An Interview with Ann Cochrane, a 2015 Corps Legacy Achievement Award Winner

An Interview with Ann Cochrane

This year, we at The Corps Network interviewed our two 2015 Corps Legacy Achievement Award winners to learn more about their experience and history in the Corps movement. 

Click here to read Ann's bio.  


How did you become involved in the world of Service and Conservation Corps? 

I started my career working with incarcerated young adult women in a group home in Boston back in 1977 and have always worked within a social justice setting. When I moved to SF, I learned about a job at SFCC as Administrative Director. Because the SFCC served a similar population to the agency in Boston - one I love to be involved with, I applied for the job. Just like the Corpsmembers, the Corps helped me grow as a professional and a person.

 
Who are some of your heroes? What did they do to inspire you?

Harriet Tubman, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, my mother. Each of them was a tenacious agent for change at great cost to themselves. Their words and actions challenged the status quo in a direct, passionate and eloquent way which I try to emulate.
 

What are some of your most memorable experiences from working with Corps programs?

-- Attending our largest high school graduation ceremony.

-- Spending a day with a small group of Corpsmembers visiting legislators in the State Capitol to educate them about the Corps' work and for the legislators to hear from the Corpsmembers directly how the Corps has impacted them and the community at large.

-- Learning from and being supported by my colleagues.

-- Bearing witness to the transformation of a Corpsmember and the moment when they recognize with pride what they have accomplished.

 

Which of your accomplishments as a leader in the Corps Movement are you most proud of?

-- Keeping SFCC alive and kicking for 26 years

-- Mentoring some amazing staff

-- Helping to successfully advocate for the California Corps to retain our Bottle Bill funding

-- Supporting, guiding and in some cases leading the Corps to remain dynamic, ever changing, and relevant to the needs of the young people we serve.

-- Serving on the TCN Board off and on for 12 years and being a member Corps of TCN. It allowed me to help shape the movement while also being able to incorporate what I leanred from those experiences into SFCC.


 
Given your experience, what is the primary piece of wisdom you could provide to Corpsmembers?

-- Figure out what your interests and goals are your life.

-- Learn as many skills as you can to support those interests and goals.

-- Surround yourself with people that will support your efforts to achieve those life goals and who will celebrate your success.


 
What is the primary piece of wisdom you could provide to staff members at Corps?

-- Be a good listener and observer in every aspect of your job.

-- Treat Corpsmembers as adults and with respect - it will help them grow and will garner respect in return.

-- Don't try to "save" anybody. The Corps provides the vehicle for Corpsmembers to grow but they do the heavy lifting.

-- Learn from your mistakes!

 
 
Ten or twenty years from now, what developments would you like to have taken place in the Corps Movement?

-- 10 years from now, I would like to see multiple Corps in every State.

-- The Corps will be a nationally recognized as an essential social policy model that addresses multiple important social needs and is worthy of public and private investment on a grand scale.


 
When not working, how do you like to relax and enjoy yourself?

-- Reading a good book

-- Going for a hike with a friend or my dog

-- Sharing a REALLY good meal with friends and family

-- Taking a run

-- Going for a sail

-- Attending a cultural event

 

An Interview with Paul McLain-Lugowski, a 2015 Corps Legacy Achievement Award Winner

An Interview with Paul McLain-Lugowski

This year, we at The Corps Network interviewed our two 2015 Corps Legacy Achievement Award winners to learn more about their experience and history in the Corps movement. 

Click here to read Paul's bio.

 

How did you become involved in the world of Service and Conservation Corps? 

I was fortunate to grow up in a home where service was a strong value, modeled consistently by my parents. I pursued studies that would prepare me for a life of service, completing a bachelor’s in Philosophy, then a master’s in historical and theological studies. After four years as a community organizer with the United Methodist Church, then a member of the Philosophy faculty at Fresno State University, I became acquainted with the work of the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission and was thrilled to obtain employment with this distinguished agency. After founding a shelter for homeless, runaway minors – named the Sanctuary, I was asked to head the formation of a local conservation corps in Fresno – not having ever before heard of Corps! At the time I had no sense of how prolific and transformative this experience would be for me, and the youth I had the privilege of leading.

Leaders in the California Conservation Corps were instrumental in providing guidance and resources as we formed the foundation for the local corps in Fresno. John Martinez, of the CCC, was a valuable and generous resource during our early days. Just as important were the early and enduring friendships I made among Corps directors in California and throughout the nation. Most significant were Sam Duran, Bob Hennessy, Ira Okun, Bruce Saito, Joanna Lennon, and Harry Bruell.  While the work was incredibly taxing, its rewards were so much more exhilarating than anything I had done before. Corps represent the best in models for youth development and are universally hailed for the results they yield. I’ve always been amazed that regardless of how much time an individual may have spent in the Corps it is that experience that is long lauded and remembered for the values and skills it taught, the friendships and bonds it made.

