2007 Project of the Year: TCYC Gains Secondary Emergency Responder Status

 

Winner: Tulare County Youth Corps (now Sequoia Community Corps)

Tulare County Youth Corps (now Sequoia Community Corps) corpsmembers participated in flood control this past winter season when water flooded public roads, portions of Sequoia Airfield, and areas surrounding the Tulare County Jail and Juvenile Detention Facility. The corps assisted county personnel in pumping water from flooded areas, replenishing supplies, and repairing levies and bridges to mitigate further flooding.

TCYC’s invaluable assistance led to an agreement with Tulare County to be a secondary emergency responder in 2006. TCYC prepared for this role by offering a new certification program in Bobcat operation. Seven corpsmembers have been certified in Bobcat operation and six more will be ready to test by November 2006. 

The testing consists of written and hands-on field navigation on uneven and unstable terrain and includes a full range of maneuvers such as moving land for repairing and shoring up levies and bridges where water breaks overflow, leveling of surfaces, and trenching for water flow redirection. Thus far in 2006, fully trained and certified corpsmembers assisted in trenching for disaster relief in Tulare County. 

2008 Project of the Year: Yellowstone River Clean-Up

 

Winner: Montana Conservation Corps

This summer, the Montana Conservation Corps teamed-up with the Yellowstone River Conservation District Council (YRCDC) and dozens of other groups to pull-off the longest recorded river clean-up in Montana history – and perhaps in the nation. From its headwaters in Yellowstone National Park to the Missouri River, the Yellowstone flows 551 miles and is the longest un-damned river in the lower 48 states. Although, the Yellowstone is treasured for its outstanding trout fishing, quieter sections for swimming, and dependable sugar beat and alfalfa crop irrigation, the stewardship of her resources falls short at times. Her shores are littered with trash – even in the most remote stretches of this grand and wild river.

For one week, four MCC MontanaYES program youth crews with 24 teenage participants, ages 14 to 16, and their eight AmeriCorps crew leaders, covered the length of the river to clean-up sixty-four public access points.  Each day, community organizations including scout troops, Lion’s Club members, conservation district staff, and other volunteers joined the teens to help with their efforts, logging a total of 325 volunteer days.  In one week, 18,320 pounds of trash and debris was removed from the banks of the Yellowstone River, including 1500 pounds of steel and 5,056 aluminum cans that were recycled, and 90 tires. Other partners included: nonprofit conservation districts representing communities along the river, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, local service clubs, private landowners, and the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch Fund.

2008 Project of the Year: Quality Neighborhoods Improvement Program

Winner: Greater Miami Service Corps

 

Through the Quality Neighborhood Improvement Program (QNIP), Corpsmembers repair and/or install sidewalks in local neighborhoods.  Since April 2007, 16 Corpsmembers have received hands-on experience installing 13,961 linear feet of sidewalk.  This partnership is mutually beneficial to all partners, achieving each entity’s organizational goals.  QNIP enhances property values in inner-city areas, many of which never had sidewalks.  In addition, Corpsmembers are trained and prepared for work opportunities in the construction field, a high growth area in South Florida. 

The partners include: Miami Dade County Board of Commissioners (set-aside funding for youth workforce development opportunities); Community Action Agency (intermediary with that allows Corps to obtain contract); The Office of Capital Management (policy support and tracking of all capital project completion); Miami-Dade Public Works (project oversight and inspections); Rainbow Enterprises (engineering sub-contractor and project superintendent); Miami-Dade Public Schools/Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center (academic, vocational, and GED training/scholarships); Miami Gardens Job Corps (academic and vocational training for co-enrolled youth); and The Greater Miami Service Corps (pre-employment and life skills, work experience, service learning, counseling, educational opportunities, internships, and job placement).

2008 Project of the Year: Redondo Bluffs Restoration Project

 

Winner: Los Angeles Conservation Corps 

In a collaborative effort between the LA Conservation Corps, local residents, the Urban Wildlands Group (local nonprofit), and state and local governments, the Beach Bluffs Restoration Project Team was formed to identify and restore locations within the South Bay that historically supported populations of the El Segundo Blue Butterfly, an endangered species known only to exist in 3 isolated reserves.

