2010 Project of the Year: The Dolores River Restoration Program

Winner: Canyon Country Youth Corps

Region-wide conservation removing invasive species and restoring native vegetation has been planned and will be carried out in a five-year action plan thanks to a unique partnership between Canyon Country Youth Corps (CCYC) and Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC): The Dolores River Restoration Program. The catalyst for the project was The Walton Family Foundation's Freshwater Initiative - and through technical guidance and funding, the Foundation expects to expand its efforts to four other tributaries of the Colorado River.

SCC and CCYC provided each Corpsmember with over 120 hours of training in chainsaw operations, basic GPC monitoring and data collection, river ecology, noxious weed identification, and introductory herbicide application training. Crews have contributed 4,500 hours monitoring and treating over 34 river miles. At the end of the program, SCC and CCYC assisted Corpsmembers in connecting with federal jobs.

These two initial Corps - SCC and CCYC - expect to codify the program model for replication by other Corps across the Colorado River Basin and other similar areas.

2010 Project of the Year: Green Jobs for Veterans

Winner: Southwest Conservation Corps

The prolonged military deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq are resulting in hundreds of thousands of returning veterans in search of work. This highly trained and disciplined workforce needs meaningful work emobodying the ethic of service that brought them into the military. Their significant assets combine with significant challenges: combat trauma and the stress of deployment too often result in tragedy, including suicide rates as high as 120 per week.

Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) has partnered with Veteran Green Jobs (VGJ) to create the Veterans Green Corps (VGC), an all-Vertan Conservation Corps. SCC employes Veteran Corpsmembers and crew leaders to mobilize crews in conservation projects on public lands. VGJ provides wrap-around supportive services including recruitment and screening, benefits coordination, post-program placement and follow-up, and professional develepment.

Most important are the impacts on the participants - some say that working and living among trees and streams helps alleviate their post-traumatic stress. Others find new careers in forestry and mental health professions. The US Forest Servce Region II awarded SCC, in partnership with VGJ, $868,000 of ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvesment Act) funds to operate 12 VGC crews; SCC operated three of those crews in 2009, employing 25 military veterans, and will operate the remainder in 2010 and 2012. 

2010 Project of the Year: Workstudy Program - Go to College, Work on an Organic Farm

Winner: Conservation Corps North Bay

Through the Conservation Corps North Bay's (CCNB) partnership with College of Marin and UC Cooperative Extension Marin, Corpsmembers can attend the College of Marin and receive work study for their field work at the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden. The Farm, located on the College of Marin's beautiful Indian Valley Campus, enables CCNB to expand its program to include post-secondary students, Corpsmembers who are interested in pursuing a college education and/or receiving a specialized certificate in Sustainable Horticulture.

At the 5.8 acre organic education farm and garden, the first education and training center of its kind in the region, CCNB Corpsmembers receive valuable year-round field study, job training, and education in preparation for jobs in Marin's fastest growing green jobs and sustainable agriculture sectors. As a part of this innovative program, the College of Marin will create a Certificate in Sustainable Horticulture program and also will align its curriculum with Agriculture and Environmental Sciences degree programs offered at the University of California Davis and Santa Cruz campuses. In this way, CCNB Corpsmembers can seamlessly transfer to four year colleges to continue their studies in this field.

2010 Project of the Year: Making Low-Income Denver Homes More Efficient

Winner: Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC)

In 2009, Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) diversified and expanded its operations - and the result was a gigantic savings of energy - and energy costs - for residents who needed it most. Low-income single family and multi-family units in Denver with high energy bills received no-cost energy audits and retrofit services. Four days a week, 10 months of the year, teams of Corpsmembers audited homes, installed compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), high-efficiency shower heads (SH) and sink aerators and conducted energy and water use assessments.

MHYC served over 25,000 CFLs, 2,000 SHs and 5,000 sink aerators - which typically led to a 20 - 30 percent reduction in client utility costs. These measures will reduce energy use by 3,000,000 kWh over their life-cycle, reduce emissions of CO2 equivalents by 5,500,000 pounds, and lead to water savings of over 48,000,000 gallons.

Audit data sent to local weatherization partners and Denver Water enabled them to connect over half of the clients to more extensive no-cost services: replacement of ineffiecent toilets, refrigerators, furnaces and/or installation of improved insulation in their homes. Also, Corpsmembers have received job training, energy and environmental education and community service hours - enabling them to succeed in the burgeoning energy economy.

