The Corps Network Blog
April 21, 2017
What Cutting AmeriCorps Would Mean for Public Lands
If Congress votes to eliminate AmeriCorps funding, our country’s public lands and waters will suffer.
Every year, AmeriCorps members enrolled in service and conservation Corps spend thousands of hours serving at parks and forests. AmeriCorps members build trails, maintain campgrounds, remove invasive species, preserve historic structures, and even help prevent and fight wildfires. Without the help of AmeriCorps members, a lot of important work at federal, state and local parks would not get done.
Corps are locally-based organizations that engage young adults and recent veterans in environmental and community service. Most Corps are non-profits, and the majority of the more than 130 organizations that are part of The Corps Network – the national association of service and conservation Corps – receive AmeriCorps funding. This funding enables Corps to enroll participants and leverage additional funding to complete projects on public lands.
Where exactly does the AmeriCorps funding go? In exchange for their service on public lands, AmeriCorps members receive a modest living allowance and, upon completing their service, a scholarship that can be used to pursue further education or help repay student loans. The scholarship can be worth up to about $5,800 for a full year of service. The living allowance, which varies based on region, is, for many AmeriCorps members, less than $500 every other week...Read more
April 4, 2017
This past March, the theme for Women’s History Month was “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.” To close out the month-long celebration, we wanted to talk to women who literally blaze trails: the women of Conservation Corps.
Based on the model of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Great Depression, modern Conservation Corps are locally-based organizations that engage diverse young adults in service and job training in communities and on public lands. Corps participants – or “Corpsmembers” – engage in a wide range of projects, including building and improving trails, removing invasive species, preserving historic structures, and fighting or preventing wildfires. Many of these projects take place on properties operated by local, state or federal resource management agencies.
While the Civilian Conservation Corps put some 3 million men to work on public lands from 1933 to 1942, today’s Corps annually enroll about 25,000 young adults, roughly half of whom are women. However, the conservation workforce is still dominated by men. For example, women comprise only about 25 percent of foresters with the U.S. Forest Service (and this is higher than the percentage of women in the U.S. forestry profession as a whole). Considering how women continue to face discrimination in the workforce in general, it can be particularly challenging for a woman to navigate gender stereotypes in the male-dominated world of public lands management...Read More
March 29, 2017
Inclusivity in the Corps World
Everyone faces small daily challenges and uncertainties. Fortunately, for many of us in this country, our troubles are relatively trivial. For those in the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community, however, communication barriers can make it prohibitively difficult to participate in basic interactions. In recognition of Deaf History Month, we’re looking at steps taken by America’s service and conservation Corps to make the workplace and the outdoors more accessible for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.
Unfortunately, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals have fewer employment options due to a lack of resources in the workplace and preconceived notions about their abilities. It can be particularly difficult for a Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing young person with limited job experience to gain a foothold in the workforce. Recognizing this issue, the Corps community has gradually increased the presence of inclusive crews since the mid-1970’s and early 1980’s...Read More
December 5, 2016
Later today, Americans can tune in to watch the Obama family’s eighth and final National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. The annual ceremony, which took place last week on The Ellipse – a National Park Service property just south of the White House, is a tradition stretching back 94 years to President Calvin Coolidge.
As in past years, viewers can expect the president to conclude the evening with a speech about the meaning of the holiday season. But who will introduce his speech?
In 2014, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell introduced President Obama. In 2015, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the president was introduced by Betty Reid Soskin, America’s oldest active park ranger.
November 15, 2016
Three Reasons Why We're Especially Excited About OAK Week 2016
Every year, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) – a national partnership of organizations working to connect youth and families with nature – convenes in Washington, DC for “OAK Week.” This is a time to advocate for policies that promote public lands stewardship and improved access to nature, as well as a time to celebrate successes in promoting outdoor recreation.
As a proud member of the OAK Steering Committee, The Corps Network looks forward to this annual opportunity to meet with like-minded organizations and push for our shared vision of a world in which all young people have meaningful relationships with nature. However, this year’s OAK Week is particularly exciting for a number of reasons.
