2009 Corspmember of the Year: Sarah LaRocque


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


(Written in 2009) 

Sarah joined Heart of Oregon in August 2007 after a tumultuous childhood filled with drugs and instability. Sarah was extremely motivated to improve her life through education and hard work, and was determined to make it on her own as a single mother.

After attending one quarter of GED Prep, Sarah earned her GED and became taking College Prep classes.  While attending one of Heart of Oregon’s “Career Pathways” classes, she met the Human Resources Director of Bend Broadband, a local cable service provider.  After Sarah completed her term at Heart of Oregon, she reconnected with Bend Broadband and became one of their Customer Support Specialists.

As Sarah stated, “My main goal when I started was to be able to pay all my bills and start planning for my daughter's future, but I thought that was too far of a dream for me. Now I realize that all I needed was the right guidance and constant reassurance that anything can be done.   My life is better because I took that first step by myself, and after that I had my new family to hold my hand.”

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Arthur Jacuinde

 

When Arthur Jacuinde enrolled in the EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps' YouthBuild program in March 2007, he was facing many obstacles in his life.  He was unemployed, on Juvenile Parole, a high school dropout with no work experience, and living in a group home. 

With the support of the Corps, he enrolled in EOC’s School of Unlimited Learning - a charter high school - to complete his secondary education. After just eighteen months, Arthur passed the California High School Exit Exam and received his high school diploma.  With his AmeriCorps Education Award, he enrolled at Fresno City College.  Arthur was also selected as a delegate at the National Young Leaders Conference and has begun working on a pilot program, “Our America,” initiated by YouthBuild USA.  As part of the project, he is talking to other corpsmembers and encouraging them to share their life stories. He is working on initiating discussions about issues affecting corpsmembers and raising awareness about these issues.

Arthur was also recognized by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Division of Parole Operations for his commitment to change and achieve success.

Arthur is currently enrolled in a second term at Fresno and plans on using his education award to continue furthering his education at Fresno City College in the Fire Academy.

As Arthur says:

“I realize now that nothing is impossible. I have learned a few things about what life is and now I have total control over the outcomes in my life. I now understand the value of my freedom and that even though I cannot change my past, I am in total control of my future.”

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Aaron Dennis Crouse

(Written in 2009)

Aaron Dennis Crouse first started working with the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) the summer after his junior year of high school.  He spent his summer decommissioning roads and building trails leading to the Wild and Scenic Verde River. He was happier than he had ever been in his life.  During his senior year, however, he was hospitalized for severe depression.

Going back to CREC the next summer kept him going.  He decided to postpone college in order to stay at CREC.  He spent three grueling months working on a backcountry crew for the Southwest Conservation Corps, based in Tucson, AZ.   By September, he had been unanimously elected as Crew Leader even though he was the youngest person on the crew.   Before the term ended, he had already signed up for a year-long term back in Flagstaff. 

CREC was a life changing experience for Aaron.  As he said:

“This year has brought more than a fair share of tribulations for me: I struggled, once again, with being the youngest member on my crew; I contracted a MRSA infection and had to be hospitalized for 2 weeks after having a golf-ball-sized chunk of flesh removed from my knee; two of my high school friends died, as well as my Grandmother, who was the driving force in my life.  I honestly believe that I couldn’t have dealt with these challenges without my experiences in CREC and the support from my CREC family.” 

Aaron wants to continue working to improve the environmental health of the Arizona landscape he has come to love. 

It fills me with pride to know that I have spent the last year-and-a-half making a positive difference in the environment, and it fills me with elation to know that I will be able to continue this work," said Aaron. "Despite all of the challenges that I have faced this year, I will be graduating with friendships that are stronger than any natural substance, experiences inconceivable to those who have not had them, and a sense of accomplishment that will act as a strong foundation for the rest of my life.”

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Quintin Williams


***Update! Click here to read about what Quintin has been up to since he won his award***

(Written in 2010)

Before joining the Corps, Quintin Williams was like many young people, working an unsatisfying job that provided little challenge.

Quintin sought out the Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) and the Inclusive Crew where Corpsmembers with and without disabilities surveyed campgrounds and trails for Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines. Quintin himself is completely blind, and previous work opportunities had been with others who were blind or visually impaired. 

The Inclusive Crew’s mix, including mobility disabilities, gave Quintin a more complex understanding of accommodation. In addition, Quintin inspired his crewmates and used humor to break down barriers and honestly communicate about differences in ability, demonstrating a natural leadership that led him to promotion as crew leader.

