2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Rosalio "Lio" Cardenas


(Written in 2007 - update at the bottom)

Rosalio took an unusual path to becoming a Corpsmember.  After spending two and a half semesters working towards a civil engineering degree at San Diego State University, and working much of that time in the university library and as a math and science tutor, Rosalio decided his college experience was lacking.  In the CCC, Rosalio saw his opportunity to work outdoors, provide a valuable service to his state, meet new people from various backgrounds, and earn scholarship money to assist him in completing his degree in the future. 

As a CCC corpsmember, Rosalio initially engaged in fire hazard reduction work, removing burned and dead trees from communities hard hit by the San Diego wildfires of 2000.  In early spring with heavy rains threatening flooding and mudslides, Rosalio and his crewmembers again served their communities by working tirelessly to divert debris, flood waters, and mud from residential neighborhoods.  Because of his high standards for performance and eagerness to assist others, Rosalio quickly established himself as a leader among his peers.  By April, Rosalio was ready for the next challenge that the CCC had to offer: the Backcountry Trails Program.

Choosing to leave the comforts of home life in southern California, Rosalio joined a crew of 15 Corpsmembers who committed themselves to spending 22 weeks living and working in the wilderness of Klamath National Forest.  The trials faced by backcountry Corpsmembers are daunting, but once again Rosalio was unflinching in his determination to meet them.  Rosalio stood out not only for the unprecedented results he achieved on the grade, but also for the amount of time he committed to performing communal chores and providing mentoring and guidance to his fellow crewmembers. He went beyond expectations by creating an extensive evening curriculum program aimed at developing a greater sense of community, environmental awareness, and communication skills.   His compassion, integrity, and consideration for others were widely respected among his peers and earned him the moniker, “Papa Leo.”  Peter Lewis, the CCC’s Backcountry Trails Supervisor, said of Rosalio “in the 28 years we have been sending Corpsmembers to the backcountry, I can think of no finer person to represent the program or the youth of America.”

Leo now plans to use the AmeriCorps education award he earned with the CCC to finish his degree in Civil Engineering and has applied to the California Highway Patrol so he can continue to make an impact on his peers and community. 

*** Sadly, Rosalio was killed in a motorcycle accident on the morning of Wednesday, December 12, 2012. 

The Corps Network sends condolences to Rosalio’s wife, family, and friends. To honor Rosalio, we have posted the speech he gave at our National Conference in February 2007 upon accepting his Corpsmember of the Year award. 

2008 Corpsmember of the Year: Francisco Vizcarrondo


“It’s motivating to see a person who was in desolation and misery, then witness them in their weakness become strong and successful because of their drive to live a better life and improve on the skills and talents they have acquired.” 

Since his enrollment in the EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps, Francisco has received perfect attendance awards, been recognized as Corpsmember of the Month, earned his high school diploma, and completed a 675-hour term of service resulting in an AmeriCorps Education Award. He gained experience in concrete work, framing, drywall, roofing, landscaping, and sprinkler repair. He was also elected treasurer of the Corpsmember Council of FLCC, as well as the Youth Council at his transitional living center.

Francisco is currently studying Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning at Fresno City College.  It is hard to believe that he is the same person who enrolled in the Corps in December 2006 – a homeless, twice-convicted, drug-addicted high school dropout. 

“The experience has helped me reconstruct my life," said Francisco. "I plan to get certified in HVAC and Carpentry, have my own business, and present opportunities of advancement to others as they have been presented to me.”

2008 Corpsmember of the Year: Keith Storr



When Keith left his first term of service with the Greater Miami Service Corps for a music scholarship at Edward Waters College, his crew and supervisor of nearly seven months were sad to lose him but proud of his opportunity. When he found out a short time later that his mom had a terminal illness, he withdrew from his first semester of college and came home to take care of his mom and younger brother. When his mom passed, he knew he had to be strong for his little brother. 

Keith asked to return to the Corps. As he said, “At the time when I re-entered the Corps, my mom passed away and my younger brother and I had to move in with my grandmother.  The Corps staff helped me get back on track.” 