First, we are excited about the presentation of the first OAK Awards on Tuesday, November 15th...Read More
November 14, 2016
The Corps Network Proudly Supports Launch of Service Year Alliance
The Corps Network is thrilled to join many other national service organizations in New York City today to celebrate the formal launch of Service Year Alliance.
We are proud to partner with this important new organization and glad we could be here today to hear from such inspiring leaders in national service as Retired General Stanley McChrystal, Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Civic Enterprises CEO John Bridgeland, and Shirley Sagawa, “a founding mother of the modern service movement.” It was a pleasure to witness Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, perform the swearing in for a new cohort of AmeriCorps members from Green City Force, a member organization of The Corps Network...Read More
Expand Opportunities to Secure the American Dream
It’s a sad but undeniable fact that where you are raised is a strong predictor of where you will end up in life. In the United States, only six percent of children from low-income families make it to the top of the income ladder. This truth goes against the American notion that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can get ahead.
Fortunately, it’s not too late to repair the path to the American Dream. A new reportfrom Opportunity Nation lists policy recommendations our leaders can act upon to ensure that all ambitious young people, no matter where they live, have the chance to lead successful, productive lives. The document features Corps as a tool to help close the opportunity gap, but, for more reasons than that, The Corps Network proudly joins over 120 other signatories backing the “Our Opportunity Nation” report; we firmly believe the American Dream can be saved if businesses, nonprofits and government work together to make quality employment and education more accessible...Read More
Spend Less, Do More: Corps Can Help Secure the Future of the National Park Service
Today the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday. The National Park Service embodies the best of what it means to be American. Since its founding, it has promoted the natural and cultural beauty of this country by protecting our national treasures and making them accessible to all citizens.
But after decades of use, our national parks are at a crossroads. Billions of dollarsin backlogged maintenance projects threaten the accessibility of our parks. Additionally, despite changing national demographics, the average park visitor has become older and whiter. The most recent numbers show that just 22 percent of park goers are people of color.
To keep our parks relevant, the National Park Service is working to solve these two issues. Without comprehensive maintenance, we risk losing access to our parks. Without introducing new visitors to the park system, we risk not having dedicated advocates to conserve the parks for future generations...Read More
August 24, 2016
National Service Programs and Corps - Cost-Effective Solultions to our Nation's Most Pressing Social Problems
Upon his inauguration in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a discouraged country with an unemployment rate of more than 25 percent. To bring relief, one of his first actions in office was to create the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): a federal program that, during its nine years of operation, engaged three million young men in planting billions of trees and improving hundreds of parks and forests. For their service, CCC members received housing, education and a dollar-a-day stipend. The CCC was the most popular New Deal program; America benefited from improved public lands and a more engaged citizenship.
Our next president will not need to address national despair on the level experienced during the Great Depression, but he or she will certainly face major challenges. America’s issues range from the inadequate preparedness of our communities for climate change; to tension around race, religion and policing; to the fact that 5.5 milliont youth are neither in school nor working. National service cannot solve all of these problems, but the next president should know that national service programs, like Corps, can and should be part of comprehensive solutions to these pressing challenges...Read More
Invest in our Nation's Future: Support the Summer Opportunity Project
Summer is a critical time for teens and young adults to learn and grow. Experiences outside the classroom, including summer jobs, internships and enrichment programs, are important résumé-builders and networking opportunities that help young people get into college and launch careers.
Unfortunately, these beneficial summer activities are scarce for thousands of young adults, particularly those in underserved communities where jobs and disposable income are limited. While some young people spend the summer gaining workplace exposure, earning their first paycheck or exploring career options, others fall behind. When schools close, millions of youth are cut off from access to vital educational, emotional and nutritional support systems. This leads to the “summer slide,” when students lose educational achievements made during the previous school year...Read More
CITY OF TREES: an urgent story about reentry and environmental justice
With estimates citing that over a third of Americans have experienced some kind of encounter with the criminal justice system, the need for serious criminal justice reform in this country is long overdue. The Department of Justice took an admirable step by marking the week of April 25-29 as the first-ever ‘National Reentry Week.’ Next week, DOJ will host events in prisons and communities focused on issues facing returning citizens.
