2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Philandrian Tree

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

During her terms as an AmeriCorps member with the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC), Philan Tree has accomplished many notable achievements. Philan was instrumental in setting up CREC’s collaborations with several chapters within the Navajo Nation.

Her direct work with these chapter houses resulted in two Memorandums of Understanding between Coconino County and the Leupp Chapter and the Tonalea Chapter. Because of these MOU’s and Philan’s diligent work with these chapters, CREC was able to employ 17 Navajo Nation AmeriCorps members to work directly with their chapters providing energy efficiency measures to the most needed homes in those underserved communities. Philan also procured a Resolution of Support from the Western Agency of the Navajo Nation allowing for CREC’s Energy Conservation Corps (ECC) to provide home weatherization to many families with great need in Navajo Nation lands of Coconino County.

Philan provided leadership for the first fully Navajo crews that were hired and employed by CREC within the Navajo Nation. Her skills in speaking and writing in Navajo provided access to County services that would have otherwise not been available to some of the elderly Navajo peoples. Led by Philan, these AmeriCorps members spent hours painstakingly translating and developing phrases to explain weatherization techniques and processes in Navajo so the elder residents in the community could understand the benefits and work that these hardworking crews were accomplishing. Philan also spent much of her own time assisting these residents in filling out their applications in order for them to sign up for the weatherization program.

During this timeframe 204 homes were retrofitted within these chapters of the Navajo Nation and Philan’s AmeriCorps members all finished their terms with an additional 45 hours of service to these communities. Simply put, these accomplishments would not have been possible without Philan’s determination, networking savvy, and clear goals for herself and the program.

Philan continues to be a positive influence on her peers and the community. She remains in contact with many of her former crew members encouraging them to continue to make positive changes in their own lives by participating within their local community. She encourages them to be proud of their heritage by respecting traditional ways and teaching others the importance of the Navajo language and encourages her peers and co-workers to speak their native language and to be proud that they are able to speak it. Also during her time as a CREC ECC AmeriCorps member, Philan spent her spare time coordinating volunteers as the chair for the Native American Parent Advocacy Committee. She generated an average of 10 additional volunteers from the Native American Community who help Native American youth to remain in school and to further their education by attending college.

Philan continues to take classes on a part-time basis to complete her Bachelor’s degree at Northern Arizona University and is currently set to graduate in December 2011 with a dual degree in psychology and applied indigenous studies. Philan is also currently working full time at the Coconino County Career Center helping among other tasks to find work for displaced construction workers. She has also been taking care of her father who has been with cancer for the past 6 years.

Despite these challenges and heavy workload, Philan is known for her selflessness, dedication, and can-do attitude. Upon completing her degrees, Philan says that she would like to “create a sustainable program to aide with the housing issues in the Navajo Nation. Currently there are no housing codes on my reservation and I would like to change that for the better.”

Philan also says that from her time with the Corps, “one of my most memorable moments was when the crew and I just finished working on the home of an elderly couple and one of the younger guys told me he wished he would win the lottery and just spend his earnings working on peoples’ homes.”

2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Jessica Johnson

***Update! Click here to find out what Jessica has been up to since she won her award.***

Jessica Johnson arrived at Centennial Job Corps CCC with a high school diploma and a strong drive to achieve new goals in her life.

Jessica says that “participating in the Job Corps program gave me many options that I did not previously have. When I enrolled in May of 2009, I never dreamed that 18 months later I would be a USDA Forest Service employee.”

In addition to obtaining office administration skills in Centennial’s Business and Finance program, Jessica also participated simultaneously in the rigorous physical training that is necessary to become one of Centennial’s firefighters. Well-respected by fire crew bosses and her peers, Jessica was dispatched on every fire call and established a stellar reputation for herself. Consequently, she was accepted to Advanced Fire Management training at Schenck Job Corps CCC in the fall of 2010 and continued to prove that she was a dependable and hard-working employee.

As a result of her consistent and excellent job performance at Schneck, Jessica was recruited to apply for a seasonal firefighter position with the Boise National Forest in the spring of 2011. She recently finished a season of firefighting with an engine crew, and has been able to purchase her own vehicle and start a savings account with some of her income.

