The Corps Network Attends National Park Service's Find Your Park Launch Event

Today, members of The Corps Network staff attended a launch event at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the National Park Service and National Park Foundation's new Centennial anniversary #FindYourPark campaign. The goal of the initiative is simple: to connect new generations of Americans to their national parks in the ways that they find relevant and enjoyable. So Corps certainly have a role to play, as we know that many people want to volunteer and help maintain and protect their parks. 

The Corps Network staff was able to chat with Paul Ollig, Chief of Interpretation and Education for the National Mall & Memorial Parks.

"One of the great things about national parks is the opportunity to engage with all Americans and empower them to help us protect our national treasures. In 2016, the National Park Service Centennial provides a tremendous opportunity to expand the ways in which we reach out and engage new volunteers & organizations. Service and Conservation Corps and other groups through the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Initiative will be among those who can help us tap the talents of new & diverse generations of stewards. I look forward to working with The Corps Network and other groups to do this," said Ollig.

The official event was short, but included remarks from National Park Service George Washington Memorial Parkway Chief of Staff Aaron LaRocca, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, White House Council on Environmental Quality Managing Director Christy Goldfuss, and National Park Foundation Acting President Dan Wenk.

The highlight was most certainly the recognition of a 4th grader who had completed 40 Junior Ranger programs nationwide. He was there in support of the Obama Administration's Every Kid in a Park Initiative that connects to the Find Your Park campaign.

The National Park Service also introduced several new exhibits, including a large interactive compass that directs you digitally to parks nationwide.

Last week, the LA Conservation Corps also attended a Find Your Park event and sent us the photo below, featuring LACC Corpsmember Bryan Langston, Russell Galipeau, Superintendant of the Channel Islands National Park, Jonathan Jarvis National Parks Director, and David Szymanski Superintendant of Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area.

The Corps Network looks forward to supporting the Find Your Park initiative over the coming years!

Boiler Plate: 
Today, members of The Corps Network staff attended a launch event at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the National Park Service and National Park Foundation's new Centennial anniversary #FindYourPark campaign. The goal of the initiative is simple: to connect new generations of Americans to their national parks in the ways that they find relevant and enjoyable. So Corps certainly have a role to play, as we know that many people want to volunteer and help maintain and protect their parks.
Blog Slideshow: 

New Jersey Youth Corps Puts Aquatic Restoration Training to Use with Audubon

17-year-old Omari Gibson of Phillipsburg smiles as he works in the stream, saying it's their way of giving back. Photo credit: NJ.com

They were in the classroom on Tuesday and in the water by Thursday. Less than 48 hours after completing an innovative online-delivered aquatic restoration course, members of the New Jersey Youth Corps Phillipsburg chapter were up to their knees in a Musky River feeder stream putting their new found expertise to work.

The youth corps members joined local volunteers from New Jersey Audubon in a sustainable stream bank restoration. The group hand-planted willow stakes along the waterway that when grown will prevent soil erosion into the stream while providing shade that will help keep the water cool and protect valuable habitat for wildlife.

NJ.com’s Warren reporter Emily Cummins quotes Zach Oefelein, an 18 year-old corps member as saying "It definitely gives me a good sense of pride. There aren't enough people focused on things like this. A lot of our world is focused on what you can get out of nature and not what you can put back into it. I feel like this is the best way you can do it, planting trees out here and improving the ecosystem."

You can read more at:  

http://www.nj.com/warrenreporter/index.ssf/2015/04/nj_audobon_washington_township.html

Boiler Plate: 
They were in the classroom on Tuesday and in the water by Thursday. Less than 48 hours after completing an innovative online-delivered aquatic restoration course, members of the New Jersey Youth Corps Phillipsburg chapter were up to their knees in a Musky River feeder stream putting their new found expertise to work.

Service and Conservation Corps Celebrate 2015 Mayors Day of Recognition of National Service

Boiler Plate: 
The nation’s mayors and county executives are increasingly turning to national service as a cost-effective strategy to address local challenges. By unleashing the power of citizens, AmeriCorps andSenior Corps programs have a positive and lasting impact – making our cities and counties better places to live. To spotlight the impact of national service and thank those who serve, mayors across the country participated in the third-annual Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service on April 7, 2015. Here’s how members of The Corps Network participated!

