7 Questions with Gina Carroll

This article is part of a new series of interviews with Corps Staff members.

Gina Carroll is the Director of Conservation Programming for Kupu, operators of the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps. She talks about her experience working at the Corps, the challenges faced by Hawaii's youth, and Kupu's culture of being pono.


1. What are some of the projects that your Corps is working on right now that excite you the most?

The Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps is 1 of 4 major programs within Kupu. Currently we are working to provide Community U, a program designed for disconnected young adults, program structure and long-term funding. 21st Century Conservation Service Corps projects in the Hawaii Volcano National Park and the Haleakala National Park give Kupu the opportunity to increase our reach into the middle schools to improve awareness of the National Park System in their own neighborhood.

2. What kinds of careers are typically available in your neck of the woods for Corpsmembers?

Careers range from food service, tourism, construction, volunteer coordinators, wildlife technicians, field technicians, park directors and program coordinators. In the past 2 years, we were able to bring on 6 of our own Corpsmembers into staff positions.    

3. What are some of the most typical problems you face when working with Corpsmembers, and how do you solve them?

Many of our members have little to no family support. They often lack motivation and direction and many are without any sense of work ethic. Poor attendance, chronic tardiness, and poor communication skills are all common issues. I’m not sure we ever solve the problem, however we do try to reduce the barriers or excuses. Asking why they are chronically late will probably evoke an excuse. Asking what is going on at home that is making them chronically late will evoke an answer that is closer to the truth. We do our best to set them up for success by eliminating as much of the barriers/excuses as possible. When problems persist, there might be a ‘special’ barrier they need assistance in removing. 

4. What’s something about your organizational culture that you are proud of and something you want to improve?

Kupu culture prides itself on being pono. Pono is the Hawaiian word for righteous, upright and moral. We teach this value formally through orientations and trainings, and informally through the way we conduct ourselves day to day. Pono is the guidance we use when there is no clear rule, it’s the unspoken guide, ‘is this right?’ ‘Did we decided correctly on this?’ I hope that when it is all said and done, and the job is complete, people can say Kupu did the right thing.

One thing I’d like to improve? I’d like some time to find ways to best support our staff in their own personal development. They spend so much time and intentional energy into creating amazing programs each year that to me, change lives. Their efforts touch the lives of hundreds of members each year that ultimately create a stronger community. There are not enough ways to let them know how much they are appreciated and how much better our future will be because of them.

5. What’s your favorite kind of terrain and why (Beach, mountain, forest, lake, tundra, etc…)?

I honestly cannot say I have a favorite terrain because growing up in Hawaii, these parts of home all have a purpose in balancing my life. However, my most recent epic field experience is on the slopes of Haleakala on the island of Mau’i. Being flown in (and out) by helicopter to the 5,000 ft. elevation of this dormant volcano was breathtaking. Our team worked in this area for 5 days at a time alongside amazing trees that were 100s of years old. Planting native seedlings on a 30-40% grade, in 50 degree cloud cover with a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean is my newly experienced terrain. Why? Besides the obvious beauty of the landscape, working in the mist and gazing across the ocean toward the snow capped mountains of the neighboring island brings more than dew to your brow. The work will bring tears to your eyes and peace in your heart knowing that you have just planted your contribution to a future you will probably never see.

6. What’s something accessible to the masses (a movie, tv show, song, book, event) that has inspired or influenced you recently?

“If you’re out there” by John Legend. ... be the change we want to see. I am also inspired by the many video clips on YouTube and photos on Instagram created by our members that remind me of the importance of what we do.

7. What’s one of the best pieces of advice a mentor has given you?  

There is a plan and purpose for your life. Be intentional and don’t give up until you know you found it.


Previous Interviews in this Series

Michael Muckle of the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg

Boiler Plate: 
This article is part of a new series of interviews with Corps Staff members. Gina Carroll is the Director of Conservation Programming for Kupu, operators of the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps. She talks about his experience working at the Corps, the challenges faced by Hawaii's youth, and Kupu's culture of being pono.

7 Questions with Michael Muckle

This week is the inaugural article in a new series of interviews with Corps Staff members.

Michael Muckle is the Director of the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg and talks about his experience working at the Corps, advice from mentors, and what inspires him.

 


1. What are some of the projects that your Corps is working on right now that excite you the most?

There's a few things here in New Jersey that we're currently working on that I'm excited about:  

a. Our upcoming HOPE project at the Gateway National Recreation Area @Sandy Hook is something that I'm really anticipating because it will give our Corpsmembers such a unique opportunity to learn preservation craft skills while rehabilitating a historic building in a really beautiful setting.  

b. The second project I'm excited about is developing a partnership with the American Conservation Experience (ACE) to put our Waders in the Water trained Corpsmembers to work here in New Jersey.  ACE has taken the lead on some riparian restoration projects in the mitigation banking arena here in the state and we look to partner with them to place our Youth Corps WitW Level 1 Corpsmembers on site with them.  

c. The third ‘project’ I'm excited about is helping the state of New Jersey develop its implementation plan for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  We believe that WIOA will enable us to implement new ideas and programmatic strategies on a local level to expand and lengthen the services to our Corpsmember participants – who are requiring more effort and more time to achieve certain goals within Youth Corps. It’s an opportunity to amend our programs with opportunity to increase the quality of service for the next decade…maybe longer. That’s exciting.  