Being hired in the Boise area was an additional benefit for Jessica because she has been able to stay near her family. She particularly enjoys spending time with her nieces and nephews and helping to care for them. Jessica also values the positive example she helps set for them through her motivation, working out regularly, eating a nutritious diet, and cultivating positive relationships with her friends and family. Jessica would like to continue on her pathway to success by next securing full-time employment with the Forest Service.

2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Nicholas Jimenez

Joining the Sequoia Community Corps has been an extreme experience for Nick Jimenez. With a difficult adolescence where he often found himself being bounced around in foster care and at one point homeless, Nick says that “growing up, I never had a stable home to live in. The Corps has impacted my life by providing that stability.”

Since entering the Corps, Nick has obtained his high school diploma, enrolled as a full time college student in the evening, and has been working as a Recycling Specialist, a position for which only a select few corpsmembers are chosen. Nick has also been promoted twice and is now a Crew Leader in his department. As a Specialist he leads public presentations and educates the community about the importance of recycling. He also organizes events, which includes doing the scheduling and all the logistical planning.

Since joining the Corps Nick has also been able to rent an apartment, purchase a vehicle, and use some of his earnings from the Corps to get Lasik surgery to improve his vision, a problem he has had since he was 4. Sequoia Community Corps Staff say that Nick has also built up his self-esteem, and serves as an excellent example for his fellow corpsmembers with perfect attendance and a positive attitude.

Nick talks to his peers about his college experience and how education is making a difference in his life. He has inspired 3 others to enroll in college courses and has served as a mentor to help them go through the enrollment process.

Beyond these important contributions and accomplishments, Nick is a leader and often the voice of the corpsmembers in staff events and meetings. He has learned how to voice his opinion in situations that may be intimidating.

As for his future, Nick plans to finish his degree in psychology and hopes to get a Master’s Degree. He’s never been outside of California, and looks forward to attending The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, D.C. as well as traveling more in the future.

2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Maurice Davis

“As a young person, it’s easy to feel directionless and full of self-doubt,” says Maurice Davis. “Often, you don’t put yourself forward, accepting life’s dire circumstances. But when you do take that first step, you are surprised. When you open doors, you find your calling.”

After finishing high school, Maurice had dreams of entering construction work, but he was unable to get a job without experience. Like over 50 percent of young people living in New York City public housing, which counts nearly half a million residents, Maurice was unemployed and fought to maintain hope in an atmosphere of entrenched poverty.

“Instead of discovering ways to improve myself, I accepted my stereotypes,” says Maurice. “I started to believe that I had no potential.” After seeing a flyer in his building, Maurice applied to Green City Force, and was one of 30 selected from nearly 200 applicants to become part of GCF’s Clean Energy Corps.

Corpsmembers perform energy audits and help educate residents about energy efficiency in low-income neighborhoods. While starting a rigorous new training schedule for the Corps that included green job preparation and remedial education, Maurice continued taking care of his disabled mother and bringing his nieces to school each morning. Throughout the program, Maurice was professional and learned to lean on others as they worked towards a common goal: graduation, academic progress, and the satisfaction of completing GCF service projects.

“I’m elevated; I can say I’m on the track for a career, simply because I made an investment in myself. Now, my goal is to rise up in the field of making buildings more energy efficient. I expect to go to college, and to work my way towards a management role.”

Maurice has gained the attention of several interested employers, and in September 2011, Maurice spent a substantial amount of time working on a new park with The Corps Network and Planters Peanuts, work which was in many ways a culmination of his service experience. Maurice, a resident of the neighborhood in which the “Planters Grove” Park was built, committed to being one of two corpsmembers who will provide maintenance and upkeep at the park over the coming year. Maurice will work with a five-person committee of public housing resident volunteers to maintain the park’s diverse gardens. At the dedication of the park, Maurice gave an address talking about his own life and what the park meant to him. Through his address and his continuing commitment to Planters Grove, Maurice has become the face of Green City Force to Lower East Side public housing residents and to the city, state, and federal officials gathered for the opening. Maurice was quoted in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez chose the event to unveil the Civic Corps Jobs Act, an important step forward for the Corps movement.