Waders in the Water Aquatic Restoration Training Interactive Support — Now Easier and More Powerful

From our partners at Trout Headwaters, Inc. comes news about enhancements to the Waders in the Water aquatic restoration training they offer to Corpsmembers.

The Waders in the Water online support tool has been newly upgraded to improve system features and ease-of-use. EcoBlu Analyst 2.0, the cloud-based big data system for the Waders in the Water green jobs training and certification program, is now easier to use than ever. The intuitive, interactive maps of member Corps, conservation projects, and potential restoration industry employers are now faster and more user-friendly, and new resources include feeds for conservation jobs and internships.  

Every Waders in the Water student receives password access to the platform so they can explore opportunities in the growing restoration economy and access a wealth of support material to refresh or expand their knowledge, including stream, river, wetland, coastal, and estuary restoration drawings and specifications, resume templates, environmental glossary and more.  WisCorps’ Garrett Shears took the online class and told us “The web based resource is an incredibly valuable tool.” 

This sample interactive map shows various U.S. Conservation Corps which are Waders in the Water certified.

Presently Corpsmembers and leaders in 23 states are applying their new certification and are using EcoBlu Analyst 2.0 to both understand the restoration economy, and to partner with fellow Corps on projects.

White Mountain Youth Corps Founder Mike Gaffney: “I think the training/certification gives our partners and potential partners more confidence that we're serious about restoration work and that we can be a trusted source for their restoration implementation plans.”

Wyoming Conservation Corps Assistant Director Patrick Harrington echoed the values. “Trout Headwaters has developed a truly unique training for the Conservation Corps world,” he said. This platform is just one of the support tools already deployed for the Waders in the Water Level I training.  

Expect an announcement soon on release of the new Waders in the Water level II training. In the meantime, many corps told us early April was a great time to train and certify newly arriving Corpsmembers in aquatic restoration and the green jobs economy.

To participate in the next online webinar training:

Members of The Corps Network can Register Here for the April 6 & 7, (10 am –1 pm EDT) Waders in the Water Level I class.  

The private-public training program continues to offer on-site sessions for groups of 20-40 students to accommodate individual corps needs. Please contact Luke Frazza for more information.

Contacts:

Marie Walker, Vice President, The Corps Network
(202) 737-6272
mwalker@corpsnetwork.org

Luke Frazza, Project Development, Trout Headwaters, Inc.
(703) 244-7460
luke@troutheadwaters.com

Boiler Plate: 
From our partners at Trout Headwaters, Inc. comes news about enhancements to the Waders in the Water aquatic restoration training they offer to Corpsmembers.

Utah Conservation Corps to Launch Nation’s First Fossil-Free Bike Crew

From Utah Conservation Corps
For Immediate Release
February 25, 2015

The Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) has secured a $20,000 grant from Utah State Park’s Recreational Trails Program to launch the nation’s first fossil-free bike crew. This four-person AmeriCorps crew will be based out of UCC’s Salt Lake City field office and will use cargo bicycles to transport themselves, tools, food, and camping gear to two Utah State Park sites for seven weeks during the summer. The crew will cycle from Salt Lake City to both East Canyon State Park (33 miles away) and Deer Creek Canyon (56 miles away) for six-day work hitches before returning back to Salt Lake City. During their 7 weeks, the crew will complete two miles of trail construction and five miles trail maintenance at the two state parks.

“This crew advances the UCC and the conservation corps movement into a more sustainable future” said director Sean Damitz. “UCC staff has been dedicated to launching this crew to address issues of carbon footprint and air quality while sending a message that conservation work can be completed solely by human-powered transportation. “

A kickoff event for the crew is being planned for downtown Salt Lake City at noon on Wednesday June 3, 2015. The UCC is currently recruiting applicants to be part of this bike crew. The UCC is also approaching businesses for additional funding and in-kind donations for the crew.

In 2014, 165 UCC AmeriCorps members created or maintained 177 miles of trail, constructed or repaired 8.5 miles of fence, restored 14,996 acres of public land and recruited 4,214 volunteers serving 9,582 hours on projects throughout Utah.

