For Baltimore Youth, Opportunity Goes Green - a story from our friends at SparkAction


Baltimore Center for Green Careers

By Alison Waldman, SparkAction
Click the link at the bottom to read the full story

At one point in his life, Jerrell Henry wasn’t sure what the future would hold.

Growing up in Baltimore, he didn’t have a college degree and saw no opportunity to get a steady, paying job. He was on the pathway to a series of jobs that barely paid the bills, and wouldn’t give him a career.

Then he heard about Baltimore Center for Green Careers (BCGC), which offers local, hands-on training in green jobs.

So he tried it. Jerrell is now fully employed with a local company only weeks after the program’s end. That’s no small feat in Baltimore, where unemployment is considerably higher than the national average, especially among young African American males.

“I loved the program,” he says. “They kept us on our toes. They helped us learn about speaking to employees, and gave us job readiness.”

BCGC is one of several Corps programs honored at The Corps Network’s 2013 Conference in Washington, DC, in February.

Corps are comprehensive youth development programs in cities and states that provide young people with job training, academic programming and leadership training through experience in service. A direct descendant of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, today’s Corps have been growing in recognition and enrollment as the economy leaves more young people out of work and unsure of the next step to a steady career.

This year’s conference covered the ways that Corps can improve programs to better serve opportunity youth—young people ages 16 to 24 who are not in school or connected to the workforce. It also looked at how federal funding streams like the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) can be used to bring effective Corps programs to scale, and celebrated the best programs and members through its 2013 Corpsmembers awards and Corps Projects of the Year.

Here's a closer look at a growing green-jobs success story in Baltimore.

2013 Capitol Award Ceremony


Joel Holtrop, Chair,The Corps Network Board of Directors, and Harry Bruell, President & CEO, Southwest Conservation Corps, greet The Honorable Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

The 2013 National Conference came to a close on Wednesday, February 13th with our annual Capitol Hill Award Ceremony in the Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building. The event recognized our six 2013 Corpsmembers of the Year, three 2013 Projects of the Year, and the recipients of our Federal and Congressional Champion Awards.

Our Corpsmembers of the Year are young men and women who have stood out as leaders and mentors in the Corps movement. Some of this year’s winners had their Representatives in Congress in attendance at the Award Ceremony to offer their support. The 2013 Corpsmembers of the Year are Luis Gaeta, EOC Fresno Local Conservation Corps; Alex Hreha, Coconino Rural Environment Corps; Sarah Huff, California Conservation Corps; Brandon Penny, Civicorps; Raghda Raphael, Urban Corps of San Diego; and Jesse Roehm, Mile High Youth Corps.

Our Project of the Year recipients represent some of the most innovative programs at Corps throughout the country. The ceremony recognized EOC Fresno Local Conservation Corps for their responsible parenting program, POPS (Proving Our Parenting Skills); Civic Works of Baltimore, Maryland for the urban agricultural projects of their Real Food Farm; and Los Angeles Conservation Corps for their Flying Weed Warriors program, which involved the use if cutting-edge herbicide dispersal technology.

The award ceremony also recognized the recipients of the Congressional Champion Award. This Award goes to elected officials whose work promotes and encourages the growth and sustainability of America’s youth service and conservation corps. A number of awardees attended the award ceremony to offer words of support for the efforts of service and conservation corps. This year’s Congressional Champions are Senator Barbara Boxer, California; Senator Mark Begich, Alaska; Senator Christopher Coons, Delaware; Representative Ruben Hinojosa, Texas’s 15th District; Representative Raul Grijalva, Arizona’s 3rd District; Representative John Tierney, Massachusetts’s 6th District; and Representative Nick Rahall, West Virginia’s 3rd District.

Secretary Ken Salazar, a recipient of The Corps Network's 2013 Federal Champion Award, speeks at The Corps Network's annual award ceremony on Capitol Hill. 


Finally, the ceremony celebrated our three Federal Champions. This Federal Champion Award is given to policymakers and public officials whose work encourages the growth and sustainability of youth conservation corps. The three winners – Secretary Ken Salazar, Department of the Interior; Chair Nancy Sutley, White House Council on Environmental Quality; and Secretary Tom Vilsack, Department of Agriculture – have all demonstrated their support for youth corps in numerous ways, and have all provided leadership in the process of creating the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, based on the model of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.

Congratulations to all of our winners and thank you to all of the individuals who joined us for the ceremony and made remarks, including Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment  at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Plenary: Why The Corps Network Matters, Annual Meeting


The Corps Network's Board of Directors. Joel Holtrop, Chair, pictured at the podium. Mary Ellen Ardouny, President and CEO of The Corps Network, seated furthest to the right.

