California Conservation Corps Members Doing Ok after High-Speed Chase, Accident

From the California Conservation Corps Staff

The California Conservation Corps members hurt in a high-speed chase last week are all doing well, despite a harrowing experience.

The Fresno crew was working on fire hazard reduction project along the highway, not far from the Lake Tahoe area, when a state transportation worker alerted them to a car chase with the California Highway Patrol in pursuit.  Less than a minute later, the speeding car, traveling in a coned-off lane, drove up to the area where the CCC was working.  The driver lost control and went airborne.  The car grazed one corpsmember's hardhat, before the vehicle flipped over and killed the driver.  The car came to rest just  feet from the CCC's vehicle.

One corpsmember was airlifted to the hospital, but released that evening.  Several others were treated locally for minor injuries.

CCC Crew Supervisor Amy Duncan said the experience will likely draw her corpsmembers closer together.  "I think it will make them a lot stronger and closer as a crew. And probably nothing like this will ever happen again in their whole lives."

California Conservation Corps Dispatches Over 100 Corpsmembers to Fires

Photo Credit: California Conservation Corps

*** May 3rd Update ***


As of May 3, the CCC has 165 corpsmembers (12 crews) assigned to fires throughout the state, working under the direction of Cal Fire.  Both initial-attack and logistical support crews have been dispatched. 

Four crews are assigned to the Springs Fire near Camarillo in Ventura County.  The crews are from Camarillo, Los  Angeles, Pomona and San Luis Obispo. On the Summit Fire near Banning in Riverside County, CCC crews from Camarillo, Pomona and San Bernardino are working. And in southeastern Tehama County, CCC crews from Chico, Redding and Ukiah are providing camp support.

The CCC is one of the state's premier emergency response agencies and has additional crews available to be dispatched where needed.

The Los Angeles Times has posted an article, photos, and video about the fire. The video shows Camarillo 21 cutting line with helicopter drops on the Springs Fire. If you look down in the article there is a link that says “Photos: Camarillo Brush Fire” picture # 30 and 32 are CM’s from Crew 21. 


More than 100 members of the California Conservation Corps have been dispatched to fires in both Northern and Southern California.

Two Camarillo fire crews and two camp support crews from Pomona and San Bernardino have responded to the Summit Fire in Riverside County. Another Camarillo fire crew has been sent to the Springs Fire in Ventura County. And CCC crews from Chico, Redding and Ukiah are providing logistical support on the Panther Fire in Butte County.

All of the crews are working under the direction of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

California Conservation Corps Visits State Capitol

CCC corpsmembers debate budget items in a legislative hearing room.

Last week about a hundred members of the California Conservation Corps and 14 local conservation corps programs filled  the hallways of California's Capitol building in Sacramento.  The occasion was Government Education Day, and the second year that the CCC and local corps programs joined efforts for the annual day.

The corpsmembers had a busy agenda, visiting more than 80 percent of the legislative offices as well as the Governor's office and Natural Resources Agency.  The day was capped off with a budget exercise, with the corpsmembers holding forth in legislative hearing rooms in the seats normally reserved for members of the Senate and Assembly. 

The CCC's participants were the elected leaders of the Corpsmember Advisory Boards at their centers.

Corpsmembers from Conservation Corps North Bay meet Natural Resources Secretary John Laird.

They can dance, too!: Video of California Conservation staff member and Corpsmembers goes viral


Our friend John Griffith and two Corpsmembers (Antwon McCoy and Leonard Patton) with the California Conservation Corps have become an overnight internet sensation! 

Back in August, John posted a video on YouTube of him dancing with Antwon and Leonard. The video captures John, dressed in a wide-brimmed hat and CCC uniform, spontaneously demonstrating some of the moves he’d learned from his Corpsmembers. The end of the video shows Antwon and Leonard clearly surprised (and amused) by their supervisor’s dance skills. After the video was posted to the social news website Reddit this past week, people started going crazy for the cool, “cowboyish boss” with the dance moves. It has now been viewed well over a million times!

The video has popped up on a wide variety of websites and news programs. John, Antwon and Leonard have been interviewed several times over the past few days. Click the links below for coverage of the video, or click here for our Huffington Post article on John’s background and his new environmental book for urban youth, Totem Magic: Going MAD.  