More information on UCC can be found at http://www.usu.edu/ucc

About the Division of Student Services at USU

Led by Vice President James Morales, the Division of Student Services at Utah State University is committed to student success and organized into 15 unique departments, each with a variety of dedicated programs and services that foster engagement, leadership, wellness and access and diversity for all students.

Contact:

Sean Damitz, Center for Civic Engagement and Service-Learning

(cell) 435-770-6104
sean.damitz@usu.edu

Boiler Plate: 
The Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) has secured a $20,000 grant from Utah State Park’s Recreational Trails Program to launch the nation’s first fossil-free bike crew. This four-person AmeriCorps crew will be based out of UCC’s Salt Lake City field office and will use cargo bicycles to transport themselves, tools, food, and camping gear to two Utah State Park sites for seven weeks during the summer.

Check out the latest edition of the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center Courier

Six Corps Receive Accreditation from The Corps Network

Six additional members of The Corps Network have met newly established accreditation standards. We congratulate them on this accomplishment, that indicates that each organization operates high-quality, high-performing Service and Conservation Corps programs. The six new organizations that are now accredited by The Corps Network's Center of Excellence are 

The Corps Network’s Accreditation Process involves an in-depth review of general operations, financial management, risk management, governance standards, and Corps operations. The process culiminates in a site visit conducted by peer reviewers who have the chance to observe and share innovative ideas, lessons learned, and best practices. By completing the accreditation process, Corps demonstrate their accountability to both Corpsmembers and their communities. Preparing for the accreditation process also affords Corps the opportunity to review and implement policies that will help streamline their operations and lead to more effective programs.  

The Corps Center of Excellence is administered by an Advisory Committee made up of retired and former Conservation Corps leaders, retired and former federal land management agency staff, and other experts. Their expertise and the newly developed accreditation standards provide the assurance of quality that partners look for, particularily among publically-funded government agencies. They also indicate a Corps’ ability to provide safe, appropriate, meaningful experiences for young people who complete service projects that meet community and conservation needs.

San Diego Man Casts Away Past Self-Doubt at Corps, But Brings Friendship and Stewardship Onshore

The following story showcases one of The Corps Network's 2015 Award Winners. Jeremiah Ruiz will be recognized as a 2015 Corpsmember of the Year at The Corps Network National Conference in February. More stories for our 2015 Award Winners can be found here.

Following his parents’ divorce at age 12, Jeremiah Ruiz began to cope with his disappointment and stress by overeating. Around this time he also came to the realization that he was gay. Coming from a conservative religious family who did not approve of homosexuality only added to his struggle over the coming years. By high school, Jeremiah was 335 pounds. Being bullied because of both his weight and sexuality, Jeremiah’s self-esteem eroded. He dropped out of high school during his senior year and contemplated suicide.

Next, Jeremiah started working at a golf course. Jeremiah says that “working at the golf club wasn’t easy and the pay rate was minimal. It took me six years to realize that education is actually very important and without it, it can be very hard to succeed in the workforce.”

Jeremiah’s story took a positive turn when he heard about Urban Corps of San Diego County. He says that his experience while in the Corps improved his self-esteem, helped him gain important work skills and etiquette, and set him on the path to eventually earning his high school diploma. “It wasn’t easy, but I have finally learned to accept the person I am, and my Corps experience was a big part of how I did it.”

Jeremiah feels that the Corps model and the services the Corps provided were tailored to his needs and significantly contributed to his turn-around. He says that “It had been many years since I was in school so at first I was really nervous that I would fail again. But the classes were different than at my high school; they were smaller and I got a lot more one on one assistance.” Jeremiah also notes that the physical training exercises the Corps experience includes on a daily basis and the healthy meal options they provide assisted him in losing weight and reaching his desired size. He says, however, that the “feeling of acceptance” that the Corps staff and his peers provided was by far the biggest positive impact the program had upon him. But while the Corps experience impacted Jeremiah for the better, the impact he has had on others is also tremendous.

Jeremiah’s case manager at Urban Corps explains that “Jeremiah has become the port in the storm for his peers; he freely gives everyone his undivided attention, his wonderful smile, and ‘you can sit with me’ accepting attitude. Jeremiah seems so confident and proud of the person he is now; it’s hard to imagine him as a teenager who was once so tormented that he often thought of suicide. But Jeremiah hasn’t forgotten that pain, or the pain of countless other youth who struggle with their identity. He makes a point of noticing students who seem to feel insecure or to lack friends, and he is quick to step in and offer friendship.”