The new Meridian Hill Pictures documentary CITY OF TREES (broadcast premiere today, April 19th, on public television’s newest documentary series, AMERICA REFRAMED) is a poignant way to jumpstart a new people-focused conversation on the effects of incarceration...Read More
Engaging Our Youth: Taking Climate Action to the Streets
With scientists warning that time is short to curb greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to slow climate change, it’s urgent that we engage our youth in creating a clean-energy future for themselves, their children and grandchildren. Most importantly, the next generation needs to participate in ensuring a clean energy future for low-income communities and communities of color — those most at risk if climate change continues unchecked.
In the spirit of the 1987 UN Brundtland Commission report defining sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” we urge governors to take the Obama Administraion’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) “to the streets” by enlisting youth to help meet their state’s CPP-mandated emission-reduction goals.
The CPP offers a unique opportunity to involve young adults in both addressing climate change and advancing climate equity by requiring states to meaningfully engage vulnerable communities in planning to meet those goals...Read More
How Corps "Put Service to Work" in Green Infrastructure
At the Corps Network, we like to say Corps “put service to work.” That is, Corps engage youth in conservation service projects that have a measurable impact on our communities and public lands. This is why we’re excited to be part of NatureWORKS—we know that the combination of nature, service, and workforce development can provide youth with innovative hands-on learning experiences that put them on a path to careers in green infrastructure (GI) or related fields.
Corps have been involved in GI since “green” was just a color. Our Corps are descendants of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which engaged millions of young men in conserving soil; building parks; planting countless trees; and restoring beaches, rivers, and lakes. The CCC constructed significant infrastructure that is still in use today...Read More
Wildfire Funding Critical to Protect & Defend America's Natural Resources
Wildfires are raging in many states around the U.S. This year, over 8.8 million acres burned by mid-September, nearing the number of acres burned during the same timeframe in 2006, one of the worst wildfire seasons on record. 2015 is poised to meet and even surpass that record.
Fighting wildfires is both difficult and expensive. The U.S. Forest Service alone spent over $1.1 billion on fire suppression in 2014. While federal land management agencies expect to spend a certain percentage of their annual budgets on firefighting, that percentage continues to increase as wildfire seasons grow longer.
Due to the effects of climate change, fire seasons are on average 78 days longer than they were in the ‘70s. In 2015, the Forest Service expects to spend 52 percent of its budget on fire suppression. In comparison, 16 percent of the budget went to fire suppression in 1995...Read More
AmeriCorps Budget Cuts Hurt At-Risk Youth and Underserved Communities
Every year, at more than 15,000 locations across the country, AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 members and 4 million volunteers in national service. Since the program's inception in 1994, AmeriCorps members have served more than a billion hours. Americans want to serve; in 2012, more than 582,000 people applied for only 82,500 available AmeriCorps positions, which means that 86 percent of applicants were turned away.
There is proof that participating in national service is an effective way for people to build skills and prepare for careers. Yet Congress repeatedly proposes to significantly reduce AmeriCorps funding. This year, there are 73,600 AmeriCorps positions. The current House Bill would cut 25,000 of these slots, while the Senate Bill would cut 20,000. With a reduced AmeriCorps program, young people across the country would miss a valuable opportunity to gain job training, education and leadership skills, and their communities would not receive the vital services that AmeriCorps members provide...Read More
One of America's Most Important Conservation Funding Sources Expires Next Week: What Should this Mean to You?
Next week, one of our country’s most important sources of conservation funding is set to expire. Established by a bipartisan act of Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) uses proceeds from offshore drilling of oil and gas resources to finance expanding and protecting our parks, forests and other public spaces. Over the past 50 years, Louisiana alone has received approximately $215 million from the LWCF to protect such places as Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, and Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.
AmeriCorps Facing Foolish Cuts
As Congress returns to the business of figuring out how to fund the government in the next fiscal year, young people engaged in service in communities across the country are concerned about the consequences of proposed deep cuts to AmeriCorps. There are currently 73,600 AmeriCorps positions. The House Bill would cut 25,000 of those slots, while the Senate Bill would cut 20,000.