The final plenary session of our 2013 National Conference got off to a great start with a truly inspiring speech delivered by Jesse Roehm, one of this year’s Corpsmembers of the Year. Jesse spoke about how he has always been passionate about environmental stewardship, but how some of the things he loved in life fell by the wayside during his relatively turbulent college years. After graduating from Indiana University, Jesse dedicated a year of his life to service and became a highly respected Corpsmember (and eventually a staff member) with Mile High Youth Corps in Denver. In his speech, Jesse spoke of how the Corps helped him find direction and rebuild a connection with the values he cared about most.

Jesse Roehm, a 2013 Corpsmember of the Year from Mile High Youth Corps in Denver, delivers an inspiring speech. 


Jesse then turned the session over to Joel Holtrop, Chair of The Corps Network’s Board of Directors, and other Board Members, including Joe Scantlebury and Laura Herrin. By sharing personal stories, they shared their own connections to the work of Corps, and their vision for The Corps Network and why they believe the work we do is so important.

For many of our new Board Members, this session marked the one year point of their commitment to serving on the Board of The Corps Network. It was a time to reflect upon the great things they had learned over that period of time.  This session also involved The Corps Network’s Annual Meeting, during which we heard a positive report from the Treasurer of the Board. 

2013 Friends of National Service Reception



On the night of Monday, February 11th, The Corps Network joined with friends from the broader National Service Community in the East Hall of Union Station for the Friends of National Service Reception. Sponsored by CSX, Comcast / NBC Universal, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the event celebrated such champions of National Service as former President Bill Clinton and retired U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). Mary Ellen Ardouny, President and CEO of The Corps Network, helped conduct the ceremony. Wendy Spencer, CEO for the Corporation for National & Community Service, spoke powerfully in a surprise special guest appearance. For a full list of winners, click here.

From Left to Right: Raghda Raphael, 2013 Corpsmember of the Year from Urban Corps of San Diego; 
 Jorge G. Silva-Bañuelos, former staff member of Senator Jeff Bingaman; Mary Ellen Ardouny, President and CEO of The Corps Network.

Partway through the reception we heard from Raghda Raphael, a 2013 Corpsmember of the Year from Urban Corps of San Diego. Raghda delivered a moving speech about how Urban Corps helped her find her way in America. She spoke about moving to California in 2010 to escape the violence and personal tragedies her family had experienced in their native Iraq. Raghda described how the Corps helped her learn English, pass the California High School Exit Exam, and earn her high school diploma.

A gallery of photos from the Reception can be found here.


Plenary: 20 Years of National Service Success


From Left to Right: AnnMaura Connolly, President of Voices for National Service; Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service; Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Acting Director of the Peace Corps.

This exciting session brought together three leaders from the world of National Service. AnnMaura Connolly, President of Voices for National Service, moderated a discussion between Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service and Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Acting Director of the Peace Corps.

The passage of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act was an early victory for National Service during President Obama’s first term, but proposed cuts have threatened funding for service programs, including domestic Corps and The Peace Corps. In addition to this key topic, Ms. Spencer and Ms. Hessler-Radelet both discussed how levels of volunteerism are at a high, and how more service opportunities should be made available in order to accommodate every American that is ready and willing to work.

Both women also shared inspiring stories about how they have personally seen the impact that service can have on service recipients and service providers. Wendy Spencer talked specifically about her time in New York and New Jersey following Superstorm Sandy. She was impressed by the fantastic work of Service and Conservation Corps that traveled across the country to provide assistance as part of a joint FEMA-AmeriCorps mission assignment. Carrie Hessler-Radelet queried the Conference audience, and discovered that many attendees were Peace Corps alumni. Facilitating reciprocal connections between the talent pipeline developed by the Peace Corps and domestic service programs like Service and Conservation Corps was a goal she addressed at length.

Alex Hreha, a 2013 Corpsmember of the Year from Coconino Rural Environment Corps, starts off the session with an inspiring speech.


Before the panel discussion, Alex Hreha, a 2013 Corpsmember of the Year, delivered an inspiring speech about how the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) helped him realized a passion for conservation. Alex talked about how he had been overweight and under-motivated throughout much of his high school career. The Corps helped him build confidence, learn valuable new skills, and develop the mindset to lose weight and get in shape. 

The panelists were particularly impressed by Alex’s story. Wendy Spencer even remarked that it mirrored many of AmeriCorps objectives for outcomes for its program participants. Later on in the day she even gave a shout out to Alex on Twitter:

Plenary: A New Legacy - The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps

The 2013 Corpsmembers of the Year, pictured with members of CCC Legacy Chapter #113. 

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The third plenary session of the conference was all about making the connection between the work of the CCC boys during the Great Depression and the work completed by Corps programs operating throughout the country today. The session started with a short film created by Lance and Brandon Kramer of the DC-based Meridian Hill Pictures documentary production company. The film captured the recollections and modern day activities of several men from CCC Legacy Chapter #113, which is based in Maryland. We were very fortunate to have several members of Chapter #113, all of whom served in the CCC over 70 years ago, in attendance at the session.

