2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Kayje Booker

***Update! Click here to find out what Kayje's been up to since accepting her award.***

Joining the Washington Service CorpsAmeriCorps program changed Kayje Booker’s life.  In the year before, she was working a variety of jobs, mostly in the food industry, and feeling generally dissatisfied and directionless in her work life.  In her first year of AmeriCorps, Kayje had the task of co-creating an after-school program for academically challenged kindergarten through sixth graders, in which she facilitated a civic engagement course.  The following year she implemented a civic engagement curriculum with 500 AmeriCorps members across the state of Washington and assisted Abt Associates with their evaluation of Washington Service Corps.  Underway this year is a complicated project she is developing which includes the creation of a ‘Homes for Service’ initiative in Washington. 

-- "Serving others is now and will forever be a non-negotiable part of my life.  However I spend my days, I must be able to come home at the end and know that my hours accomplished something that made the world a little better for someone else.”  

(written in 2005)

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Patricia Bohnwagner

***Update! Click here to find out what Patricia has been up to since winning her award.***

After graduating from high school, Patricia Bohnwagner was working in a fast food restaurant in Massachusetts when she decided to move to San Diego and live with her sister.  She joined Urban Corps of San Diego when the worry of becoming homeless was all too near.  After being accepted and working her way through the Corps Environmental Projects Department and Urban Forestry Department, Patricia was moved to the Graffiti Department and was quickly promoted to crew leader where she increased production by 20 percent.  She asked for, and was granted, an extension to her one year term and was transferred to the Recycling Department where she led the Corpsmember Marketing Crew.  In January she was promoted to a staff position where she continues to lead the Marketing Crew in her role as supervisor.  Patricia also continues taking classes to become certified as an EMT. 

-- “If it wasn’t for the Urban Corps I would NEVER have gone back to school.  They helped me understand the importance of education, they gave me job training and they gave me the chance to become a leader.  I don’t like to think where my life would be if I hadn’t joined the Corps.”

(written in 2005)

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Kim Alston

 

Kim Alston is one of the brightest lights of Civic Works.  She labors daily in some of Baltimore’s most desolate neighborhoods, converting abandoned, trash-strewn lots into vibrant, thriving green spaces and places of community pride.  While a Civic Works corpsmember, Kim has worked on various community-sponsored efforts and environmental restoration; represented Civic Works in Annapolis, MD at meetings of the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism; and represented her peers on the Inter-Corps Council.  Kim is a young woman who aspires to work in the areas of engineering and wetlands restoration.  She is well on the way to integrating hands-on practical applications and theory. 

-- “Having witnessed the profound effect that our corps group offers to the city by planting flowers and trees, which improve the aesthetic value of an area as well as the quality of life for the people, has heightened my understanding of the benefit and necessity of community service work.”

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: James Zmudzinski


***Update! Click here to find out what James has been up to since he won his award.***

James dreams of owning an auto mechanic shop. One year ago, this dream seemed to be only that - a dream. Working since age 15, James was struggling to obtain a stable income, lacking his high school diploma and auto mechanic's certificate. He heard about the 5-day orientation the LCC (EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps) led and decided to attend, quickly becoming a vital crew member in the Flood Control Basin Maintenance Program.

Working in 127 degree heat while fighting off snakes, James maintained an extremely positive attitude towards work and his fellow crew members. His supervisor described him as a self-starter. James routinely led the safety meetings for his crew. He made use of the classes offered by LCC and found the financial strategy class of particular interest. In addition to working and taking night classes, James is only 26 credits away from obtaining his high school diploma after completing 47 credits in the past year. He has completed his 900 hour AmeriCorps Education Award and has earned $2,365.50 towards furthering his education. He is currently working towards completing a full-time award to earn an additional $4,725.

All of this hard work reflects his desire to be a good father. He is even using the Individual Development Account to save money for his shop. Expecting his first child, James said his main goal is to "be a person who my son could look up to."

James is grateful for the new start the corps gave him. He said, "I do no know where I would be without the LCC. Before I came to LCC the only light at the end of the tunnel was hope and it was fading quickly. It was the hope that somehow I would be able to earn my high school diploma and an auto technician certificate in order to better support my family, and hope that I would one day be able to live my dream of owning my own shop."

(written in 2006)

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Andrew Zimmer

In the last year, Andrew Zimmer has impressed the Forest Service with the quality and amount of work produced by his crew, fallen in love with Logan Canyon, Utah and developed an unexpected yet clear picture of where his life is heading.

An AmeriCorps crew leader for the Utah Conservation Corps, Andrew showed his crew that anyting is possible. Their assignment was to construct two miles of fencing along a very steep and inaccessible area. This would allow the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout, a rare and declining species, to be protected from the diseases that grazing cattle passed on when drinking from the creek. This project was essential to the survival of the trout population. Andrew, a leader who brings out the best in others around him, took special interest in each crew member to make sure their experience was rewarding and insightful.

Toward the end his term, Andrew was in a bike accident that resulted in paralysis from the chest down. Andrew said that within an hour of his accident, he knew he wanted to work in accessible outdoor recreation. His philosophy about stewardship of our natural resources is that you cannot get sustainable results without the awareness and enthusiasm of people. Andrew has brought this idea and passion to Utah and the UCC. He plans on completing his AmeriCorps term after rehabilitation and continuting to work in the place he loves. 