Either scenario would mean that thousands of low-income and disconnected young adults would miss the valuable opportunity to serve their communities, and their neighbors would miss out on the vital services that AmeriCorps members provide.
As CEO of The Corps Network, a network made up of more than 100 Service and Conservation Corps, I am extremely concerned about the potential consequences of these cuts on low-income youth and their communities. In 2014, more than 10,500 of our Corps members were living below the poverty line, on public assistance, or were court-involved upon entry into the program. Many of these young adults were also out of school. But instead of seeing them as liabilities, we view them as “Opportunity Youth,” because of their enormous untapped potential and their desire to improve their own lives and the world around them...Read More
On September 30th, just 61 days from now, one of the most important funding streams supporting the conservation of our public lands and waters is set to expire.
Created by an Act of Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is critical to the maintenance of our parks and the protection of outdoor recreation access. LWCF has provided funds to nearly every state and every county in the country for the creation of parks, the protection of natural treasures and the expansion of outdoor recreational opportunities. There's a good chance that your local playground, public park, or community ice rink benefited from LWCF.
Congress established the LWCF as a way to do something positive for the environment with revenue from oil and gas drilling. The idea was to protect natural places for all Americans as a counterbalance to the depletion of natural resources. Now, unless Congress reauthorizes the fund, our public lands and waters are at risk of falling even further into disrepair...Read More
Less than two weeks ago, I sat in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just off the West Wing of the White House, listening to the stories of four inspiring young adults from member programs of The Corps Network. There was Ray Santos, a Youth Opportunity AmeriCorps Crew Leader from American YouthWorks (AYW) in Texas, who uses his own experience as a formerly court-involved AYW Corpsmember to lead formerly-incarcerated and at-risk Corpsmembers. There was Kenesha Jackson, a young mother who, with the help of Greater Miami Service Corps, reimagined her future and enrolled in college. We heard from Aisha Dorn, a Civic Works alumna who used knowledge she gained during her term of service to start her own brownfield remediation company in Baltimore, MD. And there was Katherine Martinez, a young woman who experienced a boost in self-confidence and became a strong leader while developing tangible job skills through Curlew Job Corps’ welding program...Read More
June is Great Outdoors Month: a celebration of our parks and waters and the many ways to enjoy them. It's also a time to reflect on what we can do to preserve America's natural spaces for the enjoyment of future generations. This June, I invite you to get outdoors to recreate, but also to protect the environment.
Among other Great Outdoors Month celebrations, you can recognize National Trails Day with the American Hiking Society on June 6th, and on June 27th you can participate in the Great American Campout with the National Wildlife Federation. But on June 19th - The Corps Network's Great Outdoors Day of Service - I encourage you to volunteer with a local trail organization, pick up litter on the beach, or think about how you can rearrange your garden to incorporate more native plants...Read more
April is a big month for Corps and The Corps Network! For starters, April is when we celebrate both Earth Day and Arbor Day. As organizations that empower individuals to actively participate in improving the environment and their communities, Corps appreciate the attention these holidays bring to the ways we can each play a role in protecting our planet. Many Corps use Earth Day as an opportunity to engage their communities in conservation-focused volunteer projects. This year is no exception; we look forward to seeing all the great photos of Corps leading their friends, neighbors and local schools in planting trees, cleaning up parks and beaches, and pulling invasive plants...Read more
For over a hundred years, the YMCA has provided communities with the resources and facilities to help people of all ages lead healthier, more active lifestyles. Through classes, camps, organized sports and programs offering everything from youth counseling to healthy cooking tips, the Y helps individuals and families find fun ways to exercise their bodies, minds and spirits. The Y is more than a gym; it’s a community hub.