  • NPR – “Two Dance Videos that’ll Make Your Day”
  • HLN – “Surprise! Boss Busts a Move” 
  • ABC – “The YouTube Dance Icon You’d Least Expect”
  • Outdoor Afro – “John Griffith Can Bust a Move – For Nature”
  • Gawker – “Nerdy Boss Learns Dance Moves from Employees then Teaches them How it’s Done”
  • The Huffington Post – “John Griffith Learns to Dance”
  • WORLDSTARHIPHOP – “California Conservation Corps Members Teaching their Boss to Dance to Travis Porter’s Ayy Ladies!”
  • Mashable – “Nature Nerd’s Fly Dance Moves Guaranteed to Make Your Day”
  • The Daily Mail – “Awkward Boss Learns Dance Moves from His Young Employees – then Shows them How it’s Done in this Hilarious Video”
  • The Sacramento Bee – “California Conservation Corps Dance Video Goes Viral”
  • Facebook
  • North Coast Journal – “Nerdtastic Local CCC Mountainman/Boogie God John Griffith”
  • The Today Show
  • California Statewide Law Enforcement Assoc. – “Good Natured Conservationist Gets His Groove On”


California Conservation Corps Partners with Cuyamaca College for Green Job Training

From Scoop San Diego

Well known as a leader in all things green, from its sustainable landscaping and energy-efficient buildings to its green-career training programs, Cuyamaca College’s latest venture has youthful members of the California Conservation Corps excited about green jobs.

A pilot program put together by the college’s Continuing Education and Workforce Training Division recently linked the CCC’s San Diego center with San Diego Gas & Electric Co., providing 24 corps members 116 hours of introductory experience and training in a variety of job fields in the sustainability sector: green building retrofitting and performance, energy auditing, home-energy rating and solar photovoltaic installation.

Providing the training were local business owners in the solar panel industry, a construction company safety director, and faculty from Cuyamaca College’s Environmental Health and Safety Technology program.

Financially backed by the state chancellor’s office along with SDG&E, the training program proved so successful, with nearly 100 percent completion, that a new CCC class is being scheduled this spring.

College president Mark J. Zacovic said the program is an example of the college’s progressive philosophy of preparing today’s workforce for tomorrow’s jobs.

“We’re ecstatic over the success of this pilot program, and we’re delighted to continue to offer this class with Workforce Innovations Partnership grant funds from the state,” he said.

Molly Hughes, program manager for the college’s Workforce Innovations Partnership, also known as the Green Ventures Project, praised corps members for sticking with the pilot program through completion.

“The corps members worked their regular jobs helping protect our environment, then came to the college all day Fridays and Saturdays on their own time for three months to learn about sustainability,” she said.

Continue Reading at Scoop San Diego

CCC members shore up an aging levee


Last month, California Conservation Corps crews from throughout the state participated in an intensive flood response training program. It wasn't long after the training program ended that Corpsmembers had to put their floodfighting skills to the test. On Christmas Eve, CCC Crews from the Monteray Bay Center (Watsonville, Salinas and San Jose) and the Napa Satellite were dispatched to sandbag a creek that overtopped in East Palo Alto, south of San Francisco. The crews worked until 2 a.m.

This week, one of those crews - Anthony Roe's San Jose crew - was back. The crew filled 5,000 sandbags on Tuesday, January 8, 2013. 

"We did about 1,000 bags an hour," said Anthony"

Click the links below to see local news coverage of  Corpsmembers hard at work.

2013 Corpsmember of the Year, Sarah Huff


Sarah Huff enrolled at Shasta College in California after she graduated from high school in 2007. She wasn’t sure what kind of career she wanted to pursue and tried to keep an open mind about the future, but she didn’t feel inspired by any of her classes. Sarah completed most of her general course requirements after four semesters, yet she was no closer to declaring a major. It was time to try something new.

Around this time, Sarah came across a brochure advertising the California Conservation Corps (CCC). Across the front of the handout was the Corps’ official motto: “Hard work, low pay, miserable conditions…and more!” Sarah had never imagined herself taking a job that required long hours of exhausting physical labor, but she was looking for a change and the Corps would certainly present many new experiences. Within just two months of attending a CCC information session, Sarah joined the Corps and became a member of the Weaverville CCC expansion crew.

