Signature Program of The Corps Network Expands

Federal partnerships tap talent of even more American youth through The Corps Network’s AmeriCorps Opportunity Youth Service Initiative

Contact: Levi Novey
                 Director of Communications & Marketing, The Corps Network
                 lnovey@corpsnetwork.org
                 202.737.6272

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thanks to recently announced federal agency partnerships between AmeriCorps and the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Justice, more young people from communities across America can join national service programs and gain skills and experience while lending their energy and talents to service projects that benefit their communities.

By enrolling young people who are either unemployed or have dropped out of school, The Corps Network’s AmeriCorps Opportunity Youth Service Initiative (OYSI) re-engages young Americans in fruitful endeavors. Through a combination of hands-on job training, educational development, and mentorship, OYSI participants gain skills and experience intended to reconnect them to careers and continuing education. Participants work in crews to complete community service projects focused on meeting local environmental needs, such as park maintenance, habitat restoration, improving recreational trails, and making homes for low-income families safer and more energy efficient. Currently the Initiative makes an impact in 13 states, through 12 Service and Conservation Corps programs. Thanks to recent expansions through AmeriCorps’ new partnerships, the number of spaces for young people to serve has increased from about 350 to almost 500 per year. OYSI participants also have the opportunity to earn an AmeriCorps Education Award that can apply to college loans or continuing education.

“We are excited that The Corps Network’s AmeriCorps Opportunity Youth Service Initiative continues to serve as a terrific means to reengage our nation’s youth,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President & CEO of The Corps Network. “They possess incredible potential and want to make contributions for the greater good. This initiative, and the participating Service and Conservation Corps help them do that and become excellent role models for other young people who might have struggled, but who seek to make a positive impact in their own lives and in their communities.”

Enhanced Focus on Inclusion of Youth with Disabilities

In order to increase the number of individuals with disabilities serving as AmeriCorps members, CNCS offered grantees the opportunity to request additional slots to be filled by AmeriCorps members with disabilities. Corps participating in this initiative intentionally recruit, engage, support and retain Corpsmembers with disabilities. Half of the OYSI Corps elected to strategically participate and have supported at least 30 Corpsmembers in the first year that have self-identified as people with disabilities. Many Corpsmembers come to the programs with special needs that can range from physical disabilities and learning disabilities, to mental health issues and other conditions that impact people’s lives in a variety of ways and with varying levels of severity. Many more young people have disabilities that they do not disclose, and all Corps look for ways to create and support a culture of inclusion so that a diverse set of young people, as diverse as America herself, can experience the transformational nature of national service.

The Corps Network has served as a leader in developing strategies to engage youth with disabilities through programming and resources. In 2009, Utah Conservation Corps in collaboration with The Corps Network and numerous additional partners developed a guide and toolkit on engaging and including people with disabilities in service and conservation.

U.S. Forest Service - AmeriCorps Partnership

More young people serving in the Opportunity Youth Service Initiative will help steward America’s national forests and other lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service because of the agency’s new partnership with AmeriCorps. These OYSI positions will be of considerable interest to young people who are interested in pursuing natural resource careers. They can use their experience as members of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) to further develop skills needed for today’s workforce. A total of $3.8 million in joint funding aims to support 300 new AmeriCorps members serving in the OYSI and other 21CSC programs, that operate under the large 21CSC umbrella of public-private partnerships intended to elevate youth and veteran participation nationwide in conservation and service.

"This landmark partnership between the Forest Service and USDA with AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service provides youth and veterans with new job skills while helping to restore America's forests and grasslands. The Administration's continued support for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps furthers President Obama's goals of expanding economic opportunity, creating new ways to engage in service projects, and reconnecting Americans to the great outdoors," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

U.S. Department of Justice - AmeriCorps Partnership

The recently announced three year, $10 million partnership between AmeriCorps and the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has also helped expand the OYSI. With a focus on mentorship and opportunity youth, the collaboration is part of efforts broadly supporting the goals of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. Several Corps within the OYSI will enroll young people with a specific focus on the goals and outcomes that the OJJDP has deemed important and effective.

