2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Crystal Ann Lamb


Crystal Ann Lamb wanted a challegne. Completing her undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech and just beginning graduate school, Ctystal Ann knew she needed a different kind of education -- one that would challenge her physically, mentally and vocationally. She found the Southwest Youth Corps (now the Southwest Conservation Corps) on the AmeriCorps website and knew it was the program for her.

Immersed in a crew full of diversity, Crystal Ann thrived and became an example of open communication and enthusiasm. The program included school presentations, where Crystal Ann utilized her deftness for public speaking. Crystal Ann was a big part of the success of her crew, which led to a guarantee of funding for next year's CDTA (Continental Divide Trail Alliance) program and offers for future projects.

She came back in June for another eight-week back country program in Colordo. An immediate transition from sea level to 10,000 feet was a great physical challenge. This only motivated Crystal Ann that "a small number of people can make a big difference." She is convinced she has learned more in those four months of SYC than during her four years of college. Her fellow crew members and the entire CDTA are grateful for her sincere motivation as she continues her work in the conservation field.

(written in 2006)

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Charley Kakel

The youth of New Mexico are thankful for Winston Churchill. It was Churchill's comment that swayed Baltimore resident Charley Kakel to start a whole new existence in New Mexico. 

"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give," said Churchill. 

These words, along with Charley's personal resolutin to give of himself, helped send him to Taos, New Mexico. Charley soon realized his passion for teaching and attended Goucher College to study the social sciences and improve his teaching skills, and later found himself back in New Mexico and working for the  Rocky Mountain Youth Corps's Service Learning Program as an AmeriCorps member. Charley worked daily with over 200 youth in their academic and personal lives.

With any spare time he had, Charley would travel across New Mexico and spread the inspiring message to any youth he could find. He loves the youth of Taos and wrote and received a grant for improving the middle school's baseball field. Charley now works with RMYC - After School Tutoring Program where he will be helping ten at-risk youths. Charley plans to continue his close relationship to the people of Taos by teaching at the middle school.

Charley reflects on his journey, stating it "has proven that I am capable of being a leader in making positive change happen." Churchill may have been Charley's inspiration for becoming a teacher, but Charley has inspired the children of Taos to care for each other, to become active in their communities, and to make lives for themselves by what they give. 

(written in 2006)

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Michael Bridges


***Update! Click here to find out what Michael has been up to since he won his award.***

Nothing can keep Michael Bridges from reaching his goals. Moving a total of eight levels through the Conservation Corps of Long Beach (CCLB) program from the blue hat all the way to the white hat, Michael has raised the standard for corps excellence. He served as a Corps council member, was awarded seven Outstanding Achievement Awards, and earned more than $5,000 in scholarships through the AmeriCorps Education Awards Program and CCLB scholarship funds to use toward his post high school education.

Michael's exemplary work ethic and positive outlook on every situation have helped to bond the crew into more of a family. His peers respected him so much that they nominated him for the keynote speech at the CCLB graduation. Michael is currently a staff member at CCLB, supervising five corpsmembers in independent projects around Long Beach. Making use of the Corps resources, Michael was awarded his high school diploma. He even attended the California Leigislative Day as a guest of CCLB.

Michael said, "My time in the Corps has greatly changed my life because it gave me the second chance I was looking for when I failed to graduate from high school. Now I have a high school diploma in addition to a great opportunity to attend college.

2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Tatiana Rodrigues

As a Corpsmember with the Sacramento Local Conservation Corps (SLCC) in Sacramento, CA, Tatiana has been able to turn her life around. When Tatiana was 15, her mother was incarcerated. Later, she was expelled from high school and learned about SLCC through a friend.

At the Corps she worked on a variety of community projects including a team that helped school children learn the value of recycling. During her time with the SLCC, Tatiana earned an AmeriCorps education award to help pay for college and she plans to complete her high school diploma by the end of this school year.

As Tatiana said, "Things only get worse if you don't keep your head up. At the Corps I've had a change of heart, change of attitude and a change of behavior. I've learned to become more focused on my goals. Nobody in my family ever went to college. I'm going to be the first!"

2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Yvette Chischillie

As a Corpsmember with the Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) in Durango, CO, Yvette was part of a Special Diabetes Project of the Navajo Nation, led a crew in constructing a brand new trail in the Chuska Mountains of New Mexico and was a leader of the Wild Fire Prevention Program.

Yvette was the first SCC Corpsmember from the Navajo Nation and her positive experience inspired so many to apply in the following years that there are now more applications from the Navajo Nation than there are available member spots.

Yvette graduated from vocational school in welding in bricklaying and plans to use her AmeriCorps education award to go into a apprenticeship program in bricklaying.

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Shanice Long

Observers who see Shanice Long advise Corpsmembers on how to master the requirements for the high school diploma, or hear her representing Corpsmembers in second chance appeal, might not suspect that this quiet young woman, who leads by example, came to Oakland’s Civicorps homeless, without a mom or dad, a sixteen year-old 11th grade dropout with 9th grade credits, with just the clothes on her back. 