LACC’s SEA Lab is located in Redondo Beach on the Santa Monica Bay.  The adjacent coastal bluffs are the historic home of the El Segundo Blue Butterfly.  However, due to habitat loss, the butterfly population rapidly declined and the insect was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1976. In 2005, the Corps received funding from the California Coastal Conservancy to restore a small 3 acre site. For 2 years, more than 100 Corpsmembers removed invasive ice plant, constructed a native plant nursery, planted native vegetation, installed irrigation, fencing, and interpretive signage, conducted stakeholder surveys, and maintained the newly planted native landscape.

Although the Bluffs Restoration Project team hoped that one day the El Segundo Blues would return to the Redondo Bluffs, the scientific community believed due to habitat fragmentation and population isolation re-colonization of the butterflies could occur only via human assistance.  In May 2007, as crews were wrapping up the project by adding vegetation and removing weeds, staff member Monica Acosta noticed a butterfly that looked suspiciously like the El Segundo Blue.  She sent a few photos to USC experts for identification.  A team of scientists surveyed the site and confirmed the presence of over 200 butterflies. 

Sure enough, via the hard work of LACC Corpsmembers, the El Segundo Blue returned, on their own, to the Redondo Bluffs.  The rapid return to the site so surprised the experts that it is now leading them to a new understanding of the species.  Young folks from some of the neediest neighborhoods in LA made a difference, a huge difference, and proved that sometimes the impossible is just improbable.

2008 Project of the Year: Making Outdoor Recreation More Accessible

Winner: Utah Conservation Corps

Through the "Access to Service Project," Utah Conservation Corps developed service projects to include crew members with disablities. Fifty percent of the 8-person crew self-identified as having a physical disability. Disabilities among members included quadriplegia, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy.

In the first of their two main projects, the inclusive crew partherned with the US Forest Service to conduct an accessbility evaluation of the Wasatche-Chache National Forest and create a transition plan to help them meet federal requirements. They developed a user-friendly accessbility survey form that has become the standard for the region. They completed accessbility surveys for 8 campgrounds and 2 trails and developed 10 transition plans, immediately addressing the issues identified in one of the transition plans by constructing a fully accessible fishing pier at Second Dam picnic area in Logan Canyon. They partnered with Common Ground Outdoor Adventures, Logan City, local Boy Scouts and the Forest Service to make this happen.

For the second project: an accessible greenhouse and adapted gardening tools. The crew grew tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, squash and herbs in raised beds and table top planters.

Another "Access to Service" goal was to involve people with disabilities in positions of leadership. Andy Zimmer, who has quadriplegia, served as a crew leader. By placing people with disabilities in positions of leadership, outdated stereotypes that limit people with disabilities are shattered and attitudes toward people with disabilities evolve and change. 

2009 Project of the Year: Reducing Water Use in Denver

Winner: Mile High Youth Corps

With utility rates rising and the threat of drought, Colorado-based Mile High Youth Corps tackled the issue of saving water through its Water Conservation Program. In partnership with Denver Water, Mile High Youth Corps developed the Water Conservatin Program in 2007 to help low-income households, nonprofit agencies, affordable housing complexes and faith-based institutins across the metro area save water and lower their utility costs while promoting water conservation. Small teams of Corpsmembers are dispatched to area homes and agenices to replace toilets using more than 3.5 gallons of water per flush with high-efficiency toilets (HETs), which only use one gallon per flush.

"The crew was friendly, professional, fast and thoroughly explained everything," said William Fitzwater, a Denver Water client who received his free toilet earlier this year.

The Water Conservation Program grew out of MHYC's Energy Conservation Project with the Governor's Energy Office (GEO). In 2006, MHYC began working with GEO to install low-cost energy saving measures in the homes of 2,000 clients of the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP). Corpsmembers fit kitchen and bathroom faucets with low-flow aerators, installed water-efficient showerheads and assessed homes for water leaks. This year, the Water Conservation Program expects to double the 854 HETs installed in 2007. Typically, households see a 15 percent reduction in their water bills.