Through GCF’s EmPower team and his role at Planters Grove, Maurice has discovered a love of working with people that he hopes to incorporate in his career. At a time when AmeriCorps and energy efficiency programs risk defunding, Maurice stands for the ideals of the Clean Energy Corps: an individual with a strong ethic of service, who has found renewed faith in himself, a career path and job related to energy efficiency, and a chance to prove himself as a leader and inspire others through his achievements.

2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Ladine "JR" Daniels

Sadly, Ladine "JR" Daniels passed away in his sleep in early November 2014. JR was a loved and respected member of the Corps community. He will be greatly missed. Click to read our tribute to JR. 


 

Content below originally published in 2012

After being convicted of a felony earlier in his life, Ladine “JR” Daniels says that “I was having hard time finding something to do with my life, and having been to prison, I was only working jobs that were not going very far.”

Once he joined The Sustainability Institute’s Energy Conservation Corps, Ladine gained valuable job skills, secured employment, and made headway toward his goal of starting his own business. While in the Energy Conservation Corps, JR served as a leading corpsmember in the weatherization crew. He inspired others when it came to completing the most difficult tasks and often reached out to younger corpsmembers, offering guidance and friendship.

His growth and desire to learn have been two of JR’s keys to success. He eagerly set out to learn as much as possible with job estimating, planning, and small business creation. JR often volunteers with his local NAACP branch doing outreach and mentoring as part of his choice to take care of himself and his family by learning a valuable trade and offering service back to the community.

In addition to his desire to learn and his strong leadership capacities, JR’s skillset became highly developed while in the Corps. He gained a high degree of proficiency with energy performance testing equipment, instructing others and assisting professional energy auditors through The Sustainability Institute operated Charleston WISE and Charleston WISE Impact Programs. With his newly gained abilities and maturity, JR was courted by potential employers well before his service term ended – though he chose to stay with the Corps and finish his service hours in order to receive an educational award.

JR was ultimately hired by Carolina Green Energy Systems (a local and well-established full-service energy retrofit company) with whom he has established himself as one of their leading weatherization technicians. Although he was competing against other potential hires without criminal histories, JR was chosen by his current employer due to his service, success and development with the Corps.

Even with this success, JR has even bigger goals for the future. He says that “I plan to begin my own company doing weatherization services for low-income families that are sponsored by church congregations here in Charleston. I’m hoping that as my business grows I can hire ECC members as they graduate and give them the same opportunity that Carolina Green Energy gave to me.”

2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Mike Bremer

***Update! Click here to find out what Mike has been up to since receiving his award.***

"When I returned from Iraq with the Army Infantry, I felt like I lost all meaning and purpose in life and I had trouble finding meaningful work. My Corps experience gave me new purpose and a valuable new skillset. I received incredible training and experience alongside other veterans who had similar experiences – we were all looking for a new life after war.”

In April of 2010, Mike Bremer joined Southwest Conservation Corps’ Veterans Fire Corps after serving in the U.S. Army Infantry. While in the Corps, Mike worked in 3 different districts of the San Juan National Forest and also for the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management completing fuels mitigation projects, pile burning, and area burns. He received high ratings in chainsaw safety training and wildland fire fighting and behavior classes. His exceptional ability with a chainsaw also ensured that he could become the sawyer for his crew, an integral and coveted position, especially for a first year firefighter. Based on his performance and the strong bonds he made with his fellow Corpsmembers, the staff of Southwest Conservation Corps promoted Mike to crew leader the following spring.

Mike later secured a job with the U.S. Forest Service as a wildland firefighter and sawyer for the San Juan National Forest. Mike describes it as “the best job I have ever had.”

Beyond his work as a firefighter, Mike is also an advocate for veteran’s issues and an ambassador for Southwest Conservation Corps’ Veterans Fire Corps program. He says that “Service has always been a significant part of my life. My fellow veterans face significant barriers to employment, just as I did. I hope to be able to inspire my comrades to consider the opportunities available through The Corps Network.”