Sarah had always enjoyed being outside and she had recently discovered a love for backpacking, but before becoming a Corpsmember she had only ever worked in a book store and an office. Despite her inexperience, Sarah immediately stood out as a model Corpsmember. She was a quick learner and she willingly took on new responsibilities. Her hard work contributed immensely to the success of the newly-formed Weaverville crew. She endured the sometimes harsh conditions of working in the back country with a positive attitude, swapping jokes and riddles with her fellow Corpsmembers to keep up morale on long hikes and in bad weather.


It wasn’t long before Sarah was promoted to a Crew Leader position. She was so respected by her supervisors that she became one of only nine Corpsmembers statewide selected to represent the CCC in Australia for a two month exchange program with Conservation Volunteers Australia. While abroad, Sarah worked in flood recovery, tree planting and invasive species removal.

“It was a really good experience - I met a lot of neat people. For us it was basically like a paid vacation, but it was really cool to know that we were helping change peoples’ lives,” said Sarah. “They were so grateful to have us. It was less than a year after they’d had these big floods and they were still trying to get back on their feet. So it was really great to not only get to see a new country, but know that you made a difference while you were there.”

When Sarah returned from Australia she was promoted again and became a Crewleader II with the Redding CCC’s Type II Fire Crew. As the only woman on the crew, Sarah at first felt like she needed to prove she was tough and could keep up with the guys. However, she is such a skilled firefighter and leader that it didn’t take much effort for her to quickly earn the respect of the rest of the team.

In addition to her work with the Corps, Sarah volunteered her time at many community events in order to earn her AmeriCorps Education Awards. Sarah spent many hours helping with the Annual Salmon Festival, the local Children’s Festival, and various service learning projects. She went above and beyond the call of duty and even came into work on her days off to help her supervisors buy food and prepare camps for “spike” operations. A “spike” is when a crew camps near a project site and the Corpsmembers work ten hour shifts for eight days in a row, often in remote locations without conveniences like running water, electricity, or cell phone reception. 

As one of Sarah’s supervisors said, “Sarah has a very positive effect on her peers. She is a great role model who ‘leads by example’ and shows others what they are capable of.” Sarah became known for her ability to motivate other Corpsmembers and for the way she relentlessly encouraged her peers to volunteer, work towards their Class B Driver’s licenses, and apply for jobs. During her term of service Sarah herself was able to earn her Class B license, move out of her parents’ house, and finally find a direction for her future. 

Sarah was offered a number of jobs with the CCC, but after over two years of hard work she decided she was ready to go back to school. With the help of her AmeriCorps scholarship money, Sarah became a full-time student at American River College in January 2013. Her goal is to earn an associate’s degree in Environmental Conservation and then transfer to a school in the California State University system to complete a bachelor’s degree. Sarah is thankful that her time in the Corps helped her realize a passion for working outdoors. She hopes to eventually find a job in which she can use the skills she gained in the Corps. She has been researching positions with Corps and with agencies like the Park Service and the Forest Service.

“While in the CCC I've been a trail worker, a cook, a firefighter, a Crew Leader, a student and a teacher. I've done landscaping, fuel reduction, fence repair, habitat restoration and rock work. I’ve worked harder than I thought I could and been more exhausted than I thought possible. I've watched people come and go and made some great friends. Most importantly, I've made a difference.” 

Remembering Rosalio Cardenas

We recently learned that one of our past Corpsmembers of the Year - Rosalio Cardenas - was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident on the morning of Wednesday, December 12, 2012. Lio won Corpsmember of the Year for California Conservation Corps in 2007. He was flown out to Washington, DC to be honored at our National Conference in February 2007. Below is the speech he gave upon receiving his award. 

We at The Corps Network are deeply saddened by Lio's sudden passing. We send our condolences to his family, his friends, and California Conservation Corps. For information on Rosalio's service in the Corps, click here to read his bio from our Conference.