Keith is on the landscape maintenance crew for the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer. When he was sent on a special project to The Everglades National Park, his team, and especially Keith, received praise from park management.  Upon his return from the Everglades, Keith was asked to fill the gaps on a crew that was down to only two Corpsmembers and a Supervisor.   His hard work, along with the assistance of his fellow Corpsmembers, maintained 93 acres of grass and trees, ensuring the project was never behind.  As Keith said:

“I learned how to get the ‘job done’ and how to work smart and not hard.  Many Corpsmembers view me as a leader.  I am now enrolled in Miami-Dade College studying psychology.  I intend to use the skills gained at the Corps to assist me with my future goals.” 

2008 Corpsmember of the Year: Matthew Rainey

In his role as Field Education Facilitator for his Marin Conservation Corps (now Conservation Corps North Bay) crew, Matthew teaches a weekly lesson, assists teachers with classes at project sites, and helps orient new Crewmembers. Matthew also has a life lesson to share:

“I feel like I am an excellent example for people, showing what they can overcome if given a chance.  Hard work and determination can take anyone to great places. As long as they make the choice to change and work towards that change, anything is possible.”   

When he came to MCC’s Natural Resource Crew in May 2007, Matthew was unemployed, homeless, with a criminal record and no high school diploma. He had just had a baby and knew it was time to make some changes in his life. 

“I felt that becoming a father was the start of responsibility for me," said Matthew. "I was looking for an opportunity to show my family, as well as myself, that I was ready.” 

Matthew had taken four of the five GED tests while in prison but had such low confidence that he never even checked the results.  When the Corps checked his scores, they discovered he had passed all four.  This gave Matthew the confidence to take and pass the last section, earning his GED.  Matthew saved enough to buy a car within a few months of joining the Corps. He slept in the car for an additional three months while saving enough to finally get his own apartment in September. Even while living in his car, Matthew maintained an exceptional attendance record - gaining work skills, leadership experience, and the respect of his crew, supervisor, teachers, parole officer and family.  

2008 Corpsmember of the Year: Marcos Molina

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

When a cousin told him about the Tulare County Youth Corps (now Sequoia Community Corps), Marcos was an unemployed, court-involved, high school dropout living with his wife and two daughters in a single bedroom in his mother’s house.  As Marcos struggled with his attendance and attitude during his first weeks at the Corps, many of the staff thought he would probably not succeed. 

“I was literally on the verge of being fired but with the encouragement and support of my supervisor, I stuck it through and kept working," said Marcos. "I knew I had to take care of my family.” 

Over time, with hard work and dedication, Marcos was able to learn job skills, earn a chance to be an Assistant Crew Leader, and move up to Crew Leader.  He learned every aspect of concrete work, chain link fence installation, landscape maintenance, and heavy equipment operation.  He also got his driver’s license and earned his high school diploma.  Marcos is now a Certified Construction Trades Trainer, teaching other Corpsmembers to operate equipment.

“Now I have an apartment and my own car," said Marcos. "I learned to keep my head up and deal with the issues. I know I can handle the curve balls that life throws at me.  ”

2008 Corpsmember of the Year: Linnea Heu

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

(Written in 2008)

When Linnea joined the Hawai’i Youth Conservation Corps (KUPU), she had very little knowledge of or concern for Hawai’i’s environmental preservation. 

“I had always loved the outdoors and nature, but I’d never seen the environment as a responsibility, which I now realize it is," she said.

Linnea joined the Corps out of cultural consciousness and pride when she heard the Corps was going to spend a week on Kaho’olawe Island.  This island, a place of great cultural significance for many native Hawaiians, was used for military live-fire training and was in the process of being “regreened”. 

During her term on her home island and her second term at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, Linnea was involved in dry forest, stream, and beach restoration projects, including removing invasive species, propagating seeds, and installing irrigation.  During both terms, supervisors and peers were impressed by her drive, eagerness to learn, and enthusiasm for service. 

Linnea is currently pursuing a degree in Environmental Science and plans to be an active participant in environmental restoration in the future. As Linnea said:

“Luckily for me, a passion for the Hawaiian culture led me to an equally engrossing care for the environment and the islands I call home.”

2008 Corpsmember of the Year: Nancy Herrara


When Nancy joined the New Jersey Youth Corps of Camden in January 2007, four years after dropping out of school high school, she was far away from her dream of becoming a doctor.  After orientation, Nancy started in the Emergency Medical Services Training Program.  While riding along with the EMT squad on her first day, Nancy realized that she still wanted to be a doctor and within a few weeks enrolled in the EMT-B training course. 