Corpsmember Success Story: Diana Carrillo

 

Diana could not speak English when she left her home of Mexico City and came to America. Now, after spending three years living in the States, 25-year-old Diana is a confident English-speaker with her eyes set on college. None of this would have been possible, she says, if not for her involvement with Conservation Corps North Bay in San Rafael, California.

Before joining the Corps, Diana's lack of a high school diploma and her limited English made it difficult for her to find a job. This was extremely frustrating for her as she needed to make money to support her then 4-year-old daughter. Fortunately, Diana heard about how Conservation Corps North Bay taught ESL and could help her gain job skills. She was particularly excited to hear that Corpsmembers at CCNB could work and earn money while completing their studies.

As a participant in Conservation Corps North Bay’s educational program, Diana earned her GED and is just a few credits away from obtaining her high school diploma. In addition to what she learned in the classroom at CCNB, Diana also learned how to use a chainsaw and is now an expert sawyer. She earns money by working with CCNB crews on environmental conservation projects that have involved everything from habitat restoration to fire and flood prevention. Diana currently works with CCNB’s recycling program and earns enough money to support herself and her daughter.

After she passes the California High School Exit Exam, Diana hopes to begin attending the College of Marin in January 2013. While studying she will also earn money working at CCNB’s organic farm on the College of Marin’s Indian Valley campus. Diana is not entirely sure what she wants to study, but she says she really enjoys her conservation work at CCNB and is considering pursuing a degree in environmental studies.

When Diana emigrated from Mexico with her family to try and find more opportunities, she had no idea what the future held for her in California. Three years later, she is well educated, employable and self-sufficient.

“I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “Now I have time for work, for study, and for my daughter.”

Corpsmember Success Story: Carmen Curry

Without a high school diploma or GED and with little work experience, 21-year-old Carmen Curry found it very difficult to find work. That all changed, however, when Carmen joined Conservation Corps North Bay.

Carmen heard about the Corps from her brother who had participated in a CCNB program for middle school and high school students. Intrigued by how the Corps offered job training and assistance for those trying to further their education, Carmen joined CCNB in August 2011.

After taking classes through CCNB’s educational program, Carmen passed her GED test on the first try. She has already passed the California High School Exit Exam in Math and English and is just a few credits away from earning her high school diploma. Carmen said her peers at CCNB have been extremely helpful and supportive throughout her educational experience.

When she's not in the classroom, Carmen is out in the field working alongside fellow Corpsmembers on various conservation projects. CCNB taught Carmen how to use a chainsaw and paid her to work on habitat restoration, creek cleaning, and other efforts to help protect and maintain the natural beauty of local parks and public lands. Carmen became such a skilled sawyer that she is capable of prepping a gas-powered chainsaw in just 46 seconds.

Carmen plans to attend Berkeley City College in January 2013. She hopes to take classes in early childhood education and eventually pursue a career as a preschool teacher. Carmen says she has been interested in becoming a teacher for a long time. After watching her brother struggle with reading, she feels she has ideas about how to make learning more engaging and exciting for students who would otherwise get frustrated in school. Carmen also feels she is well-equipped for a teaching career because she knows she can relate with students who are experiencing a tough time at home.

In addition to job skills and an education, one of the most important things Carmen gained from her experience with Conservation Corps of North Bay is self-confidence. Carmen says she was once very shy and quiet, but now she feels like a leader and is happy to be able to set a good example for her children.

“If you’re really in a rough spot, the Corps’ the place to go,” said Carmen.

Carmen has a 3-year-old son and a second baby due in February 2013. She lives in Richmond, California.

Corpsmember Success Story: Joshua Edwards


Before attending the Green City Force graduation on June 29, 2012, 21-year-old Josh Edwards had not participated in a graduation ceremony since the 8th grade. For Josh, completing the Green City Force program was not just an accomplishment – it was a new beginning. As Josh said:

“[After] graduation, I got home that night and I just looked at the awards. You get an acceptance award and you get a completion award and I had them both in my hand and it felt so special knowing that I started something, I got into something on my own, and I finished it on my own…It was empowering.”