With such a strong history of engaging people in play and activity, it only makes sense that YMCA would be involved in promoting Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s initiative to bridge the divide between America’s youth and the great outdoors. Since last spring, the Y and the National League of Cities (NLC) have been working in partnership to advance the Secretary’s goal to get more youth playing in parks and participating in outdoor recreation, learning in nature’s classroom, volunteering on public lands, and working to preserve and restore our natural resources...Read more
Yesterday I was excited, but not entirely surprised, to read about a new studypublished in the journal Science about how a cohort of Chicago teenagers were affected by access to summer employment. The conclusion of the study, conducted by University of Pennsylvania criminologist Sara Heller, is that when you give a young person a summer job, he or she is significantly less likely to commit a violent crime. More on that in a moment.
These days, you no longer hear people talking about "disadvantaged youth" or "at-risk youth." Today we talk about "opportunity youth"...Read more
Recently released reports prove what many minority families have known for years: a school-to-prison pipeline exists for children of color. Statistics show that black and Latino young men and boys are, from a very young age, disproportionately affected by harsh suspension policies and zero-tolerance rules. For example, though black children represent 18 percent of American preschool students, they represent 42 percent of preschool students suspended once, and 48 percent of students suspended more than once. These students are more likely to fall behind in school, drop out, and end up involved in the juvenile justice system...Read more
What would it be like if Chimney Rock in Colorado, the ancestral home of the Pueblo People, was open to modern development? What if the Giant Sequoias of Northern California had no protection from lumber companies or wood poachers? What if Fossil Butte in Wyoming, one of the best paleontological records of aquatic life in North America, could be tapped by the fossil fuel industry? Fortunately, these places, and many other pristine landscapes and historical sites throughout the country, are protected as national monuments for all Americans to enjoy...Read more
As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the Northeast coast during the last days of October 2012, more than a dozen Service and Conservation Corps programs across the country were already mobilizing to help with the relief effort. Some Corps came from as far away as Montana, Washington, and Utah, while other programs served in their own backyard, in New York and New Jersey. The extensive training Corpsmembers receive in Service and Conservation Corps programs prepares them to serve in numerous capacities in response to a wide range of natural and manmade disasters... Read more
I hope that wherever you are right now is cooler and less humid than it is here in Washington, D.C. The air is so thick outside that just walking down the block can be exhausting. Many of us find relief in air-conditioned offices and homes, but not everyone has this luxury. Even for those of us who have amenities like a modern climate control system, keeping the A/C on is sometimes accompanied with the guilt that natural resources are going to waste for our comfort. Not to mention, cooling a building can get extremely expensive during the summer months... Read more
It’s been a busy few weeks here at The Corps Network - but busy in a great way. As many people in the conservation world know, June is Great Outdoors Month: a celebration of nature and outdoor recreation, as well as a call to action to protect the parks, trails and waterways we love.
The Corps Network recognized GO Month this year by trying something new; hosting a Day of Service right here in Washington, DC. It was exciting to see our partners, as well as Corpsmembers and Corps staff from so many different programs, come together to volunteer... Read more
It’s graduation season! High school seniors across the country can celebrate the completion of 12 years of essays, tests and projects. They can rejoice in knowing that, with a diploma in hand, their futures are bright. After all, every graduate is one step closer to a college education, a good job and independence.
Unfortunately, not every student makes it to graduation. Though the dropout rate has declined over the past decade, it still hovers around seven percent...Read more
AmeriCorps and the Modern Conservation Movement
In Colorado, AmeriCorps members remove invasive species from our public lands. In Charleston, SC, AmeriCorps members reduce energy consumption in low-income homes by providing weatherization services. In Brooklyn, AmeriCorps members harvest crops on the first large-scale urban farm on New York City Housing Authority property.
Throughout the country, thousands of young AmeriCorps members enrolled in the over 100 programs of The Corps Network perform a wide range of environmental conservation projects, but their service is united...Read more
By now, many of us who are familiar with the conservation world have heard the numbers: as of 2012, a full 38% of the Department of the Interior’s workforce, 35% of the Department of Agriculture’s workforce and 25% of the Bureau of Land Management’s workforce became eligible for retirement, and these numbers only continue to grow. Fortunately, every day thousands of young people across the country learn about conservation and develop green skills through Service and Conservation Corps programs. By providing teens and young adults the opportunity to serve outdoors, Corps foster the growth of America’s next – and more diverse – generation of environmental stewards... Read more