2010 Project of the Year: Neighborhood Youth Center in Fresno

Winner: EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps

Bursting at its seams, with waiting lists in excess of 400, EOC's Fresno Local Conservation Corps took a major risk - constructing a community campus, the Neighborhood Youth Center (NYC). What drove the project was the desire to make a one-stop beacon of hope in an area the Brookings Institution ranked among the highest concentrated poverty in the nation - and to have it designed and planned by Corpsmembers.

Corpsmembers surveyed 1,000 local residents to determine which services were needed, ranking them by importance. From the survey the Corps engaged architects to design a campus with an NBA-sized gymnasium, weight room, and community meeting facility; a child care facility with capacity for 80 Corpsmember children; a vocational training facility to teach solar installation, welding, recycling, and construction applications; and a headquarters facility complete with a 40-station computer lab, space for seven classrooms, and the Corps' administrative offices. The services co-located at the NYC include counseling delivered by masters-level supervised interns from Fresno State University, WIC, WIA One Stop Training, the YouthBuild Charter School of California, Fresno City College, a Career Center, AFLN, and EOC health screening services.

Staff moved into the 60,000 square foot, $16 million complex in September 2009. 

2010 Project of the Year: American Youthworks Constructs Green Home that Tops Energy Star Rankings

Winner: American Youtworks

American Youthworks Casa Verde Builders recently completed green construction on a home that earned a 5-Star-Plus rating by the EPA’s Energy Star program. Corpsmembers trained, built, and installed green products.  

FlexCrete blocks made from aerated concrete and fly ash supported the basic structure. Corpsmembers laid bamboo flooring and added green finishing touches, including, thanks to a partnership with local nonprofit 1Home At A Time, a three-kilowatt solar system.

The home topped Energy Star rankings; the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) testing contractor said it had the lowest score he had ever seen. Over a 10 month period, the average monthly electric bill was $5.06. 

Perhaps even more important than the energy and environmental impact of the project is the impact it had on the Corpsmembers who built it. Green building provided a practical format for discussing environmental and energy issues, a case study for looking at how people and their lifestyles impact the environment. And building the home created a tangible sense of accomplishment for YouthBuild Corpsmembers, many of whom come from at-risk backgrounds. For them, building a house becomes a living metaphor for rebuilding their lives.

2011 Project of the Year: Stimulus Dollars Triple Growth of Youth Corps and Conservation Projects in Hawaii

 

Winner: KUPU, Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps

From 2009-2010, Kupu and its Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps was thankful for the opportunity to serve 45 young adults, 27 conservation agencies, and numerous communities across Hawaii through an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funded Recovery Youth Conservation Corps (RYCC) project.

Through a number of partnerships with state, federal, and nonprofit conservation agencies, new Americorps members produced considerable benefits for communities as well as themselves. The RYCC project was based on the Youth Conservation Corps’ year-round program, where over the course of 11 months participants gain knowledge, skills, and job training while serving their communities. Statistics truly speak to the success of this program.

In total, the ARRA funding allowed for 45 individuals to be hired, nearly tripling the previous size of the Corps’ year-round program. They contributed a combined total of 66,461 hours of work, a value approximated at $1.2 million. 2,270 community members also volunteered and assisted Corpsmembers with their projects, for a total of 16,380 hours. Over 50 organizations were provided with some kind of aid, and 29% of the participants who have completed their full term of service (11 people) have found permanent jobs as a result of the training they received.

Beyond the statistics, the funding has allowed the Corps to expand its administrative capacity, as well as build meaningful partnerships throughout Hawaii. It’s an excellent example of the value the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has served in one state.

2011 Project of the Year: Community College Teams with Coconino Energy Conservation Corps

 

Winner: Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC)

Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) and Coconino Community College built an effective educational partnership in 2010 that has greatly enhanced the experiences of Energy Conservation Corps (ECC) Corpsmembers both in the classroom and in the field.

The partnership began when CREC approached Coconino Community College (CCC) after the College received an award to deliver weatherization training in Northern Arizona. With this award CCC was able to subsidize training expenses for CREC Corpsmembers.

The CCC campus has an extensive lab that allows for practical applications of basic safety, weatherization measures, and construction training activities that develop the Corpsmembers learning experiences. Courses cover Basic Weatherization, Tier 1 retrofitting, and Tier 2 retrofitting. Corpsmembers receive in-depth, professional training to become competent residential retrofitters. The six full days of training mirrors the Tier 1 retrofitting that Corpsmembers apply in the field.

