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)

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Lasharee Jones

 

Two years ago, Lasharee Jones didn't have much hope.  A high school dropout and a single mother, she was struggling to make ends meet.  Then she came to the West Seneca Service Action Corps (now The Service Collaborative of WNY, Inc.).  While serving as an AmeriCorps member for two consecutive terms, Lasharee is achieving her dream.  Making deliveries for the Buffalo Food Bank, building homes through YouthBuild and beautifying local parks, Lasharee is making a difference to those around her.  Now she is about to receive her GED, a feat she had not imagined possible two years ago. Lasharee cannot wait to go to college and build her future. 

--“I don’t just want to feed people and clean a lot, I want to inspire.  I want to teach people through my actions.  I want people to get this message of service and do it too.  There is no point sitting around blaming others for not succeeding.  I’ve been given a gift, inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King I want to walk in his footsteps inspiring others.”

(written in 2005)

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Erik Hurd

 

Erik Hurd enrolled in the EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps (LCC) in October, 2003 and has served on most crews operating at the LCC.  He has established himself as a leader in this Corps and in the wider Corps community.  In August, 2004, Erik was elected to the Board of Directors of the Conservation Corps Institute, and in November Erik was elected by his peers to be Vice President of the Fresno LCC Corpsmember Council.  Erik is married and he and his wife are expecting their first child in July 2005.  He will continue his education at Fresno City College, concurrent to enrollment at LCC. Erik's major is in Business Administration.  

-- “I’ve learned to set my goals much higher than I might have without this experience.  I’ve realized that I am talented, that I can make a good living to support my family, but I’ve also learned the value and importance of community service."

(written in 2005) 

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Diony Gamoso

***Update! Click here to find out what Diony has been up to since accepting his award.***

Diony Gamoso started at Marin Conservation Corps (now Conservation Corps North Bay) as a Crew Leader on the Natural Resources Crew. He came to MCC with a variety of technical skills and was looking for opportunities to expand his abilities to include education skills.  He immediately demonstrated a thirst for learning, interest in the projects, compassion for the corpsmembers, and a genuine interest in contributing to MCC.  As the supervisor of a Project Regeneration Crew, Diony led high school aged students in conservation projects.  Recently, he was promoted to the position of Education Department Assistant where he has supported the Education Program by planning and facilitating place-based field education lessons and has been helping his fellow corpsmembers make progress towards earning their high school diplomas.  Diony has also taken on a variety of new tasks and projects which have been very beneficial to MCC. 

-- “The Marin Conservation Corps has given me so much opportunity to grow personally and professionally.  I have been given a chance right here and now, to explore what I thought were only far-off, future, career dreams.”

(written in 2005)

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Germain Castellanos

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

(Written in 2005)

Before Germain Castellanos made the decision to change his life, he was involved with a local gang and participated in various gang activities including drugs and violence.  This path caused him to get kicked out of school and convicted of a misdemeanor by age 16.  The birth of his daughter served as a wake up call. That’s when Germain joined the Youth Conservation Corps’ NASCC (National Association of Service and Conservation Corps - the former name of The Corps Network) AmeriCorps RuralResponse Program.  Now, after supervising kids who were in the same situation he was once in and volunteering for a wide variety of community, faith-based and political organizations, Germain has received his GED, completed one and half years at DeVry University and started courses at College of Lake County in Illinois.  Germain is on his way to reaching his goals of becoming an attorney and starting a nonprofit program that works with at risk youth. 

-- “This experience has shown me that the world is in dire need of help from people who love to help others.  The YCC AmeriCorps program has helped me come to the realization that I am one of those people.”

(written in 2005)

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Kayje Booker

***Update! Click here to find out what Kayje's been up to since accepting her award.***

Joining the Washington Service CorpsAmeriCorps program changed Kayje Booker’s life.  In the year before, she was working a variety of jobs, mostly in the food industry, and feeling generally dissatisfied and directionless in her work life.  In her first year of AmeriCorps, Kayje had the task of co-creating an after-school program for academically challenged kindergarten through sixth graders, in which she facilitated a civic engagement course.  The following year she implemented a civic engagement curriculum with 500 AmeriCorps members across the state of Washington and assisted Abt Associates with their evaluation of Washington Service Corps.  Underway this year is a complicated project she is developing which includes the creation of a ‘Homes for Service’ initiative in Washington. 

-- "Serving others is now and will forever be a non-negotiable part of my life.  However I spend my days, I must be able to come home at the end and know that my hours accomplished something that made the world a little better for someone else.”  

