2008 Corpsmember of the Year: Linnea Heu


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

(Written in 2008)

When Linnea joined the Hawai’i Youth Conservation Corps (KUPU), she had very little knowledge of or concern for Hawai’i’s environmental preservation. 

“I had always loved the outdoors and nature, but I’d never seen the environment as a responsibility, which I now realize it is," she said.

Linnea joined the Corps out of cultural consciousness and pride when she heard the Corps was going to spend a week on Kaho’olawe Island.  This island, a place of great cultural significance for many native Hawaiians, was used for military live-fire training and was in the process of being “regreened”. 

During her term on her home island and her second term at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, Linnea was involved in dry forest, stream, and beach restoration projects, including removing invasive species, propagating seeds, and installing irrigation.  During both terms, supervisors and peers were impressed by her drive, eagerness to learn, and enthusiasm for service. 

Linnea is currently pursuing a degree in Environmental Science and plans to be an active participant in environmental restoration in the future. As Linnea said:

“Luckily for me, a passion for the Hawaiian culture led me to an equally engrossing care for the environment and the islands I call home.”

2008 Corpsmember of the Year: Nancy Herrara

 

When Nancy joined the New Jersey Youth Corps of Camden in January 2007, four years after dropping out of school high school, she was far away from her dream of becoming a doctor.  After orientation, Nancy started in the Emergency Medical Services Training Program.  While riding along with the EMT squad on her first day, Nancy realized that she still wanted to be a doctor and within a few weeks enrolled in the EMT-B training course. 

Nancy rode to emergency calls and worked on her diploma during the day, while taking EMT training at night. In August 2007, she graduated as valedictorian of Union County Vo-Tech Adult High School and passed her EMT-Basic State Exam to become a certified EMT. 

Nancy is now a freshman biology major on her way to fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor.  She volunteers at two rescue squads while serving as a Corpsmember leader, training new Corpsmembers in ambulance and first aid basics.  As Nancy said:

“I could only hope that the Corpsmembers can see my personal experience as an incentive to not give up and a motivator to continue with their pursuit of their high school diploma and whatever goals they may have for afterwards.”

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Meg Zaleuke


Meg first heard about AmeriCorps NCCC (AmeriCorps National Civilian Corps) as she was finishing up her Masters degree and trying to figure out what the next step in her life would be. Instead of becoming a Child Life Specialist, Meg decided to take a different path by joining AmeriCorps NCCC. Her year was filled difficult tasks: educating the youth, rebuilding homes, restoring cities devastated by hurricanes and working to preserve Maine's natural beauty.

Today Meg knows she is the not same person she was when she joined  the Corps.

“We are now different people; taking different roads and pursing new dreams because of our experience in AmeriCorps NCCC," said Meg. "It is likely that in 10, 20, 30 years to come, when we have long been out of the ‘Ameri-bubble,' our stories will begin with our AmeriCorps NCCC year; the year that changed our lives.”  

As Meg finished her time with AmeriCorps NCCC, she took with her, “…The sense of camaraderie [she] shared with her fellow Team Leaders and team, the enthusiasm and determination [she] saw in the elementary school children she tutored and the courage and resilience [she] observed in the communities along the gulf coast..”

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Tatiana Moore

 

Before coming to the corps, Tatiana was in a downward spiral. She had no high school diploma, was running in the streets, smoking weed, drinking and staying out all night.  Before high school, Tatiana had been good student - she went to classes and did all of her work. Then things turned when she started hanging out with the wrong crowd.  However, the East Bay Conservation Corps, which is now Civicorps, helped change her life.

Tatiana started out working with the Alameda County Flood Control program but she was soon promoted to an internship position with the Recycling program. She eventually worked her way up to being a Crew Leader.  Then, one year into holding the Crew Leader position, Tatiana became pregnant. She thought she was going to have to stop working but, with the support of her crew she was able to continue at her job until the baby was born. After taking a month-long leave of absence, Tatiana came back to the Corps. Two months later, she got another promotion called an "outside internship" at the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA). Tatiana works in the finance department but is interested in pursuing a career in Social Work. She hopes to one day be able to work with at-risk children or children with disabilities. Tatiana said, “If I work with troubled kids I know I can help show them that their life is not over no matter what kind of problem they have.” 

