Conservation Corps Exchange Program: New Mexico to Texas

Picture taken from the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps Facebook page: RMYC members visiting the American YouthWorks Corps in Austin, Texas

Austin’s American YouthWorks’ Texas Conservation Corps program is hosting a youth crew from Taos, New Mexico at Bastrop State Park this week.

(Press Release from American YouthWorks - November 7, 2012)

Austin, TX -  Austin’s American YouthWorks’ Texas Conservation Corps program is participating in an exchange that brings youth from Taos’ Rocky Mountain Youth Corps program to Bastrop State Park for a week of work rebuilding the park’s trails.  As the first part of the exchange, the Texas crew worked in the Carson National Forest near Taos, NM last month.

The Texas program has been working hard for one year to bring the central Texas State Park back to it’s former glory after last year’s Labor Day fire.  They have rebuilt trails, felled hazard trees, protected park culverts and other infrastructure from flood damage, managed volunteer days, and fashioned the park’s drought and fire killed trees into new park footbridges.  The crew is a part of American YouthWork’s Texas Conservation Corps.  There are similar Conservation Corps programs nationwide, especially across the American West, and many of them get together to share best practices.  During one of these sessions, the idea for a crew exchange was born.  The American YouthWorks team travelled to Taos on October 21st to spend a week of sub-freezing nights in the mountains of northern New Mexico.  They worked as a chainsaw crew alongside the Taos-based Rocky Mountain Youth Corps on a hazard and diseased tree thinning project in a mixed conifer forest in the Carson National Forest. 

On Monday, November 5 the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crew travelled to Bastrop State Park and joined the American YouthWorks crew to complete additional trail work for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at Bastrop State Park.  They will be working on reconstruction of trail footbridges that were lost in the fire.  At the end of their week, they will also spend Saturday with the Travis County Audubon Society installing hundreds of new native plants in east Austin’s Blair Woods Preserve.


Corpsmember Success Story: "William Got Serious" - American YouthWorks

Adapted from a post on the American YouthWorks website: July 12, 2012 - Rachel Matvy

In 2009, after dropping out of school, William came to American YouthWorks’s public charter high school, the Service Learning Academy. William, who was 18-years-old at this point, was of an age when many young people would already have graduated.  Through the Service Learning Academy’s self-paced program, he completed his high school credits in two years. However, William had difficulty passing the State test. While he studied, he joined AYW’s award-winning green construction program, which is designed to create pathways out of poverty for at-risk youth. He gained job skills and earned a small living stipend while he prepared for the test. In addition to job skills, William learned to give back to his community by building energy efficient homes for low-income home buyers.

It is important to note that American YouthWorks continued to serve William even though he had “aged out” of the school.  This meant that American YouthWorks no longer received State funding to serve him.  Through AYW programs, William earned his diploma and industry recognized job training certifications.   He ate breakfast and lunch every day in the AYW cafeteria and his son was cared for in the on campus child development facility.  All of this was provided at no cost to William or his family.  

William started at American YouthWorks in a place of uncertainty, and on June 30th, William will walk across the stage with his fellow students!  He’s graduating with job skills and is currently working with the City of Austin as an intern.  William is achieving his dream: to have a viable means to support his wife and son.

It is through generous gifts from donors that American YouthWorks is able to provide these types of desperately needed services to at-risk youth in Austin so that there will be more success stories like William’s.

Corpsmember Success Story: American YouthWorks Alum Builds on the Skills he Learned in the Corps


Taken from the American YouthWorks Newsletter

"American YouthWorks does a lot to help people, in all kinds of ways."  Jeremy M.

Jeremy already has his high school diploma when he came to American YouthWorks (AYW) in 2010, but he was 22 years old, had a two-year-old daughter, and was living in his car. He had been unemployed for over a year.

Jeremy’s grandmother, who had raised him and his siblings, was unable to help him financially. Jeremy also had issues in his past that made it difficult for him to find employment or housing.    

He was at a loss.  

People would tell me that they wanted to hire me, but they weren't able because of my background checks. No matter what I did, I always got the same answer."  

A friend told Jeremy about AYW's job training programs.  In these programs, participants learn hard and soft job skills, give back to their community, earn a small living stipend and receive an educational award for college expenses.  Jeremy applied and was accepted. He was relieved to have found a job and ended up learning and serving at AYW for almost two years.  