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor has recently entered college to pursue a degree in psychology. Three years ago, Michael was becoming all too accustomed to the Sacramento Juvenile Center. Having no role models and no high school diploma, there was little hope for Michael's future.

After the Tulare County Youth Corps (now the Sequoia Community Corps) contacted Michael, they saw his potential, in spite of the initial rejection they received from him. He was enrolled in the high school diploma program and maintained a 3.49 GPA. Michael was pleasantly surprised by his success. He was even valedictorian of his class.

Perfecting his public speaking skills, Michael has educated over 15,000 people on proper recycling procedures, including talks with the legislative bodies of the state of California. The entire city of Visalia recognized his work with a certificate of appreciation for extraordinary performance. Throughout all of this, Michael has maintained a sincere attitude of gratitude. He is currently a specialist for the corps in educating the community about environmental and social issues.

Michael said, "This has proven to be a great choice for me. Everything the corps has done has benefited me so much, so I would just like to take the opportunity to thank them." 

(written in 2006)

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Afton McKusick

***Update! Click here to read about what Afton has been up to since she won her award.***

(Written in 2006)

A remarkable and resilient Corpsmember, Afton McKusick has been a fixture of enthusiasm and dedication in the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC). Encouraging several of her friends to join the corps with her, Afton began her successful role as corps recruiter during her junior year of high school. Her love for preserving the northern Arizona landscape continues to bring new members to CREC every season.

Afton's first summer project with CREC consisted of removing the invasive species, cliff rose, off the sides of Walnut Creek. She loved the hard work and since then has worked on trail maintenance and chainsaw crews. Despite already receiving her allotted two AmeriCorps Education Awards she has insisted on spending her summers protecting the natrual environment of northern Arizona.

Afton says the program has helped her realize many life lessons. "Every person we come into contact with will in some way or another have an impact on us," says McKusick, "but we also have an impact on them."

As much as the program has benefited from Afton, she stated that CREC has been equally helpful in her character development. "Without this program, I would not be the person I am today, " Afton said. Explaining her reasons for returning to the prorgram, Afton said, "I came back because...this is a place where I can make a difference." 

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Crystal Ann Lamb


Crystal Ann Lamb wanted a challegne. Completing her undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech and just beginning graduate school, Ctystal Ann knew she needed a different kind of education -- one that would challenge her physically, mentally and vocationally. She found the Southwest Youth Corps (now the Southwest Conservation Corps) on the AmeriCorps website and knew it was the program for her.

Immersed in a crew full of diversity, Crystal Ann thrived and became an example of open communication and enthusiasm. The program included school presentations, where Crystal Ann utilized her deftness for public speaking. Crystal Ann was a big part of the success of her crew, which led to a guarantee of funding for next year's CDTA (Continental Divide Trail Alliance) program and offers for future projects.

She came back in June for another eight-week back country program in Colordo. An immediate transition from sea level to 10,000 feet was a great physical challenge. This only motivated Crystal Ann that "a small number of people can make a big difference." She is convinced she has learned more in those four months of SYC than during her four years of college. Her fellow crew members and the entire CDTA are grateful for her sincere motivation as she continues her work in the conservation field.

(written in 2006)

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Charley Kakel

The youth of New Mexico are thankful for Winston Churchill. It was Churchill's comment that swayed Baltimore resident Charley Kakel to start a whole new existence in New Mexico. 

"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give," said Churchill. 

These words, along with Charley's personal resolutin to give of himself, helped send him to Taos, New Mexico. Charley soon realized his passion for teaching and attended Goucher College to study the social sciences and improve his teaching skills, and later found himself back in New Mexico and working for the  Rocky Mountain Youth Corps's Service Learning Program as an AmeriCorps member. Charley worked daily with over 200 youth in their academic and personal lives.

With any spare time he had, Charley would travel across New Mexico and spread the inspiring message to any youth he could find. He loves the youth of Taos and wrote and received a grant for improving the middle school's baseball field. Charley now works with RMYC - After School Tutoring Program where he will be helping ten at-risk youths. Charley plans to continue his close relationship to the people of Taos by teaching at the middle school.

Charley reflects on his journey, stating it "has proven that I am capable of being a leader in making positive change happen." Churchill may have been Charley's inspiration for becoming a teacher, but Charley has inspired the children of Taos to care for each other, to become active in their communities, and to make lives for themselves by what they give. 

(written in 2006)

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Michael Bridges


***Update! Click here to find out what Michael has been up to since he won his award.***

Nothing can keep Michael Bridges from reaching his goals. Moving a total of eight levels through the Conservation Corps of Long Beach (CCLB) program from the blue hat all the way to the white hat, Michael has raised the standard for corps excellence. He served as a Corps council member, was awarded seven Outstanding Achievement Awards, and earned more than $5,000 in scholarships through the AmeriCorps Education Awards Program and CCLB scholarship funds to use toward his post high school education.

Michael's exemplary work ethic and positive outlook on every situation have helped to bond the crew into more of a family. His peers respected him so much that they nominated him for the keynote speech at the CCLB graduation. Michael is currently a staff member at CCLB, supervising five corpsmembers in independent projects around Long Beach. Making use of the Corps resources, Michael was awarded his high school diploma. He even attended the California Leigislative Day as a guest of CCLB.

Michael said, "My time in the Corps has greatly changed my life because it gave me the second chance I was looking for when I failed to graduate from high school. Now I have a high school diploma in addition to a great opportunity to attend college.

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