Shanice Long walked in the door and then, as she says, “my life changed 100 percent.” She joined a crew working 32 hours a week in exhausting heavy trail maintenance. After hours Shanice headed straight to class and worked just as hard on getting her diploma—and so was able to give up the chainsaw and post-hole digger for the computer, working at Civicorps’ Learning Center, where she rapidly mastered a range of software and demonstrated a real gift in helping others achieve. 

Today after work, she still goes to school—but now that means community college, where Shanice is in her second semester, focusing on paralegal studies, using one of her two AmeriCorps scholarships. She just moved into her first apartment, bought a car, and has plans to continue at a four-year college.   

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: William Brandt

Once a wildly undisciplined youth, William Brandt’s lack of direction was aggravated by substance abuse and a defensive, angry attitude.  He got into trouble with the law.

But when he heard about the Urban Corps of San Diego—and the opportunity to get paid, get trained, and earn a diploma, all at the same time—his goals came quickly into focus.  The Corps staff treated him as a young professional, and William rose to the challenge. 

Today William is a self-possessed young man who represents the Corps in outreach events, is currently studying at the community college, with the aim of getting his associates’ degree in drug and alcohol counseling with an emphasis on social work. 

At the same time, he will be serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the Restoring Youth and Communities program in San Diego, which works within parole and corrections offices, counseling and mentoring youth in the justice system. 

2011 Corpsmember of the Year: Mari Takemoto-Chock



***Update! Click here to read about what Mari has been up to since she won her award.***

Mari Takemoto-Chock is from the rural town of Hilo on the eastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii. A strong student, Mari says that she “successfully managed to out-geek all other geeks in my senior year of high school.”

After graduating, Mari saw how huge the opportunity gap was between students from neighbor islands and students from Oahu. While Mari did go to college, this is not a common occurrence for a young person from Hawaii. The state’s public schools system ranks near the bottom of schools in the nation, and college is not always emphasized by schools. So Mari took it upon herself to help make a difference for other young Hawaiians, for whom opportunities need to be created.

She started by working after college for U.S. Congresswoman Rep. Mazie Hirono from Hawaii’s 2nd district. After getting a taste of high-level policy, Mari was ready to get a more hands-on experience. In 2010, Mari applied to be an Americorps VISTA with KUPU, the organization that operates the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps.

Among her many accomplishments, Mari has helped the Corps to improve their social media communications, helped organize Kupu’s participation in a Christmas parade where they handed out seed envelopes of native Hawaiian plants, and helped raise money for the organization. The bulk of her work, however, has been to plan and create the organization’s new “Urban Corps.” The Corps began its operations in January and will create a job training and life skills education program for Honolulu’s under-resourced youth. Corpsmembers will be trained to install solar panels, complete environmental conservation work, and will also learn about energy efficiency.

Mari says that the “intense, focused, cause-driven experience has been energizing.” She also notes that “work that is personally meaningful can make up for a lot of daily frustrations and disappointments (and there are many when piloting a new project).”

Once she completes her service as an Americorps member, Mari would like to return to Capitol Hill to work on energy, environmental, and education issues as part of the legislative staff for a member of the Hawaii delegation. She also hopes to earn a law degree with a focus on environmental and climate justice. Mari’s passion, success, and desire to help her fellow Hawaiians makes her a leader and role model for others.

Wendy Spencer Confirmed as CEO of Corporation for National and Community Service

Yesterday, wrapping up a round of nominations before the Easter recess, the Senate confirmed Wendy Spencer as Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Originally nominated last fall, Spencer was confirmed along with several new members of the CNCS Board of Directors. The Corps Network and its 151 members are delighted with the confirmation of Ms. Spencer. Her extensive history and experience in the world of service are just what is needed at this time.

Ms. Spencer served on President George W. Bush’s Council on Service and Civic Participation and was appointed by three governors to lead Volunteer Florida, the Governor's Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service since 2003. Volunteer Florida is the official statewide coordinating agency for volunteers and donations in times of disasters. During Florida's record-breaking 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, Volunteer Florida coordinated more than 252,000 volunteers, as well as donated items totaling more than $85 million in value, which was the largest mobilization of volunteers in the history of U.S. natural disasters at that time. Ms. Spencer has worked across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to mobilize citizens to address problems facing their communities, and she is uniquely qualified to lead the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Many members of The Corps Network, as well as the organization itself, rely on programs administered by the Corporation, and Ms. Spencer’s proven leadership will help ensure that these programs continue to serve the thousands of people across the country for years to come. Additionally, in these trying economic times, it is important to have someone at the helm who can advocate passionately about the true importance of these programs, not only to the people who serve in them, but to those being served. With funding for the Corporation squarely on the table for cuts, and more and more Americans applying for Corporation programs to serve, having a CEO who can make the case for the importance of service is required, and Wendy Spencer is just that person.

National Service and Americorps

The Corps Network and Service and Conservation Corps are major participants in AmeriCorps and other National Service programs. This funding helps Corps to offer more young people positions on their crews, get more projects done, and serve the pressing needs of their communities in an extremely cost effective manner.

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