Services for Lio are as follows:

  • Rosary Service Friday, December 21, 2012 4:00pm - 8:00pm Greenwood Memorial Park & Mortuary 4300 Imperial Ave San Diego, CA 92113 (619) 264-3131 
  • Funeral Service Saturday, December 22, 2012 10:00am - 10:45am St Anthony of Padua 410 W 18Th St National City, CA 91950-5528 619-477-4520 
  • Graveside Service Saturday, December 22, 2012 11:30am - 12:00pm St Anthony of Padua 410 W 18Th St National City, CA 91950-5528 619-477-4520

A speech by Rosalio Cardenas (2007)

Most people would argue that prior to joining the California Conservation Corps my life was on track.  I grew up in a warm house with loving and hard working parents.  They owned their own gardening business with only four employees: my father, my mother, my brother and I.  I had 96 units at a four year university, had worked as an educator, tutored privately and made between $10 and $24 an hour.  Everyone thought that I was on my way to success and that all was fine.  The truth is that I was just idling through life.  I was taking class after class, but not getting significantly closer to my degree and career goal, teaching.  I was working part time jobs in the educational field and tutoring for cash.  Yet these jobs and tutoring stints were unstable.  Working with my father on my days off from school and work could only help for textbooks or gas.  Statewide budget cuts and unwise city budgeting made my part time jobs unreliable and scarce.  So I decided to go for a career change and began the application process with the California Highway Patrol.

I joined the California Conservation Corps per my brother’s recommendation in January of 2006.  He told me about how he earned certifications and worked hard for his money.  He boasted about how he worked for the state, had some medical benefits and showed off his uniform.  He informed me about the scholarship after just six months of continuous work.  What was the catch?  As a corpsmember one would make minimum wage and the work wasn’t always comfortable.  Yet what convinced me was that my brother was happy and enjoyed his job.  I later found myself working in ditches, streams, next to freeways, dirt and rain.  I had gone from classrooms and libraries to labor in the outdoors.  The work was similar to what I had done with my father for years, so my muscles were getting worked everyday.  The remarkable difference is that I could have made more money working with my father.  Nevertheless I gained a lot more than minimum wage.  I worked alongside young men and women from a different walk of life than myself.   Some were single parents, others were trying to leave the gang lifestyle and several had misfortunate lives so far.  This was the real benefit of this program, rather than a job, the diversity of a team and the comradeship.  My previous jobs lacked substance; I felt left out and not as important.  In this program all my peers were friends opposed to just coworkers.  We would help each other out on and off the grade.

The biggest impact from the corps was the Backcountry Trails Program.  I left the luxuries of life behind for a simple life.  The cell phone was traded for envelopes and stamps.  My motorcycle was replaced by a pair of hiking boots.  I never imagined myself bathing in a creek or climbing a peak.  I worked on mountain ridges during thunderstorms, near soothing creeks, at the world famous Yosemite Falls and throughout Northern California Wilderness.  The work was intense and strenuous, and the days were long.  I slept on the ground and under the stars.  All the sights, sounds and smells will never be forgotten, because pictures and stories will never do justice to what I’ve experienced.  Yet the biggest impact was that of my crew.  We were an extremely diverse yet close knit crew of twelve.  We worked, ate, hiked, relaxed, played, lived and grew together.  I made friends for life.  Despite five months of arduous labor my impact on the Wilderness is truly insignificant.  Rain, snowfall or an earthquake can undo everything I’ve made, dug and cleaned this summer.  But my influence on my crewmates and theirs on me will never be washed away.  I learned my importance to others and the effect I can have on my peers.  Due to my cool head, role as a mediator and overall character I was affectionately nicknamed “Papa Leo.”  I found out that I could do so much more than I ever expected, physically as well as mentally and socially.

The Backcountry truly prepared me for my career goal of becoming part of the California Highway Patrol. Not only did I test my limitations, but I found myself as well.  I intend to continue helping others and assist in keeping the peace. I am currently in an advanced stage in the California Highway Patrol’s application process, the Backgrounds Investigation phase which is the lengthiest part of the process.  I have just earned a generous scholarship from Americorps, through my service in the California Conservation Corps, which I plan to put towards my unfinished degree. My ultimate goal is to become a success in life and be a genuinely happy person.  I do not dream of wealth or seek riches.  I want to continue making an impact on my peers and community, while in uniform or at leisure.

It would be a great honor to represent the California Conservation Corps and all that it encompasses. It has helped become a well rounded citizen.  Thanks to my experience with the California Conservation Corps I have many anecdotes along with valuable lessons I am willing to share.  I honestly see the Corps movement as a stepping stone building block for the success of America’s youth.

