White House Honors Two Conservation Corps Participants as Conservation Leaders

Jon Brito of Kupu’s Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps (right) and Anthony “Chako” Ciocco of Southwest Conservation Corps were recently selected as White House “Champions of Change” for engaging the next generation of conservation leaders. The event will be live streamed on the White House website. To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 9:00 am EST on March 18.  To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 17, 2014 – Two representatives of The Corps Network were selected by the White House as role models for the “next generation of conservation leaders.” Their stories and accomplishments highlight the impact of the nation’s Service and Conservation Corps programs, which have the left behind a powerful legacy over the course of more than 80 years.

About Jon Brito of Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps, a program of Kupu

Jon Brito’s dedication to conserving his island home of Hawaii, and his enthusiasm for encouraging environmental activism among other young adults, makes him a Champion of Change. At just 24 years old, Jon is the only person to have served in three different Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps (HYCC) programs as well as the Corps’ vocational training program.

Through his experience as an AmeriCorps member, Jon has worked on a variety of conservation projects throughout Hawaii; he has helped construct and maintain trails, eradicated invasive species, planted trees, and restored ancient Hawaiian fishponds. Jon started his service with HYCC as a Corpsmember during the summer after his high school graduation. This experience made him aware of the fragility of Hawaii’s unique ecosystems. Proud of his Polynesian ancestry, Jon became particularly impassioned about protecting the land and water that have been so important to the Hawaiian culture for many generations.

Jon returned to HYCC as a college student, twice serving as an HYCC crew leader. Concerned that other young Hawaiians might miss the opportunity to learn about the environment and experience working outdoors on public lands, he taught Hawaiian teens conservation-related skills, led them on hikes and environmental conservation projects, and taught them the importance of protecting and restoring the natural beauty of the islands. Though he is no longer an AmeriCorps member, Jon is still very passionate about the environmental work of the HYCC.

Jon currently studies Electronic Computer Engineering Technology at the University of Hawaii, Maui College and also is an intern in Kupu’s RISE Program. He chose this field of study and internship because he is deeply concerned about Hawaii’s reliance on outside energy sources. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2010 Hawaii imported some 94 percent of its energy and had the highest electricity prices in the United States. Jon hopes to one day use his education to help Hawaii reach energy independence. This February, Jon was one of only 6 youth nationwide honored as a Corpsmember of the Year at The Corps Network’s annual National Conference in Washington, DC.

“It is an honor to have been selected by the White House as a Champion of Change. I hope to be able to continue empowering youth to accomplish their dreams and to remember the connection that they have with the land. The conservation corps experience helps reveal the wonders of conservation. It can also be fun and lead to a rewarding career,” said Jon.

About Anthony “Chako” Ciocco of Southwest Conservation Corps, a program of Conservation Legacy

Anthony “Chako” Ciocco is a Crew Leader for the Ancestral Lands Program at Southwest Conservation Corps, leading ecological restoration crews on the Navajo Nation. Under Anthony’s leadership his crews of local Native youth work to rebuild damaged ecosystems and build trails to provide outdoor access to local communities. In his work, Anthony accomplished extremely challenging and important conservation projects, while at the same time giving crew members a deep and hard-earned sense of accomplishment, enabling them to move forward in their professional and personal lives. The example he sets for others makes him a Champion of Change.

Anthony strongly believes that reclaiming well-being in Native communities is a highly integrative process including our landscapes, cultures, languages, and our mental and physical health. Anthony, a member of the Mvskoke tribe, co-founded a non-profit devoted to restoration of traditional language and culture. He has also worked extensively in restoring traditional food systems and received the Live Real Food Fellowship. The University of Colorado Public Interest Internship Experience (PIIE) awarded Anthony a grant to fund his work with the Indigenous Training and Resource Council.

“When I took up conservation corps work I did not realize how much it would impact the lives of my crew members, nor the impact our work would have on the environment,” said Anthony. “I have found that it is perhaps the most radical form of supporting and empowering our young people to fulfill their own destinies. So it’s with great appreciation that I thank the White House for honoring me and this concept. At its core, conservation work is about helping things grow and I hope my example continues to do that.” 

A Powerful Legacy  

Jon and Anthony’s accomplishments add to the story of a proud and important legacy. Beginning with the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, and continuing to the recent launch of the Obama Administration’s 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Initiative, Corps programs nationwide have helped millions of young Americans gain job training, further their education, and contribute to America’s communities through service and the conservation of national and state parks, forests, and other treasured places. In 2013 alone, over 100 Corps programs across the country through their collective efforts as members of The Corps Network

  • Restored and improved 242,618 acres of ecological habitat
  • Maintained and improved 2,883 parks, gardens, and urban greenspaces
  • Built and maintained 8,173 miles of trails
  • Responded to 273 disasters including fires, floods, and storms
  • Removed 312,359 acres of invasive and exotic plant species
  • Constructed and maintained 2,110 public facilities including visitor centers and campgrounds

Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network said, “We are very proud that Jon and Chako are among the people who are being honored by the White House as Champions of Change for their conservation work. They are excellent examples of how we can harness the power of young Americans to take on important projects when they are given the opportunities to serve their country, either through work on public lands, or with a program like a conservation corps that gives them training, hands-on experience, and mentorship. Conservation and stewardship of our waters and lands truly is a type of work and ethic that is passed from one generation to the next, and Jon and Chako continue this tradition.”

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, Director of Communications & Marketing
The Corps Network
(202) 737-6272