Tatiana is already taking classes at Laney Community College. She plans to use the AmeriCorps scholarship she earned through her service to continue classes at the community college before transferring to a university. 

“I want my son to have the best future possible, everything that I didn’t have," said Tatiana. "I don’t want him to go down the same road I did, though I know kids seem to experiment with life when they get to a certain age.  My plans are to stay in college, get a good paying job working with kids, and I want to be the best mom ever. All this became possible because of Civicorps.”

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Kenny Mai


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

Kenny came to the Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LACC) with a number of challenges: gang affiliation, homelessness, drugs, alcohol, limited family support, a single parent household, anger problems, and family conflict with his stepfather. Because English is not his first language, Kenny struggled through school and dropped out. However, he refused to give up on education a second time. At age 19 Kenneth enrolled in Job Corps where he received his GED. Despite the threats and fear of giving up gang life, he started working as a Corpsmember at LA Conservation Corps in March 2007. While training at the Corps he learned carpentry, roofing, plumbing, irrigation and drywall.  Kenny showed up to work daily and to learned how to deal with family, work, and stress. 

Kenny was elected President of the LA Corps Leadership Council where his responsibilities included motivating corpsmembers to participate in partnership with the LA Conservation Corps.  His involvement with the Leadership Council has developed his leadership skills to the point where he now recruits and promotes participation in the LA Conservation Corps's numerous programs.

Kenny said, “Life after the corps will be a bigger step in my life which comes with more opportunities to grow despite drama and stress.  In the near future I see myself enrolled in a community college, working and becoming part of the LA Conservation Corps staff.  I also plan on getting my degree in electronics and continue my career in construction.”

2009 Corspmember of the Year: Sarah LaRocque


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


(Written in 2009) 

Sarah joined Heart of Oregon in August 2007 after a tumultuous childhood filled with drugs and instability. Sarah was extremely motivated to improve her life through education and hard work, and was determined to make it on her own as a single mother.

After attending one quarter of GED Prep, Sarah earned her GED and became taking College Prep classes.  While attending one of Heart of Oregon’s “Career Pathways” classes, she met the Human Resources Director of Bend Broadband, a local cable service provider.  After Sarah completed her term at Heart of Oregon, she reconnected with Bend Broadband and became one of their Customer Support Specialists.

As Sarah stated, “My main goal when I started was to be able to pay all my bills and start planning for my daughter's future, but I thought that was too far of a dream for me. Now I realize that all I needed was the right guidance and constant reassurance that anything can be done.   My life is better because I took that first step by myself, and after that I had my new family to hold my hand.”

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Arthur Jacuinde

 

When Arthur Jacuinde enrolled in the EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps' YouthBuild program in March 2007, he was facing many obstacles in his life.  He was unemployed, on Juvenile Parole, a high school dropout with no work experience, and living in a group home. 

With the support of the Corps, he enrolled in EOC’s School of Unlimited Learning - a charter high school - to complete his secondary education. After just eighteen months, Arthur passed the California High School Exit Exam and received his high school diploma.  With his AmeriCorps Education Award, he enrolled at Fresno City College.  Arthur was also selected as a delegate at the National Young Leaders Conference and has begun working on a pilot program, “Our America,” initiated by YouthBuild USA.  As part of the project, he is talking to other corpsmembers and encouraging them to share their life stories. He is working on initiating discussions about issues affecting corpsmembers and raising awareness about these issues.

Arthur was also recognized by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Division of Parole Operations for his commitment to change and achieve success.

Arthur is currently enrolled in a second term at Fresno and plans on using his education award to continue furthering his education at Fresno City College in the Fire Academy.