150 Corpsmembers Join in California Conservation Corps Flood Exercise

Photo Credit: Conner Jay/Daily Republic

Members of the California Conservation Corps, including one crew from each center throughout the state, participated in a large-scale flood readiness exercise in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta this week.  The Delta levees have experienced flooding and levee breaks many times over the years, so the Twitchell Island exercise provided corpsmembers with a realistic site for sharpening their skills.

The exercise included proper methods for filling and passing sandbags, construction of sandbag walls, protection of levees from wave-wash erosion and "boils," or seepage through the levee.

Every CCC crew is trained in floodfighting techniques by mid-December, and can be dispatched where needed during to assist state agencies and local communities during winter storms and floods.

Read more about the exercise and see additional photos at the Fairfield Daily Republic website.

Making a Positive Transition from the Marine Corps to a Conservation Corps

Where are they now? – Catching up with 2011 Corpsmember of the Year, 

Chris Thomas

Chris took this photo while 60 feet up on a utility pole

Chris Thomas, a former member of the California Conservation Corps (CCC), won Corpsmember of the Year in 2011 for his commitment to service. Read below to find out what he's been up to since accepting his award, or find out more about Chris and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2011 National Conference.

Chris Thomas does not hesitate to volunteer his time. Now a power lineman, Chris immediately went to New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to help get the electricity flowing again. While in school to become a lineman, Chris volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for low-income families. Before school, he gave a lot of time to the Red Cross. And prior to any of these acts of volunteerism, Chris served in the United States Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Chris has faced many challenges in his life. He and his three siblings were raised by their mother, a cervical cancer survivor, who had to work three jobs to support the family by herself. During Chris’s four years of service in the Marines (beginning in 2005), he was wounded twice. He received shrapnel in the chest and was stabbed once, leading to a medical discharge. It was soon after this that he joined the California Conservation Corps (CCC) in 2009.

Chris, who is now 24, heard about the CCC from a cousin who served as a Corpsmember. The Corps seemed like a logical transition from military-life to civilian-life, but the change ended up being more difficult than Chris had anticipated.

“I had anger issues, quick to snap. Thought everyone should talk, work, act just like I did. If you didn't, then just get out of my way,” said Chris. “The CCC helped me curve that Marine Corps mentality, which in civilian life is a good thing.”

Through the Conservation Corps, Chris learned how to accept and embrace diversity. His CCC experiences helped him ease out of only being surrounded by other Marines who shared the same strict lifestyle and discipline. Looking back, Chris says his greatest learning experience came when he transitioned from working with the Corps in Chico, California to working with the Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps. 

“Working in Sacramento put all that I learned to the test. In Chico I dealt with middle class white people with different backgrounds, but [we] still could find common ground,” said Chris. “In Sacramento, these kids were…cliché gangsters. Saggy pants, if it weren't for curse words I don't think they could complete a sentence…Before the CCC I would have been yelling, and firing left and right. But I was able to keep a calm head and make the crew I ran the most respected in the company.”

Chris says his background with the Marines taught him the meaning of hard work and gave him the building blocks to be a strong leader. As a Crew Leader with the CCC, Chris led others in planting trees, habitat restoration projects, and fire fuel reduction programs. He logged nearly 250 volunteer hours, well above the 48 hours the Corps requires. It was as a result of this dedication that he earned the Silver Presidential Service Award from the Corporation for National Service in September 2010.

After leaving the CCC in 2011, Chris worked as a Supervisor with the Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps. He then moved to Meridian, Idaho to attend North Western Lineman College, where he served as class president. After earning his certifications from NLC, Chris moved to Big Spring, Texas, where he is currently working as a power lineman. He does everything from setting up utility poles to hooking up transformers.

Chris isn’t sure what his life would look like today without the California Conservation Corps. Chris will never be able to forget all of the different people he met with the Corps, particularly his mentor and former supervisor, Clayton Forbes. He says he would love to eventually return to the CCC to get back to doing the kind of work he misses and to help other young people in the way he was helped.

“I have no idea where I would be without the Corps,” said Chris. “Honestly I would probably be locked up for hurting someone. Or possibly working for some private security company overseas.” 

To young people thinking about joining a Corps, Chris says, “Take everything you can from the Corps. Some training comes up? – go. A crew needs an extra hand for a spike? – go. Although at times Corps life might seem arduous and mundane, you will miss it.”