2. What kinds of careers are typically available in your neck of the woods for Corpsmembers?

Jobs usually available for our Corpsmembers are found in retail, foodservice and warehouse work given our rural location here in New Jersey. Other typical placements are entering into Community College, or directly into military service.    

Here at our program we're trying to change the mindset of Corpsmembers by offering them unique service opportunities that shadow careers within the field of public service. In doing so, we hope to reveal what’s possible to the Corpsmembers by introducing them to people in the field that have themselves blazed an unconventional career pathway. That one-on-one interaction is essential to the building of confidence and gaining of trust on behalf of the Corpsmember.  When they see that others like themselves can achieve, they buy into the idea and start to believe.        

3. What are some of the most typical problems you face when working with Corpsmembers, and how do you solve them?

I thought hard about this question. ‘Typical’ problems working in Youth Corps, as most readers might guess, are anything but typical. On any given day, we encounter myriad problems ranging from the relatively benign like punctuality and attendance to the more serious and detrimental behavioral issues -  drug addiction, sexual abuse, gang involvement, etc. The stories of our Corpsmembers are as dramatic as they are varied. We approach all these issues from a position of patience and understanding while utilizing our entire staff in addressing an individuals’ needs. We’re all about second chances. It is challenging, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. It’s particularly satisfying when a young adult has an epiphany about his or her life and then decides on an action of assuming responsibility for their future. It’s all worth it in the end!

4. What’s something about your organizational culture that you are proud of and something you want to improve?

There are two things in particular I’m proud of relative to the organizational culture here at the Phillipsburg Youth Corps. First, I’m proud of the legacy of service this program has provided to this community. Our seventeen years here haven’t been easy. We’ve had ups and downs, but we’ve had a lot of help from a lot of people. I think that we've become an essential part of this community here in Phillipsburg and Warren County. We’re very proud of that.

The second would be the level of commitment and passion for the youth we serve on behalf of my staff. Their hard work and determination are so inspiring! They have a familial approach in everything they do, are wonderful mentors to the young adults they work with and are the most patient people I know. They propel me to want to do better…for them and our youth.

Something I would like to improve is to become more effective with communication; things develop and change so quickly over the course of a day sometimes, and it is difficult to be able to keep pace and inform everyone about those developments. Getting your message out to the right people is so essential to finding partners that support your program as well as identifying the youth we serve, and with so many systems to do so (i.e. Social media, websites, newsletters, etc.), your message can get muddled in the medium you choose. I’d look to improve upon that.

5. What’s your favorite kind of terrain and why (Beach, mountain, forest, lake, tundra, etc…)?

This is an interesting question, but I'm going to answer it like a politician, so I apologize beforehand. I just love the natural world. I can’t pick one type of terrain or environment over another because I feel just as comfortable down the shore as I feel up in the mountains. I have a deep fascination and appreciation of both and everything in between, which by the way, is why I love New Jersey. I’m originally from Connecticut and I had the impression that most people who travel through New Jersey are only familiar with;  the industrial I-95/Route 1/NJ Turnpike corridor.  But the best of New Jersey is just beyond all that you can see when you’re barreling down the NJ Turnpike. New Jersey has it all. Mountains, forests, farms, beaches...it’s perfect.

6. What’s something accessible to the masses (a movie, tv show, song, book, event) that has inspired or influenced you recently?

Anyone who knows me knows that this is almost impossible for me to answer efficiently or succinctly, but I’ll try. One is a song, and it’s not even a new song, but Ben Harper’s “With My Own Two Hands” from 2003 is a personal anthem of mine. One of my former students turned me on to it, and from first listen, it spoke to me. It embodies an ethos of service with an infectious reggae hook. It reminds me why I joined AmeriCorps in the first place in 1998 and cements my resolve as I continue to serve alongside our Corpsmembers. Good stuff.

The second is a book I’m just getting into by Robert Putnam called “Our Kids: the American Dream in Crisis.” It’s a study on the growing inequalities in America and how it is affecting our youth.  I’m hoping it might open my eyes to something so it can foster a constructive conversation among our youth. It is interesting so far.  

7. What’s one of the best pieces of advice a mentor has given you?  

One thing the person who had my job before me said as they pulled me aside while walking out the door for the last time was “Seek balance, Mike. You’ve got to seek balance in all you do.” That has stayed with me ever since. It was a tough time of transition for me, both personally and professionally. I was working long hours, so I understood where the advice was coming from, but still I didn't heed it. It took a few years to fully comprehend and implement that philosophy, and I still struggle most days - but putting emphasis on the things that bring me the most satisfaction - my wife, my daughter and our family - has helped me.


 

Boiler Plate: 
This week is the inaugural article in a new series of interviews with Corps Staff members. Michael Muckle is the Director of the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg and talks about his experience working at the Corps, advice from mentors, and what inspires him.