Jeremiah graduated from Urban Corps in June of 2014 and earned a scholarship. The staff noticed how he had grown into a leader, and recommended that he interview for a new internship with California State Parks. Jeremiah impressed everyone at his interview and has continued doing so in his role at South Carlsbad and South Elijo State Beaches.

The primary duties of Jeremiah’s internship are to assist California State Parks with the development and execution of both environmental education programs and data collection for the 2014 CalRecycle Grant. He helps clean the beaches of trash and recyclables, document the data for these projects, and also proactively engages beach-goers through interpretive programs about recycling. He emphasizes  the important role everyone can play in protecting the beaches and oceans. Jeremiah says that “we ask people to fill out comment cards after each presentation, and I recently got one that I am especially proud of. The camper said, ‘Jeremiah made learning about recycling and coastal conservation fun and interesting! His hands on approach and humor made it a really memorable experience. I will absolutely be coming back!’”

Supervising State Park Ranger Lisa Urbach writes that “Mr. Ruiz’s willingness to take initiative, execute superb programs and use precise data collection techniques created a successful partnership between California State Parks, the Urban Corps and the local high school. His positive energy, creative spirit and desire to succeed will be seen for years to come due not only what he’s already done, but also because of his involvement in the planning of a campfire center mural, development of a recycled plastic bottle wave sculpture and the moments shared and memories created from several annual events including Coastal Clean-up Day and the Halloween Spooktacular Event. Jeremiah Ruiz is an exceptional young man who is a tremendous asset to California State Parks and the Urban Corps.”

In addition to his internship, Jeremiah continues his service by volunteering at a center for homeless LGBT youth, and also as an Environmental Educator at Urban Corps’ charter school. What’s next for Jeremiah? He says that his Corps experience showed him that he is “much stronger than I gave myself credit for… I will continue my education at San Diego City College in the Spring Semester. I know that whatever I do in the future, I absolutely must keep helping others. I need a career that allows me to stay active in the fields I care about: giving back to the community, helping our planet, and mentoring youth. This is why I’ve decided to become a teacher. I hope to change the lives of youth in my community the way Urban Corps has impacted my own life and the lives of my peers. It’s been a long time coming, but I finally found like I’ve found the right career path and I am so excited to see what the future holds.”

Boiler Plate: 
Meet Jeremiah Ruiz, a 2015 Corpsmember of the Year.

Energy Efficiency Program at Corps a Stepping Stone to New Opportunities for Taos Woman

The following story showcases one of The Corps Network's 2015 Award Winners. Jasmine Romero will be recognized as a 2015 Corpsmember of the Year at The Corps Network National Conference in February. More stories for our 2015 Award Winners can be found here.

Jasmine Romero was born and raised on the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. As a teenager, she moved with her mom to Albuquerque, where she graduated from high school and earned good grades. Next, she advanced to college where for about a year-and-a-half she worked toward a degree in engineering. But what came next would challenge Jasmine.

Starting with a heart attack suffered by her father back home on the Taos, Pueblo, a series of consequential events began to negatively impact Jasmine. Eventually she and her mom were forced to live out of their car. Jasmine turned to alcohol to cope with her problems, and soon it became yet another problem for her to overcome.

A little over a year later, Jasmine enrolled in Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. She had sought out counseling for alcohol abuse and heard about the program from her counselor. Jasmine says that, “At first I was hesitant about applying till I read their mission statement. The mission statement is what got me. One key phrase, ‘A stepping-stone to new opportunities,’ this simple statement meant that I had a chance to start over.”

During her term, Jasmine learned the basic skills to weatherize homes to make them more energy efficient. She obtained certifications from Santa Fe Community College in retrofit installer, lead safe practices, OSHA 10, and also First Aid and CPR. She enjoyed the work so much that she applied to return for a second season as an Assistant Crew Supervisor for the Corps’ energy efficiency program. The hard work and attention to detail that Jasmine provides when working make her well-respected among the Corps’ staff and her peers. One staff member remarked that “I know that I can leave Jazz with a task list at any point during the day and come back knowing the crew has been productive.”