Nancy rode to emergency calls and worked on her diploma during the day, while taking EMT training at night. In August 2007, she graduated as valedictorian of Union County Vo-Tech Adult High School and passed her EMT-Basic State Exam to become a certified EMT. 

Nancy is now a freshman biology major on her way to fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor.  She volunteers at two rescue squads while serving as a Corpsmember leader, training new Corpsmembers in ambulance and first aid basics.  As Nancy said:

“I could only hope that the Corpsmembers can see my personal experience as an incentive to not give up and a motivator to continue with their pursuit of their high school diploma and whatever goals they may have for afterwards.”

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Meg Zaleuke

Meg first heard about AmeriCorps NCCC (AmeriCorps National Civilian Corps) as she was finishing up her Masters degree and trying to figure out what the next step in her life would be. Instead of becoming a Child Life Specialist, Meg decided to take a different path by joining AmeriCorps NCCC. Her year was filled difficult tasks: educating the youth, rebuilding homes, restoring cities devastated by hurricanes and working to preserve Maine's natural beauty.

Today Meg knows she is the not same person she was when she joined  the Corps.

“We are now different people; taking different roads and pursing new dreams because of our experience in AmeriCorps NCCC," said Meg. "It is likely that in 10, 20, 30 years to come, when we have long been out of the ‘Ameri-bubble,' our stories will begin with our AmeriCorps NCCC year; the year that changed our lives.”  

As Meg finished her time with AmeriCorps NCCC, she took with her, “…The sense of camaraderie [she] shared with her fellow Team Leaders and team, the enthusiasm and determination [she] saw in the elementary school children she tutored and the courage and resilience [she] observed in the communities along the gulf coast..”

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Tatiana Moore


Before coming to the corps, Tatiana was in a downward spiral. She had no high school diploma, was running in the streets, smoking weed, drinking and staying out all night.  Before high school, Tatiana had been good student - she went to classes and did all of her work. Then things turned when she started hanging out with the wrong crowd.  However, the East Bay Conservation Corps, which is now Civicorps, helped change her life.

Tatiana started out working with the Alameda County Flood Control program but she was soon promoted to an internship position with the Recycling program. She eventually worked her way up to being a Crew Leader.  Then, one year into holding the Crew Leader position, Tatiana became pregnant. She thought she was going to have to stop working but, with the support of her crew she was able to continue at her job until the baby was born. After taking a month-long leave of absence, Tatiana came back to the Corps. Two months later, she got another promotion called an "outside internship" at the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA). Tatiana works in the finance department but is interested in pursuing a career in Social Work. She hopes to one day be able to work with at-risk children or children with disabilities. Tatiana said, “If I work with troubled kids I know I can help show them that their life is not over no matter what kind of problem they have.” 

Tatiana is already taking classes at Laney Community College. She plans to use the AmeriCorps scholarship she earned through her service to continue classes at the community college before transferring to a university. 

“I want my son to have the best future possible, everything that I didn’t have," said Tatiana. "I don’t want him to go down the same road I did, though I know kids seem to experiment with life when they get to a certain age.  My plans are to stay in college, get a good paying job working with kids, and I want to be the best mom ever. All this became possible because of Civicorps.”

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Kenny Mai

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

Kenny came to the Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LACC) with a number of challenges: gang affiliation, homelessness, drugs, alcohol, limited family support, a single parent household, anger problems, and family conflict with his stepfather. Because English is not his first language, Kenny struggled through school and dropped out. However, he refused to give up on education a second time. At age 19 Kenneth enrolled in Job Corps where he received his GED. Despite the threats and fear of giving up gang life, he started working as a Corpsmember at LA Conservation Corps in March 2007. While training at the Corps he learned carpentry, roofing, plumbing, irrigation and drywall.  Kenny showed up to work daily and to learned how to deal with family, work, and stress. 

Kenny was elected President of the LA Corps Leadership Council where his responsibilities included motivating corpsmembers to participate in partnership with the LA Conservation Corps.  His involvement with the Leadership Council has developed his leadership skills to the point where he now recruits and promotes participation in the LA Conservation Corps's numerous programs.

Kenny said, “Life after the corps will be a bigger step in my life which comes with more opportunities to grow despite drama and stress.  In the near future I see myself enrolled in a community college, working and becoming part of the LA Conservation Corps staff.  I also plan on getting my degree in electronics and continue my career in construction.”