 

Who are some of your heroes? What did they do to inspire you?

My children are my heroes! They’re all carrying on the legacy of service in their own unique ways – as homemakers, law enforcement, fire protection, mechanical technician, Veterinarian, professor, and teacher – just think the impact they are having on their children, and their communities! They inspire me each day by their love, generosity, commitment, and vision.  They are my heroes.

Mentors have also had an inspiring role in my development, chief among them Joe Williams, the CEO who hired me at Fresno EOC. Joe was my picture of leadership, sophistication, class, fierce determination and hard work, loyalty, grace, and success. He had the Midas touch. Reverend Paul McCoy is another. Rev stood with me as Chair of our Advisory Committee for my entire tenure at the Corps. His constant encouragement, prudent guidance, smooth facilitation of agendas, and abiding calm through many, many storms – he is an anchor to me.

Others include Sam Duran and Bob Hennessy, my two closest friends, who know me like family. They were at the vanguard of Corps formation and legitimacy. They mortgaged their homes to make payroll. They got in trucks with crews, never shying from any part of the work of the Corps no matter how grueling or dirty. They won legislative wars we had no business fighting. Their lives were consumed by the Corps and the Corps is vibrant today because of their uncompromising commitment. Add Ira, Bruce, Joanna, Harry and others to that list.

My parents, immigrants who fled war, imparted indispensable values – hard work, determination, self-sufficiency, leadership, and faith. My grandkids are my thrill! Each so full of life, so curious, so accomplished so early in life. My wife incredibly prevailed over two serious bouts of cancer. She is the love of my life, my soul mate, confidant, sounding board, and business partner. She puts everything into perspective.

Deep appreciation goes to Brian Angus, our CEO, for honoring my work at the Corps, for our growing friendship, and for new, exhilarating leadership opportunities he’s created to turbo charge the work of Fresno EOC here and beyond. And I must add Shawn Riggins, my successor at the Fresno Corps. Shawn has demonstrated incredible grace to continue the legacy of the Fresno Corps; he reminds me of the importance of family, demonstrated so profoundly by his relationships.  

 

What are some of your most memorable experiences from working with Corps programs?

So many! Some quite humorous! Like frolicking outside all night long during NASCC’s Snowmageddon (late ‘90s) culminating with breakfast! Night tours of the monuments in Washington. And, of course the Dubliner, where we conducted a lot of late night Corps business J. Other memories: the incredible support the Corps family lent during the passing of my son; the amazing progress and accomplishments of our corpsmembers, notably Luis Chavez, believed to be the first corpsmember to hold elected office; our first YouthBuild grant (’95) which led to a transformation of our Corps; Government Education Days in California and Washington; the run of funding we secured in California, beginning with the doubling of the Bottle Bill, then Park Bond Propositions 12, 40, and 84; and CALCC meetings (vicious, frantic, entertaining, and productive)!

          

Which of your accomplishments as a leader in the Corps movement are you most proud of?

No one accomplishes anything without a terrific supporting cast. I’m very proud of the leaders I surrounded myself with; their dedication, loyalty, and consistently reliable and professional work placed the Fresno Corps among the elite youth development programs in the nation. Timing and a good bit of luck never hurt as well. I was very fortunate to work in a professional environment that lent me the freedom, encouragement, and resources to chase my dreams for the Corps. In retrospect, we planned a future for the Corps that went well beyond realistic because we just didn’t know any better. A lesson for our young leaders – think big, venture big before you recognize and are overcome by the minefields ahead of you.

I was honored to have the confidence of my peers to serve in numerous leadership roles, including a term on the board of the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (NASCC), one term as CALCC President (state Corps Association), two terms as State YouthBuild Coalition President, and 14 years as President of the State Conservation Corps Institute (Conservation Corps State Museum).

We were profoundly honored by the distinguished progress of our corpsmembers, recognized by The Corps Network as Corpsmembers of the Year five of the first six years the award was made, and several other times since. The Fresno Corps was also recognized with three Projects of the Year.

Perhaps the most difficult of accomplishments was the visioning and construction of what became the Rev. Edward L. Swillis Neighborhood Youth Center, the headquarters of the Fresno Local Corps, dedicated and opened in the fall, 2009. The 66,000 SF $16 million campus comprised of an administrative/activity center, NBA-sized gymnasium, Vocational Training Center, and Charter School facilities was funded almost entirely by grants, while simultaneously maintaining and growing the existing operations of the Corps. Again, while the plan was visionary and bold, there were many who from the beginning and throughout the seven-year development period felt the project would never be completed. 25 grants to more than a dozen sources were written to fund the development while the cost of the project more than doubled, as it was constructed during the housing bubble. Anguish, long hours, pride, a talented team, and a commitment to purpose prevailed!   