The college also arranges for Corpsmembers to complete an energy audit on a volunteer residential home. First, however, they complete the installation of retrofit materials in a controlled classroom setting before working on the home. After completing their retrofit, Corpsmembers can see real time results from post tests, giving them a concrete understanding of the value and improved energy efficiency that result from weatherization of homes.

After students finish their terms, CCC and CREC combine resources to provide post-employment assistance by helping Corpsmembers find jobs within the local green construction field. So far six Corpsmembers who have completed this certificate training have accepted green jobs with local energy and sustainability companies in Flagstaff. This makes the training program even more effective as the skills gained through this collaboration directly impact the communities of Northern Arizona in terms of both overall energy conservation and developing a local, capable, and certified workforce.

2011 Project of the Year: Over 1/2 Million Square Feet of Cool Roofs

 

Winner: Green City Force

Over the past 7 months Green City Force, a recent start-up corps, has participated in the New York Cool Roofs campaign with the NYC Department of Buildings, NYC Service, and the Community Environmental Center (CEC). The goal of the campaign was to paint 1 million square feet of rooftops with a reflective coating that can lead to energy savings of 18% in a building.

The white coating (a titanium paint mixture) works to reflect up to 85% of the sun’s rays during hot summer months, lowering the electrical costs needed to cool a building. Green City Force (GCF) was tasked with coating half of the 1 million square feet.

To date, they have surpassed that goal, having coated and cleaned over 600,000 square feet. But as an added bonus, many of Green City Force’s Corpsmembers have become leaders and people capable of recruiting others to this cause.

In May, when the Corpsmembers of GCF’s most recent cycle first started, they had yet to demonstrate their job readiness, professionalism, or ability to interact with their community. Only 6 of the 24 individuals had been employed in the previous year, and these individuals all had low-paying seasonal jobs. By having them paint rooftops, interact with residents on the way to roofs, and arrive at worksites promptly at 8 am, GCF Corpsmembers gained new confidence and understanding of what it takes to succeed.

One of GCF’s partners, Community Environmental Center, became so impressed with the dedication and professionalism of Corpsmembers that they asked GCF if Corpsmembers could supervise volunteers on some of their projects. GCF volunteers rose to the need, sometimes supervising up to 100 volunteers on large rooftops. Corpsmembers handled logistics like making sure brushes, paints, and other supplies were ready for volunteers. In addition to surpassing its square footage goal, GCF has recruited over 1000 volunteers and Corpsmembers have supervised work at over 10 sites. These numbers indicate a significant transformation for Corpsmembers.

To go from disconnected and unemployed to supervising fellow citizens in a project to better the environment and save energy costs, GCF’s Corpmembers have demonstrated admirable leadership, persistence, and professionalism.

2011 Project of the Year: Tribal Preservation Crew Wows National Park Service

 

Winner: Southwest Conservation Corps

Cornell Torivio was instrumental in working with the Southwest Conservation Corps to create a Corps at the Acoma Pueblo. As a member of the community, Cornell has always strived to blend his two primary professional interests: historic/prehistoric preservation and work with Native American youth. With his 10 years of experience doing preservation work for the National Park Service as well as at the Acoma Pueblo, Cornell decided that he could offer more.

Working with local National Park Service (NPS) partners, Cornell has now helped to create a Tribal Preservation Program crew. The crew is comprised entirely of young Native Americans who have been trained by Cornell to preserve valuable historic and cultural sites.

The first project the crew successfully completed was stabilization work on a historic depot tank stage station at Petrified Forest National Park. The NPS was so impressed that it plans to develop more projects for the crew.

Program participants gain many marketable skills through the work. These skills include knowledge of how to document and photograph all work that is being accomplished at the site; how to implement “leave no trace” methods into the daily work routine so as to cause the least amount of impact; how to identify different types of mortars, stones, and adobe used at historic and prehistoric sites; knowledge of historic and current NPS standards and policies, as well as interpretive knowledge of the parks; and professional preservation trade skills and career development. While it is unlikely that all program participants will go into preservation work, some of the program graduates will likely fill the ranks of retiring NPS and other professional preservation workers.

But without doubt, all program participants gain greater appreciation of the value in preserving our country’s historic treasures. The partnership has also allowed the National Park Service to gain a dedicated and well-trained preservation crew that might also provide the agency with a good portion of its future archaeological preservation staff.

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