Jeremy credits AYW for giving him the job skills and life skills that have helped him be successful today.  

"The staff want to make sure the students have the foundation to thrive," said Jeremy

During the “Mental Toughness” orientation to AYW, Jeremy was told that the hardest part of the job would be showing up every day and being on time; this made a big impression on him and he learned that he could do it.  He acquired skills in carpentry, house framing and construction.  He also learned to be patient, observant, responsible and detail oriented.  

"Details in building a house are extremely important,” said Jeremy. “An error of 1/8th of an inch could mean the difference between finishing the cabinets, or having to tear them down to start all over again."  

Most importantly, Jeremy learned that he was a leader.   

While he was learning construction skills, Jeremy was improving his community by building affordable, five star, energy efficient homes for low-income home buyers and weatherizing and repairing existing homes for low-income Austin residents.

During his time at AYW, Jeremy earned educational awards totaling nearly $4,000 and was honored with a $2,000 scholarship from YouthBuild USA for his leadership and public service.  These awards, along with encouragement from AYW staff, made all the difference in Jeremy's choice to pursue higher education.  

"I wasn't planning on going to college.  AYW helped me make that decision,” said Jeremy.  

Jeremy says that when he first came to AYW, he was just coming for the job, but he received so much more.   Today, Jeremy is in his 5th semester of classes with Austin Community College and working full-time for the City of Austin's Public Works Department.  

Now, Jeremy has choices.  

When asked who Jeremy goes to for advice, he replied, "AYW! Even though I'm not in the program anymore, the staff are who I come to for support and guidance".  

Los Lonely Boys to Play Austin City Limits Benefit for American YouthWorks

It’s time once again for "the best musical fundraiser in Austin" – Help Clifford Help Kids!

Los Lonely Boys - the Grammy award winning band from San Angelo, Texas that plays what they have dubbed "Texican Rock n' Roll" - will perform at Austin City Limits on Thursday, November 8, 2012 to benefit American YouthWorks. The band - comprised of brothers Henry, Jojo and Ringo Garza - was formed in 1996. The group is associated with such legendary performers as Carlos Santana and Willie Nelson. They are perhaps best known for their 2003 song "Heaven." The group will perform songs from their newest album, "Rockpango."

Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and the show begins at 9:00 p.m. 

Click here to buy tickets and get more information on the event. Money from the concert benefits American YouthWorks.

2010 Project of the Year: American Youthworks Constructs Green Home that Tops Energy Star Rankings

Winner: American Youtworks

American Youthworks Casa Verde Builders recently completed green construction on a home that earned a 5-Star-Plus rating by the EPA’s Energy Star program. Corpsmembers trained, built, and installed green products.  

FlexCrete blocks made from aerated concrete and fly ash supported the basic structure. Corpsmembers laid bamboo flooring and added green finishing touches, including, thanks to a partnership with local nonprofit 1Home At A Time, a three-kilowatt solar system.

The home topped Energy Star rankings; the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) testing contractor said it had the lowest score he had ever seen. Over a 10 month period, the average monthly electric bill was $5.06. 

Perhaps even more important than the energy and environmental impact of the project is the impact it had on the Corpsmembers who built it. Green building provided a practical format for discussing environmental and energy issues, a case study for looking at how people and their lifestyles impact the environment. And building the home created a tangible sense of accomplishment for YouthBuild Corpsmembers, many of whom come from at-risk backgrounds. For them, building a house becomes a living metaphor for rebuilding their lives.

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Jennifer Mack


Jennifer Mack came to American YouthWorks’ Environmental Corps in Austin via Vermont in the middle of major life decisions and changes. Nonetheless, it was immediately visible to her crew leader that Jennifer was motivated by personal growth, community service and learning.  In overcoming her addictions, Jen constantly challenges herself and seeks new experiences and learning opportunities.  She has cultivated relationships for AYW with local nonprofits and a national park. She has served as a Policy Council Representative, and has become her crew’s amateur botanist.  After completing her term with E-Corps, Jennifer will attend Texas State University for a degree in Biology. 

--“Thanks to AmeriCorps, specifically the Environmental Corps program, I now have a better idea of what aspects I want to include in my education… My term of service has given me the confidence and direction that I needed to go back to school.”

(written in 2005)