 Josh grew up in public housing in Brooklyn. His high school career is not something he is particularly proud of; he says he fell in with the wrong crowd and struggled to do well in his classes. He ended up needing to go to school for an extra year to complete all his credits. Josh says he felt lost and started to accept that he might spend his life working dead end jobs. Then his mother received an email about Green City Force – a Brooklyn based organization that trains and educates disconnected young New Yorkers (ages 18 to 24) for careers in the green industry. Josh was so intrigued by the opportunity to join Green City Force that he went all the way to Harlem to attend an information session about the program.

 As Josh says, getting into the program was not easy, but just the application process alone was a very good experience.

 “There are tryouts, an interview. It’s like you’re getting a real job,” said Josh. “You’re treated like an adult, you’re treated like a professional. And that’s just the entry point.”

 Josh says he was completely blown away by his first few weeks with Green City Force. He had never learned about green industries before and was amazed to hear facts and figures about water usage and ways to reduce utility bills in public housing buildings like the one where he lives.

 Josh continues to work for Green City Force on a part-time basis. He now does maintenance work at Planter’s Grove: an 8,000 square foot park – constructed by 2011 Green City Force Corpsmembers – located in New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA) Lillian Wald Houses in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Josh is now looking forward to starting college in January 2013. He hopes to study accounting and perhaps one day combine accounting skills with his passion for the environment.

 “I maybe want to become an accountant for a green business or something like that. That way I’d be doing two things that I love at the same time,” said Josh.

 Josh says Green City Force helped him build his confidence back and helped him understand that he is just as entitled to opportunities as anyone else. He says that before his Green City Force experience, he never knew his own potential.

“I’m already 21 and I already kind of lost three years since I was 18,” said Josh. “But I’m going to get back. This is a fresh start and I want to take everything that I can.”

On April 1, 2013, Josh began serving a second AmeriCorps term with Green City Force as a Junior Team Leader.

Corpsmember Success Story: Christopher Morgan


(Chris - left - working with his Crew Leader, Kenta Darley-Usmar)

Chris Morgan loves learning about sustainability and how to be eco-friendly. He only wishes someone had taught him about the environment when he was younger.

“I just started learning about going green. I want to inform everybody; my little sisters and my family and my friends and everybody else that there are ways to lower carbon emissions and reduce the climate change in the world with little things,” said Chris. “It all starts with one person.”

Chris’s recent interest in the environment can be attributed to Green City Force; a Brooklyn-based Youth Corps program that engages disadvantaged New York City youth in service and conservation projects and helps prepare them for work and college. Chris might not have known much about the environment before joining Green City Force, but – more significantly – he also did not know what he wanted to do with his life.

Chris grew up in public housing in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. He graduated from high school and started taking college classes, but he had to drop out for financial reasons. Chris ended up working at McDonald’s and held a series of other unsatisfying jobs. Then, as someone living in a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) property, Chris received an email about Green City Force. The Corps’ offer of a stipend, metro card, and the chance to learn valuable job skills seemed like a great opportunity. Chris went through the application process and ended up being one of 40 young adults selected for the Corps out of the hundreds who applied.

Chris still has a few months left before the end of the 6-month-long Green City Force program, yet he already has his eyes set on going back to college. He knows he wants to study somewhere in New York so he can be close to his two children (a 5-year-old daughter and a 5-month-old baby) and he knows he wants to pursue an education that could further prepare him for a green job.

“I’m taking everything that I’ve learned and I want to progress with this, I don’t want to look back,” said Chris. “So I feel like if I’m in [Green City Force] now and I’m learning about these things – there are opportunities and there are going to be 7 million jobs in the green economy, why not take advantage of that?”

Chris says that if a green job presents itself before he goes back to school, he may take that opportunity over college. Whatever his future holds, however, he is determined to succeed.

“Instead of struggling at McDonald’s or at Papa John’s delivering pizza – I don’t want to do anything like that. I want a career, maybe start my own business in the green field,” said Chris. “I know a lot of people from Brooklyn don’t have a lot of opportunities and I just want to take advantage and really embrace what [Green City Force] is letting me do.”

Chris currently serves as a Green City Force Junior Team Leader.

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