Many of the homeowners who have received weatherization services from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps are thankful, including a memorably appreciative elderly woman. Jasmine recalls that “she was unsure at first, having a bunch of kids in her house, but she watched us work as a team and could see the quality work we were doing and was crying out of gratitude by the time we left.”

Jasmine is currently still serving in her second AmeriCorps term with the Corps. She hopes to continue advancing in the energy efficiency field and utilize the AmeriCorps Education Awards she has earned. The staff at the Corps think that, with additional certifications, she could very well become the first woman to serve as an official energy auditor / inspector in New Mexico—a compliment to how far Jasmine has come in developing her work skills. But she views things a little bit differently.

“I can go through and name all my certificates that I received. I can go through the trainings they have provided me and the education award that they have also presented to me. But this is not the important bits and pieces they have taught me. They have taught me how to manage myself as a person to make sure I have my priorities straight. They have taught me so much about life that I had no idea about. I have become 10 times a better person than I was before. They have taught me different types of communications, different types of personalities, and how to connect the dots between these two major characteristics of a person. I have learned how to better control my emotions whether it be at work or at home. They have helped mold me into the person I have always wanted to be.”

Boiler Plate: 
Meet Jasmine Romero, a 2015 Corpsmember of the Year.

Refugee from Afghanistan Plants Legacy of Trees in Syracuse

The following story showcases one of The Corps Network's 2015 Award Winners. Mokhtar Mohammadi will be recognized as a 2015 Corpsmember of the Year at The Corps Network National Conference in February. More stories for our 2015 Award Winners can be found here.

Before coming to Syracuse, New York, Mokhtar Mohammadi was living with his younger brothers and sisters in refugee camps in both the Czech Republic and Iran. Originally from Afghanistan, Mokhtar’s parents are deceased. In their absence, he has taken on the role of providing for his family. While in Iran, Mokhtar was in high school, but also working in construction jobs and a photography studio.

Upon his family’s arrival in Syracuse this past January, however, Mokhtar’s educational and workforce options were very limited. The timing was not good for entering school, and Mokhtar needed to earn money for his family. Unfortunately, he struggled in the traditional job market because he was a newcomer and just beginning to learn English. Thanks to a referral from several collaborators of Onondaga Earth Corps, Mokhtar heard about the Corps and enrolled in March.

Mokhtar’s supervisor at Onondaga Earth Corps explains that “soon after his hire, Mokhtar began proving himself to be one of the most committed crew members the OEC has ever had. He is an extremely hard worker, capable of leadership and a trustworthy crewmember. As his supervisor I was very confident in assigning him important tasks with very minimal supervision… Despite English being his second language, Mokhtar was able to be productive during community outreach activities. His language ability started out very limited, but when he joined the Corps, his commitment to learning and adapting to new ideas has propelled him forward enormously.” 

Mokhtar has advanced to serving as a Crew Leader on the Corps urban forestry projects. He is known for his upbeat attitude, intelligence, willingness to help out others after his own work is done, and his jokes. He has become a role model for others and even gave an inspiring speech to the Corps summer youth program about the importance of the environment to young people. On Arbor Day, he also provided an environmental education program about trees to eighty 6th grade students at a local middle school.

“The Onondaga Earth Corps helped me very much in my personal life. It wasn’t just a job; it was a job and educational opportunity. My supervisors helped me get into college among many other things. In addition to job skills, I learned: life skills, team work, leadership skills, and lots of information about trees, tree identification, the environment, urban forests, the storm water system in Syracuse and more,” says Mokhtar.

Currently Mokhtar is still with the Corps, but he has also taken on an additional job and enrolled in Onondaga Community College. His family has now moved from a temporary residence into a stable home and has integrated well into the community.

His supervisor says that “If Mohktar chooses to stay in Syracuse, he will always be able to look back and see all the 1000+ trees he planted with Onondaga Earth Corps when he first arrived here in America and know he has had a major impact not only on our urban environment, but the community as well.”

Boiler Plate: 
Meet Mokhtar Mohammadi, a 2015 Corpsmember of the Year.

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