 

Given your experience, what is the primary piece of wisdom you could provide to Corpsmembers?

Continue your education, don’t delay! I remember the first class of corpsmembers we enrolled in AmeriCorps. I was shocked that none were interested in the education award they would earn, that they had no plans for school, or college, that many felt they might not reach their 25th birthday. That revelation so moved us that we began a laser focus on improving our education services and to attract suitable talent to deliver these services. Today, I am so pleased with the academic services the Fresno Corps offers, with the quality, commitment, and number of graduates being produced each year. This must continue to be a focus of all Corps. Education is the single most important indicator of future earnings and one’s ability to move toward self-sufficiency. Education is much more than the content learned; it is the student’s association with others vested in the pursuit of skills for careers that bring fulfillment and prosperity. 

Surround yourselves with mentors and friends that help you learn and establish the life skills for a solid family foundation. Families are the essential unit of organization that impact the quality of life for a neighborhood and community.

Learn to budget and invest. Recognize that wealth is more a function of management than it is a matter of earnings. Live below your means and learn to become an investor. That discipline, coupled with time, produces a formula for explosive growth and prosperity. 

 

What is primary piece of wisdom you could provide to staff members at Corps?

I often told my staff that working for the Corps was a mission, not a job. Corps require undivided dedication to the needs and development of corpsmembers. Predictably, those who could not make such a commitment, moved on. The work was simply too difficult and corpsmembers will always quickly discern who genuinely cares about them and who does not. To those who regularly asked me about how the Corps might springboard them to greater career opportunity I always said they could grow their future at the Corps. Few other careers offer the kind of upward mobility the Corps offer. Corps enjoy strong legislative and funding support, they have the breadth and capacity within which abundant growth can and must take place. Working at a Corps is a privilege, an honor that must be respected. The promotion I got when I left the Corps left me lost and despondent for some time. I had fully planned to retire from the Corps.

 

Ten or twenty years from now, what developments would you like to have taken place in the Corps Movement?

I am so impressed by the leadership of The Corps Network and the Public Lands Service Coalition. At a time when resources are scarce, these groups, along with YouthBuild USA (the premier youth development groups in the country), have introduced new and innovative approaches to grow the Corps. While with fierce determination they protect funding that is in place, they’re now exploring avenues of collaboration with numerous related federal departments, with boldness and success. Weekly conference calls assure accountability. With such momentum there is no doubt Corps will grow into a much more mainstream element in a variety of areas including workforce development, education, energy, life skills, and family development. Corps in California have wonderful new opportunities in energy, with a Cap and Trade initiative that will make billions available for activities that address climate change and reduce the energy burden for our most vulnerable populations.

That groups continue to preserve the legacy of the FDR Corps is heartening. I would love to see the Corps recreate a 21st Century Corps with the appropriate scale and funding to help the large demographic of disenfranchised youth and returning veterans prepare to lead our nation. That this process is well underway now is thrilling to know! Leadership is always the key. Corps have always had strong leaders; cultivating the next generation of Corps leaders is paramount to realizing such expansion.  

 

If any celebrity or public figure were to become an advocate for Corps, who would you want it to be and why?

Doc Rivers would be a great advocate for Corps! One of my colleagues grew up with Doc in Chicago. Doc might be convinced to become involved with Corps. Oprah Winfrey is another, if someone had the connection to introduce us to her. I have tried to get to Kirk Kerkorian, President/CEO of Tracinda Corporation, an alum of the Civilian Conservation Corps, who was born in Fresno. He is 97, still active in business. I’ve had contact with Jim Brown, the Hall of Fame Cleveland running back and while he is active with youth similar to our corpsmembers, he is focused on the program he founded – Amer-I-Can. Members of FDR’s family may still have a passion for the Tree Army he introduced in 1933 and may want to promote the Corps.

  

When not working, how do you like to relax and enjoy yourself?

I’m fortunate to have a job I love, great colleagues, and the energy, and passion to enjoy it, so I spend a lot of time at work J However, with twelve grandchildren spread throughout California, all active in sports, music, and dance, we’re spending more time on the road, visiting with our extended family. I also have a number of hobbies and activities which I’ve enjoyed for many years. I played organized ice hockey until age 57, was the first Captain of the Fresno State University Bulldog Hockey team that still competes with major universities throughout the state. With knees and back less able, I now enjoy golf, biking, hiking, and fishing, especially with my son. I run an investment group, and control real estate holdings in several states. I’ve been invested in the financial markets since age 12, waking up daily to the ticker tape and new opportunities for investment. I enjoy teaching the markets to our Corpsmembers and have helped a number through difficult housing transitions. Philosophical discussions and lectures always interest me. Looking forward to much more travel. Originally from Canada and while attending high school at the New York state border, I became a huge New York sports fan. Love to get to the city as often as possible to see the Rangers, Knicks, Yankees, and Giants!  