As Arthur says:

“I realize now that nothing is impossible. I have learned a few things about what life is and now I have total control over the outcomes in my life. I now understand the value of my freedom and that even though I cannot change my past, I am in total control of my future.”

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Aaron Dennis Crouse

(Written in 2009)

Aaron Dennis Crouse first started working with the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) the summer after his junior year of high school.  He spent his summer decommissioning roads and building trails leading to the Wild and Scenic Verde River. He was happier than he had ever been in his life.  During his senior year, however, he was hospitalized for severe depression.

Going back to CREC the next summer kept him going.  He decided to postpone college in order to stay at CREC.  He spent three grueling months working on a backcountry crew for the Southwest Conservation Corps, based in Tucson, AZ.   By September, he had been unanimously elected as Crew Leader even though he was the youngest person on the crew.   Before the term ended, he had already signed up for a year-long term back in Flagstaff. 

CREC was a life changing experience for Aaron.  As he said:

“This year has brought more than a fair share of tribulations for me: I struggled, once again, with being the youngest member on my crew; I contracted a MRSA infection and had to be hospitalized for 2 weeks after having a golf-ball-sized chunk of flesh removed from my knee; two of my high school friends died, as well as my Grandmother, who was the driving force in my life.  I honestly believe that I couldn’t have dealt with these challenges without my experiences in CREC and the support from my CREC family.” 

Aaron wants to continue working to improve the environmental health of the Arizona landscape he has come to love. 

It fills me with pride to know that I have spent the last year-and-a-half making a positive difference in the environment, and it fills me with elation to know that I will be able to continue this work," said Aaron. "Despite all of the challenges that I have faced this year, I will be graduating with friendships that are stronger than any natural substance, experiences inconceivable to those who have not had them, and a sense of accomplishment that will act as a strong foundation for the rest of my life.”

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Quintin Williams


***Update! Click here to read about what Quintin has been up to since he won his award***

(Written in 2010)

Before joining the Corps, Quintin Williams was like many young people, working an unsatisfying job that provided little challenge.

Quintin sought out the Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) and the Inclusive Crew where Corpsmembers with and without disabilities surveyed campgrounds and trails for Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines. Quintin himself is completely blind, and previous work opportunities had been with others who were blind or visually impaired. 

The Inclusive Crew’s mix, including mobility disabilities, gave Quintin a more complex understanding of accommodation. In addition, Quintin inspired his crewmates and used humor to break down barriers and honestly communicate about differences in ability, demonstrating a natural leadership that led him to promotion as crew leader.

Under Quintin’s leadership the crew took a local project and made it national: developing a new accessibility information database for the Forest Service that will provide the public with information on accessible campsites, facilities, and services.  The database is a leap forward for the Forest Service in its transition planning—and, by no accident, accessible to those who use a screen reader.

Quintin is a leader and ambassador for accessibility on public lands—one of the nation’s rising leaders in the field of service.

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Alisha Peters

Alisha Peters moved to Ohio to live with her sister to escape an environment where she was getting into trouble, especially with drugs.

WSOS Community Action, Inc. gave Alisha her first work experiences—and she excelled.  She welcomed new Corpsmembers, sharing her cell phone number in case they needed someone who would listen or provide support. She offered any Corpsmember a place to stay and a hot meal if they needed it. And in the Corps, she served as an Ohio Benefit Bank Counselor, assisting low-income families with issues ranging from homelessness to applying for heating assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, and tax preparation.

Alisha traveled through four counties, setting up evening and weekend tax clinics to be sure that working families could get the help they needed when they needed it. When families came in for a tax appointment with her, they often walked out not only with tax refunds, but with food stamps, transportation benefits, and Medicaid support. Most remarkably, the record shows that Alisha Peters assisted more families than any other OBB Tax Counselor in the state of Ohio. She went from being a person needing help to being a person who was exemplary for giving help to others.

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