Sarah Huff, a 2013 Corpsmember of the Year from the California Conservation Corps, delivers an inspiring speech.

Following the film was a speech delivered by Sarah Huff, a 2013 Corpsmember of the Year from the California Conservation Corps. Sarah shared her story of taking time off from college just to see if the Corps might help her find direction for her future. After joining the Corps, Sarah quickly worked her way through the ranks eventually became a very skilled and trusted wild land firefighter.  

The heart of the session was a panel discussion involving leaders from Corps as well as from the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture. The main topic of discussion was how the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (based off the model of the CCC) will be implemented as part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. The speakers talked about how Corps can play a critical role in restoring America’s conservation infrastructure and developing the next generation of conservation leaders.

Left to Right: Harry Bruell, Meryl Harrell, Michael Gale, Jeff Parker, Destry Jarvis

Speakers included Michael Gale, Director of the Office of Youth, Partnerships and Service at the U.S. Department of the Interior; Meryl Harrell, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Jeff Parker, Executive Director of Northwest Youth Corps; Destry Jarvis, President of ORAPS, LLC; and Harry Bruell, President and CEO of Southwest Conservation Corps, who served as moderator. 

Plenary: Youth Unemployment - Success Stories from Tackling a National Problem


Brandon Penny, a 2013 Corpsmember of the Year, starts off the session with an inspiring speech. 

Over 6 million young Americans are unemployed or not in school. Years of research and experience have yielded important knowledge about the best ways to tackle this problem, but we still continue to learn and adapt our methods of approaching the causes of unemployment. In the second plenary of The Corps Network 2013 National Conference experts and thought leaders from partnering organizations discussed their own experiences and successes in the areas of education and workforce development. These speakers also shared their thoughts about certain aspects of the battle against youth unemployment that could still use improvement.

Speakers in this session included Jennifer Troke, Chief of the Division of Youth Services, Employment and Training Services with the U.S. Department of Labor; Livia Lam, Senior Labor Policy Advisor with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce; Elizabeth Clay Roy, Deputy Director of Opportunity Nation; and Patrice Cromwell, Director of Economic Development and Integration Initiatives with the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The conversation was moderated by Thaddeus Ferber, Vice President of Policy at the Forum for Youth Investment.

At the opening of the plenary, we heard from Brandon Penny, a 2013 Corpsmember of the Year whose story of success echoed many of the themes that the plenary speakers covered. Brandon shared his story of finding the Civicorps Learning Academy in Oakland, California after he dropped out of high school. Brandon found great success at Civicorps; he gained the respect of his peers and his superiors, earned his high school diploma, and got a job as a truck driver for the Corps’ recycling program.

Left to Right: Elizabeth Clay Roy, Patrice Cromwell, Jennifer Troke, Livia Lam, Thaddeus Ferber

Patrice Cromwell specifically talked about the research of The Annie E. Casey Foundation about “disconnected” or “Opportunity Youth” and the long-term impacts of having so many young people out of school and unemployed (see slides). Elizabeth Clay Roy then spoke about the Opportunity Index created by Opportunity Nation that correlates a number of key variables that can indicate how growing up in a specific zipcode can affect a person’s chances to have success in life. The percent of youth who were disconnected had the strongest correlation with the final Opportunity Score for a zipcode.

The next speakers focused on methods that the federal government is working to help alleviate the problem of youth unemployment. Livia Lam spoke about the opportunities and challenges in passing the Workforce Investment Act, while Jennifer Troke spoke about the youth programs and funding streams administered by the Department of Labor (see slides). Connecting Corps programs to these funding possibilities via Workforce Investment Boards is a project that was mentioned and also covered in a workshop by The Corps Network’s partners at the National Association of Workforce Boards.

Video: Meet the 2013 Corpsmembers of the Year

Coverage of our 2013 National Conference

Editor's Note: we will continue to add to this page as more materials from the Conference become available 




Press Releases


Workshop Materials - 2013 National Conference

See below for some of the PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and videos used during our 2013 National Conference.

MONDAY, February 11, 2013


Youth Unemployment - Success Stories from Tackling a National Problem

Concurrent Workshops I

Transportation Funds and Youth Corps 

Films and Research that Explore the Corpsmembers Experience

Concurrent Workshops II 

Fun & Fundraisers: The Good, the Rad, the Ugly

The Value of Data in Creating Performance Management Systems to Improve Youth Outcomes 

TUESDAY, February 12, 2013

Concurrent Workshops III

Maximizing Earned Income: Social Enterprise & Effective Data Systems

Concurrent Workshops V

How to get your Corps Involved in Disaster Relief