A key component of the program is Corpsmember and client education. MHYC Corpsmembers receive comprehensive environmental education and techinal training. They also gain the skills and experience needed to be successful in today's workforce - especially the ever-grrowing Green Jobs industry. 

2009 Project of the Year: Reducing Wildfire Threat in New Mexico

Winner: Rocky Mountain Youth Corps

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, in partnership with the Southwest Region of the National Forest Service, works diligently to reduce the threat of large, high intensity wildfires by reestablishing pre-existing fire regimes, and improving the use of small diamter trees. RMYC has been involved in the Collaborative Forest Restoratoin Program (CFRP) in Largo Canyon just outside of Questa, NM, a community at high risk of a wildfire threat.

The efforts of RMYC Crews have reduced the threat of wildfires by carrying out a thinning treatment in a Wild Land-Urban-Interface (WUI) area on the threshold between the town, private, and Forest Service land. Through community planning meetings, RMYC has identified a diverse and balanced group to help design, implement, and monitor the Largo Canyon CFRP.

Corpsmembers are trained and complete ecological monitoring activities within the project area. Additionally, RMYC has created local employment opportunities for youth and provided training opportunities relevant to project accomplishments. Improvement to the watershed by returning ecosystems to healthier conditions, opportunity for local youth to gain valuable job training and experience, as well as the distribution of firewood, meeting local community needs are just a few of the positive outcomes of this project. 

2009 Project of the Year: Multi-Site Non-Profit Center for Education

Winner: Southwest Conservation Corps

The Southwest Conservation Corps' (SCC) award winning project, "The Commons," is the nation's first multi-site nonprofit center focused on education. Working with the Durango Adult Education Center and Pueblo Community College, SCC and its partners purchased a new facility in 2007. The community quickly saw the benefit of the project and the pernership was awarded the Durango Chamber of Commerce's "Non-Profit of the Year" award in early 2008. The New Markets Tax Credit Coalition chose the project as its Colorado respresentative in its "50 Projects - 50 States" Report in October 2008.

Development of The Commons has provided a bounty of direct benefits to SCC and its Corpsmembers. These benefits include: transition on-site between SCC to GED programs at Adult Education Center and post-secondary education at Pueblo Community College, Fort Lewis College and The University of Denver; special $1,000 Scholarships to Fort Lewis College for SCC Corpsmembers, renewable annually for four years; and 5,000 square feet of completely re-modeled and customized offices and shops with plenty of parking in downtown Durango. The other 13 nonprofit or education organizations in the building have seen similar benefits. Pueblo Community College and the Adult Education Center have each seen enrollment jumps of 30 - 40 percent since the opening of the facility in late 2007.

In an editorial piece, The Durango Herald stated, "...the real advantages come in terms of enhanced stability, greater coordination among the various organizations and the cooperation made possible by having such a fertile mix of educational groups under one roof...That has to translate into better careers, increased opportunities and an overal better Durango." 

2009 Project of the Year: Teaching Golf to Underprivileged Youth

Winner: Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia

The Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia's popular program, The First Tee of Beckley (TFTB), engages and exposes underprivileged youth to the disciplined game of golf. Using golf as the vehicle, youth are exposed to character education in programming that integrates the fundamentals of golf and personal skills. TFTB's core values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perserverance, courtesy, and judgment serve as the building blocks of the program.

Since being developed in 1997, The First Tee has achieved its mission of "impacting the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf." TFTB, the first and only chapeter in West Virginia, focuses on the developmnet of area youth, particularly those at-risk, by offering all programming free of charge.

While enrolled in TFTB's programming, youth are taught the importance of giving back to the community through service and volunteer projects, are offered positive adult role models that provide the foundation and basis for participants to become mentors for younger siblings and/or peers, and postive alternatives to drug use, crime, and a sedentary lifestyle.

In 2008, TFTB engaged 225 youth at its facility and another 2,100 in area schools. The First Tee of Beckley has proven so successful that the Corps is in the process of expanding its programming throughout West Virginia. 

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