The Corps Network Praises President Obama's Creation of New Interagency National Service Taskforce

Image via www.whitehouse.gov

On Monday, as part of an event honoring former President George H. W. Bush and the recipients of the 5000th Points of Light Award, President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum establishing a National Service Task Force charged with expanding national service through new collaborations between federal agencies and public-private partnerships. The Corps Network, which has collaborated with numerous federal departments over the past three decades to use service as a strategy to meet their respective missions and goals, supports this initiative and believes that Service and Conservation Corps can continue to provide an excellent conduit for collaboration between agencies that aim to use national service as a strategy to address pressing national challenges.

"Linking service, education, workforce development, environmental stewardship and other national challenges has been a part of our nation's culture of service since the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression," said Mary Ellen Ardouny, President and CEO of The Corps Network, the national association of America's 127 Service and Conservation Corps, which continue to utilize the model and philosophy of the CCC today. "In 1933, President Roosevelt called on five federal departments to develop and implement a program to provide skills and wages to millions of unemployed young men while they addressed the conservation and infrastructure needs of the nation at that time. Similarly, President Obama is calling on 17 federal departments and agencies to employ national service as a way to respond to pressing problems the nation faces today."  

Specifically, the Presidential Memorandum, like the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009, identified six priority areas for national service:  emergency and disaster services; economic opportunity; education; environmental stewardship; healthy futures; and veterans and military families.  In some way, shape, or form, Service and Conservation Corps work in all of these areas.

Environmental stewardship has long been the foundational work of America's Service and Conservation Corps. In 2012, with support from the Corporation for National and Community Service and the federal land management agencies (the Departments of Agriculture and Interior), TCN member Corps created and maintained 10,473 gardens, parks, and playgrounds; improved and restored 188,640 acres of ecological habitat; and  weatherized or retrofitted 18,973 homes. Also in partnership with CNCS, DOI, USDA and five other federal agencies, Corps Network staff and members developed a plan to establish a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC): "a national collaborative effort to put [100,000 of] America’s youth and returning veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing America’s great outdoors."  The 21CSC is expected to be launched later this year.

The Corps Network has also been an active participant in emergency and disaster services. Through a partnership with the CNCS' Disaster Services Unit and FEMA, Corps have regularly been deployed to assist in disaster relief. Corps have responded to fires in the west, tornados in the mid-west, and floods and storms across the county. After Superstorm Sandy, Corpsmembers came from across the country to remove debris, restore power, and deliver supportive services in New York and New Jersey. Local Service and Conservation Corps will continue to work on restoration and resiliency projects for the next several years. In total, Corpsmembers were deployed to 109 disasters nationwide during 2012.

Corps have always utilized service as a strategy to provide disadvantaged and disconnected young people with opportunities to advance their education and obtain life and job skills while they make improvements in their own communities. "Over the years, TCN has worked with DOL in various capacities to improve the outcomes for youth facing multiple barriers to employment. We are very pleased to see that the Administration is officially recognizing that service is an effective way to engage and deliver workforce development services to this population," said Ardouny. In addition, this fall, with support from CNCS, The Corps Network will implement a new program, the Opportunity Youth Service Initiativethat is specifically designed to improve the employment outcomes of "opportunity youth" through service. Last year Corpsmembers received a combined 12,729 certifications and credentials, demonstrating that they had obtained specialized skills and education needed for success in a job or career.

As far as utilizing service to advance Corpsmember education, in 2012, 4,943 Corpsmembers earned their high school diploma or GED while in a Corps program. Since 2000, 24,275 Corpsmembers have received a scholarship that they can apply toward college and other educational courses because of their participation in The Corps Network’s AmeriCorps Education Award program. With the support of numerous partners, The Corps Network's Postsecondary Success Education Initiative also aims to encourage and support Corpsmembers in advancing to postsecondary education, which is increasingly viewed as a crucial step on the path toward career and life success.

To address health care issues, like obesity and diabetes, particularly in urban areas, many Corps programs have launched organic farms. Aimed at promoting healthy eating habits in their communities, these gardens increase the availablity of affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. Working in collaboration with the Outdoor Alliance for Kids, The Corps Network has worked to promote getting more youth and young adults outside, a behavior that recent research has proven to have a correlation with healthy habits and reduced levels of obesity. 

Finally, working with the U.S. Forest Service, Veterans Green Jobs, and other partners, numerous Corps have demonstrated success with Veterans Conservation Corps that employ the specialized training of returning veterans back home.

The Corps Network and its member Corps have always worked with partners across all levels of government to achieve shared missions and goals, for both the Corpsmembers and the communities in which they serve.  The Corps Network is thrilled that President Obama has established this new taskforce and we stand ready to assist CNCS and the other departments and agencies called upon in the Presidential Memorandum to strengthen current partnerships and build new ones to expand the role of national service in America.

About The Corps Network

The Corps Network is the voice of the nation’s 127 Service and Conservation Corps. Currently operating in every state and the District of Columbia, Corps annually enroll more than 27,000 young men and women in service every year. Since its creation in 1985, The Corps Network has provided national leadership and promoted the growth and quality of its member Corps as they provide education, workforce development, and an ethic of stewardship to diverse youth who address important community and conservation needs. Corps mobilize an additional 289,000 community volunteers who work alongside Corpsmembers to generate 638,684 additional hours of service every year, at an estimated value of $14,140,463. For more information, visit corpsnetwork.org or contact Levi Novey at lnovey@corpsnetwork.org or 202.737.6272.

Media Contact:

Levi Novey
The Corps Network
1100 G Street, NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202.737.6272
Fax: 202.737.6277
Email: lnovey@corpsnetwork.org