2015 Corps Legacy Achievement Award Winner - Paul McLain-Lugowski

Paul McLain-Lugowski
Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps


Click here to read an Interview with Paul *

Paul McLain-Lugowski has been an important figure in the Corps movement for the past 20 years. In 1995, Paul founded Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps (LCC) as well as the first YouthBuild program among California Corps. Since then, LCC has helped transform the lives of thousands of opportunity youth. 

Under Paul’s leadership, LCC generated an annual budget of nearly $9 million, enrolled over 350 Corpsmembers every year, and maintained a $3 million Fee-for-Service portfolio that provided Corpsmembers with vocational training opportunities in grounds maintenance, irrigation and concrete. Through LCC, Paul also introduced and led the state in re-entry initiatives for formerly incarcerated youth. Consequently, LCC has been awarded more contracts in this area than any other Corps or YouthBuild program in the country. 

Throughout his tenure, Paul helped LCC develop a glowing reputation in the community and expand its capacity to provide educational and service opportunities to at-risk young people. In 2010, LCC was awarded a Project of the Year Award for the development of their new campus: the $16 million, 60,000 square-foot Rev. Edward L. Swillis Neighborhood Youth Center. Paul envisioned, directed, and led the fund development for this project.

Paul has held numerous leadership positions in the Corps world. From 1998 – 2000, he served as the third President of the California Association of Local Conservation Corps (CALCC), presiding over the organization when its recycling allocation doubled to $18 million. He served two consecutive terms as President of the California YouthBuild Coaltion (2005 – 2009); served as a board member of the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (2004 - 2006); and, since 2002, has chaired the board of California’s Conservation Corps Museum.

Though Paul no longer serves as Director of LCC, his commitment to the Corps and to young people endures. Over the past five years, Paul created, and continues to lead, the Planning Office for LCC’s parent organization, Fresno EOC (which is the nation’s largest community action agency). He convinced Rep. Jim Costa (a strong supporter of Paul’s nomination for this award) to co-sponsor the Youth Corps Act of 2011, and continues to pursue California state and federal representatives to support important Corps initiatives. Paul is also a regular speaker on Corps-related matters, presenting to HUD, Inside-Out Summits, California State Assembly hearings, State Workforce Association Conferences, National Transitional Jobs Network, and the National Community Action Partnership. In his spare time, Paul also continues to formally and informally mentor many LCC Corpsmembers.

Shawn Riggins, current Director of LCC, said, “Paul’s passion for the Corps is without limit…It is not easy to follow in the footsteps of a giant.”  

2015 Corps Legacy Achievement Award Winner - Ann Cochrane

Ann Cochrane
San Francisco Conservation Corps


Click here to read an Interview with Ann *

Ann Cochrane began her tenure with San Francisco Conservation Corps (SFCC) in 1988, taking over as Executive Director in 1993. Now, as she enters retirement after 26 years as a champion of Corps and a prominent figure in the world of youth development, Ann can be recognized as one of the longest serving Conservation Corps Directors in the country. 

Ann holds a B.A. in Sociology and Law from Boston University and has also completed course work in Early Childhood Education at San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco. Prior to joining SFCC, Ann served as Executive Director of the Chinatown Community Children’s Center. During her time with the Corps, Ann also held multiple leadership positions with other organizations focused on youth development. She served on the boards of the California Association of Local Conservation Corps (CALCC), and Wu Yee’s Children’s Services in San Francisco, and served on the Youth Council of the Workforce Investment Board of San Francisco. Ann has also volunteered her time as a Client Advocate for W.O.M.A.N., Inc., and as a Legal Advocate for the Family Violence Prevention Project.

Ann served on the Board and Corps Council of NASCC/The Corps Network for 12 years, acting as the Board President in the 1990s and helping steer NASCC through changing times. In the 2000s, Ann served as the first Treasurer of the newly restructured Board.

During her tenure, Ann has helped thousands of young people change their lives through participation in SFCC and, by extension, the many other Corps that have modeled themselves off of SFCC’s urban conservation Corps model.

“Ann has brought consistent and steady leadership to the San Francisco Conservation Corps and the national Corps movement for more than 25 years,” said Harry Bruell, CEO and President of Conservation Legacy. “Her upcoming retirement is a true loss of one of the first leaders of the Corps movement.”