“America’s future will be defined, and our progress determined, by the doors we open and the support we offer to young people across the nation,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “My Brother’s Keeper, and innovative initiatives like this one, must be a central part of this work.  By involving young people in service projects and offering them the benefits of mentorship – through programs like AmeriCorps – we can help our kids mature into responsible, confident, and productive young adults.  And we can do our part to ensure that every child, from every background, has the tools they need to learn, to grow, to thrive – and to lead.”

Recent Project and Training Highlights

  • Limitless Vistas, Inc. OYSI Corpsmembers helped lead 200 volunteers in removing invasive plants species from the 80-acre Audubon Nature Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. In addition, Corpsmembers and volunteers helped re-establish hardwood bottom lands (wetlands) by planting over 500 native trees.
     
  • OYSI Corpsmembers in Arizona Conservation Corps’ Tucson program attended a career readiness boot camp offered by Goodwill Metro, a nonprofit that works with a similar population in Tucson and offers many career and life resources to Corpsmembers and others in the community. 
     
  • In the town of Georgia, Vermont, OYSI Corpsmembers in the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps helped to build the new 2 mile Deer Brook Trail loop and boardwalk which will allow for people to reach and enjoy a wetland that was not previously as accessible.
     
  • Green City Force OYSI Corpsmembers in Brooklyn, New York completed the GPRO: Green Professional Building Skills Training. They are now certified in GPRO Fundamentals Operations and Maintenance, a national green certification credential.  They also completed an electrical lighting training with Envirolution, as well as a green Building lighting/electrical retrofitting training with Solar One.
     
  • OYSI Corpsmembers in the Texas Conservation Corps have helped make repairs to homes damaged by the flooding of Onion Creek in Austin. The families could not afford to make repairs on their own. 
     
  • In the City of Spokane, Washington and in the Willamette National Forest, OYSI Corpsmembers in Northwest Youth Corps have worked on projects to reduce hazardous fuels on over 40 acres of land. As a result, the forests and private property nearby are made safer and better protected from potential forest fires.
     
  • In Madison, Wisconsin’s Owen Conservation Park, OYSI Corpsmembers in Operation Fresh Start helped establish a nursery for native aquatic plants, including River Bulrush and Pickerel Plant. The plants will later be transplanted into the ponds at Cherokee Park, located on the shores of the Yahara River.
     
  • Working alongside a National Park Service Trail Crew, OYSI Corpsmembers in Western Colorado Conservation Corps helped improve the Alcove trail in the Colorado National Monument. This trail is uniquely adapted to serve disabled users, and is also geared toward visitors with small children or strollers. It was created with standards higher than ADA requirements. 
     
  • The Sustainability Institute’s OYSI Energy Conservation Corps has been able to continue providing in-depth energy efficiency improvements (audits & retrofit work) for income qualified homeowners in the Charleston, South Carolina area. The quality of retrofit services provided to residents has led to a funding commitment from The Boeing Company that will allow the Energy Conservation Corps to take its services to other local municipalities.
     
  • In Baltimore, Maryland, Civic Works’ OYSI Community Lot Team has landscaped and beautified neglected and vacant land into community green space. The total square footage of the lots is 27,143 ft.
     
  • OYSI Corpsmembers in Arizona Conservation Corps’ Flagstaff-based White Mountain Native American youth program worked recently on cyclical trail maintenance in Grand Canyon National Park to help protect the trails system from the damaging effects of monsoon floods.

About The Corps Network

The Corps Network provides critical leadership to the Corps movement and our nation’s Service and Conservation Corps as they harness the power of youth and young adults to tackle some of America’s greatest challenges and transform their own lives. Our 100+ members operate in all states and the District of Columbia. Each year they collectively enroll approximately 26,000 Corpsmembers from ages 16-25. Corps are comprehensive youth development programs that provide their participants with job training, academic programming, leadership skills, and additional support through a strategy of service that improves communities and the environment. Learn more at www.corpsnetwork.org

Media Contact:

Levi Novey
The Corps Network
Phone: 202.737.6272
Email: lnovey@corpsnetwork.org