airlifted to the hospital, but released that evening.  Several others were treated locally for minor injuries.

CCC Crew Supervisor Amy Duncan said the experience will likely draw her corpsmembers closer together.  "I think it will make them a lot stronger and closer as a crew. And probably nothing like this will ever happen again in their whole lives."

Green City Force Named Most Innovative Nonprofit in NYC by Mayor Bloomberg for Operating as Part of The Corps Network and AmeriCorps' Clean Energy Corps

Lisbeth Shepherd, Founder and Executive Director of Green City Force, and Wesley Booker, GCF Alum and current Community Environmental Center employee, accept NYC's Most Innovative Nonprofit Award from Mayor Bloomberg. The award recognizes nonprofits that exhibit "creative approaches and exemplary program implementation."

We are pleased to share wonderful news! Green City Force, one of our members who participates in The Corps Network's Clean Energy Corps program, has been named the most innovative nonprofit in New York City by the office of the mayor. A runner-up was also chosen.

"These organizations have proven records of improving lives in their communities, helping set New Yorkers on a path toward greater economic mobility," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "New York City continues to invest in innovative solutions to difficult challenges, and we are committed to supporting nonprofits that are doing the same."

Here is an excerpt from the press release published by Mayor Bloomberg's Office about Green City Force and the Clean Energy Corps program:

"Clean Energy Corps engages New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents between the ages of 18 and 24 on six-month environmental projects to educate on sustainability issues and provide critical work experience. Clean Energy Corps teams led the construction of Planters Grove at Lillian Wald Houses in 2011, an 8,000 square foot green space featuring a stormwater irrigation system.

Green City Force has produced a 78 percent graduation rate and a 65 percent job placement rate. On average, participants have achieved a full grade point increase in math or English. Following a two-week orientation, participant teams mobilize on community projects focused on energy efficiency, green infrastructure or urban agriculture. Each Friday is devoted to Green City Academy, a classroom component where participants learn environmental science, intensive math, career development, and technical skills. The program offers intensive follow-up over two years after graduation.

Located in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, Green City Force serves NYCHA youth who hold a GED or high school diploma but may lack the job skills, work experience or academic performance to secure career-track employment. Launched in 2009, Green City Force supports some of the key goals of PlaNYC—New York City's sustainability blueprint. Clean Energy Corps has served as a model for Americorps's national Clean Energy Service Corps, and has presented at the Clinton Global Initiative."

Green City Force will be awarded a first prize of $20,000 to support their work. Once again, please join us in congratulating them on this great honor!

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to Join Northwest Youth Corps for Service Project


Sally Jewell helps out with a Northwest Youth Corps Service Project. Photo courtesy of BLMOregon

*** Update: Scroll below to see more photos from the event! ***

Today Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will join Northwest Youth Corps for an event in Portland, Oregon where she will announce funding that has been awarded for conservation projects that aim to boost youth employment. Later she and Charlie Hales, Portland's Mayor, will join the Corps to participate in a service project in one of the city's urban parks. 

In 2012, Northwest Youth Corps enrolled 950 young people in its programs, making it one of the largest Corps programs in the country. As a leader in the Corps Movement, Executive Director Jeff Parker recently served on the federal advisory committee to provide guidance on establishing a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. He also serves as a member of The Corps Network's Corps Council.

In April, the Corps was announced as one of the grantees of The Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities program. "It is funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) through a $15 million, five-year relationship to promote environmental stewardship across the country." The program is a large public-private partnership, and will also fund a program called "America's Great Outdoors: Developing the Next Generation of Conservationists."

Additional members of The Corps Network who have already received funding as part of the Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities program include Southwest Conservation Corps and the Student Conservation Association. A full list of the grantees who have been announced so far can be seen here.

We congratulate Northwest Youth Corps on their participation in this event, and we know that they are going to be a fantastic ambassador for Corps!

Photos from Secretary Jewell's visit