(written in 2005)

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Patricia Bohnwagner

***Update! Click here to find out what Patricia has been up to since winning her award.***

After graduating from high school, Patricia Bohnwagner was working in a fast food restaurant in Massachusetts when she decided to move to San Diego and live with her sister.  She joined Urban Corps of San Diego when the worry of becoming homeless was all too near.  After being accepted and working her way through the Corps Environmental Projects Department and Urban Forestry Department, Patricia was moved to the Graffiti Department and was quickly promoted to crew leader where she increased production by 20 percent.  She asked for, and was granted, an extension to her one year term and was transferred to the Recycling Department where she led the Corpsmember Marketing Crew.  In January she was promoted to a staff position where she continues to lead the Marketing Crew in her role as supervisor.  Patricia also continues taking classes to become certified as an EMT. 

-- “If it wasn’t for the Urban Corps I would NEVER have gone back to school.  They helped me understand the importance of education, they gave me job training and they gave me the chance to become a leader.  I don’t like to think where my life would be if I hadn’t joined the Corps.”

(written in 2005)

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Kim Alston

 

Kim Alston is one of the brightest lights of Civic Works.  She labors daily in some of Baltimore’s most desolate neighborhoods, converting abandoned, trash-strewn lots into vibrant, thriving green spaces and places of community pride.  While a Civic Works corpsmember, Kim has worked on various community-sponsored efforts and environmental restoration; represented Civic Works in Annapolis, MD at meetings of the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism; and represented her peers on the Inter-Corps Council.  Kim is a young woman who aspires to work in the areas of engineering and wetlands restoration.  She is well on the way to integrating hands-on practical applications and theory. 

-- “Having witnessed the profound effect that our corps group offers to the city by planting flowers and trees, which improve the aesthetic value of an area as well as the quality of life for the people, has heightened my understanding of the benefit and necessity of community service work.”

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: James Zmudzinski


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

James dreams of owning an auto mechanic shop. One year ago, this dream seemed to be only that - a dream. Working since age 15, James was struggling to obtain a stable income, lacking his high school diploma and auto mechanic's certificate. He heard about the 5-day orientation the LCC (EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps) led and decided to attend, quickly becoming a vital crew member in the Flood Control Basin Maintenance Program.

Working in 127 degree heat while fighting off snakes, James maintained an extremely positive attitude towards work and his fellow crew members. His supervisor described him as a self-starter. James routinely led the safety meetings for his crew. He made use of the classes offered by LCC and found the financial strategy class of particular interest. In addition to working and taking night classes, James is only 26 credits away from obtaining his high school diploma after completing 47 credits in the past year. He has completed his 900 hour AmeriCorps Education Award and has earned $2,365.50 towards furthering his education. He is currently working towards completing a full-time award to earn an additional $4,725.

All of this hard work reflects his desire to be a good father. He is even using the Individual Development Account to save money for his shop. Expecting his first child, James said his main goal is to "be a person who my son could look up to."

James is grateful for the new start the corps gave him. He said, "I do no know where I would be without the LCC. Before I came to LCC the only light at the end of the tunnel was hope and it was fading quickly. It was the hope that somehow I would be able to earn my high school diploma and an auto technician certificate in order to better support my family, and hope that I would one day be able to live my dream of owning my own shop."

(written in 2006)

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Andrew Zimmer

In the last year, Andrew Zimmer has impressed the Forest Service with the quality and amount of work produced by his crew, fallen in love with Logan Canyon, Utah and developed an unexpected yet clear picture of where his life is heading.

An AmeriCorps crew leader for the Utah Conservation Corps, Andrew showed his crew that anyting is possible. Their assignment was to construct two miles of fencing along a very steep and inaccessible area. This would allow the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout, a rare and declining species, to be protected from the diseases that grazing cattle passed on when drinking from the creek. This project was essential to the survival of the trout population. Andrew, a leader who brings out the best in others around him, took special interest in each crew member to make sure their experience was rewarding and insightful.

Toward the end his term, Andrew was in a bike accident that resulted in paralysis from the chest down. Andrew said that within an hour of his accident, he knew he wanted to work in accessible outdoor recreation. His philosophy about stewardship of our natural resources is that you cannot get sustainable results without the awareness and enthusiasm of people. Andrew has brought this idea and passion to Utah and the UCC. He plans on completing his AmeriCorps term after rehabilitation and continuting to work in the place he loves. 

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