Under Quintin’s leadership the crew took a local project and made it national: developing a new accessibility information database for the Forest Service that will provide the public with information on accessible campsites, facilities, and services.  The database is a leap forward for the Forest Service in its transition planning—and, by no accident, accessible to those who use a screen reader.

Quintin is a leader and ambassador for accessibility on public lands—one of the nation’s rising leaders in the field of service.

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Alisha Peters

Alisha Peters moved to Ohio to live with her sister to escape an environment where she was getting into trouble, especially with drugs.

WSOS Community Action, Inc. gave Alisha her first work experiences—and she excelled.  She welcomed new Corpsmembers, sharing her cell phone number in case they needed someone who would listen or provide support. She offered any Corpsmember a place to stay and a hot meal if they needed it. And in the Corps, she served as an Ohio Benefit Bank Counselor, assisting low-income families with issues ranging from homelessness to applying for heating assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, and tax preparation.

Alisha traveled through four counties, setting up evening and weekend tax clinics to be sure that working families could get the help they needed when they needed it. When families came in for a tax appointment with her, they often walked out not only with tax refunds, but with food stamps, transportation benefits, and Medicaid support. Most remarkably, the record shows that Alisha Peters assisted more families than any other OBB Tax Counselor in the state of Ohio. She went from being a person needing help to being a person who was exemplary for giving help to others.

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Alejandro Lopez

Alejandro Lopez was incarcerated at the age of 15 for a gang-related drive-by shooting. He lost two years of his life behind bars, and feels he could easily have wound up living a sad stereotype: the son of farm workers, with a criminal record, likely to end up back in jail or worse.

Fortunately, EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps recruited from his class of parolees. In the Corps, the once reserved young man blossomed and recovered from past mistakes.

Alejandro began vocational training on an irrigation crew while attending the Corps’ School of Unlimited Learning. The boy with the record became a man with credentials: earning a high school diploma and AmeriCorps Education Awards which took him to Fresno City College.

In 2009 Alejandro was selected for the Division of Juvenile Justice Outstanding Achievement Award for Juvenile Courts – recognition reserved for young ex-offenders who have changed their lives.

Today Alejandro has reached accomplishments his parents hardly dared dream of. He owns his own home, building a stable family for his child. To give back to others living the life he once had, he works at EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps, aiming to grow into a supervisory role.

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: Corey Brown

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

Corey Brown’s mother’s severe mental illness made parenting an impossibility. From a young age Corey lived with and cared for his father, who had severe physical disabilities. Corey did everything: buying family groceries, cleaning, and earning money to help pay the bills, without complaint. 

In college, Corey juggled a full course load with a forty to fifty hour work week, while maintaining the family household. “I was miserable, poor, burnt out from all the work and terrified that if I messed up one thing that would be the end of it. I did not have parents or support to rely on. I was alone.”

Then Corey made a dramatic decision. He would move cross-country to live with a mentor in Denver, building a new life for himself. Corey was hired by Mile High Youth Corps.

On the Water Conservation Crew, Corey became a problem-solver and leader, taking on increasing levels of responsibility. The support of the Corps allowed him to share the strengths that he had always relied upon in youth.

Corey plans to dedicate his life to instilling that same confidence in others by eventually earning a Master’s degree in psychology and working as a counselor or social worker.

2011 Corpsmember of the Year: Christopher Thomas

***Update! Click here to read about what Chris has been up to since he accepted his award.***

 

(Written in 2011)

Despite challenging circumstances, Christopher Thomas overcame adversity to become a leader in the California Conservation Corps (CCC). He and his 3 siblings were raised alone by their mom, who worked 3 jobs and also survived cervical cancer.

In 2005, Chris enlisted in the Marines after working as a youth pastor. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and was wounded twice over his four years of service. He received shrapnel in the chest and was stabbed once, leading to a medical discharge. Soon thereafter, he joined the CCC.

Chris became a Crew Leader, admired for his dedication, unassuming nature, and his pursuit of service to others. He and his crew worked on a variety of projects, such as helping to maintain newly planted trees and decrease fire potential by reducing fuels. It was not so easy at first though.

Chris says that “coming from the military, we were all taught to think and act one way. So I just didn’t run into different personalities until I came to the Corps. It was really a culture shock and the fact that I was forced to work with these people really was a smack to the face. But it taught me patience and greatly improved my people skills. No matter where I go in life my time in the Corps will only benefit me. And I no longer feel ‘forced’ but blessed to work with different types of people.”

Chris’s supervisors noticed his nature to go above and beyond. While only required by the CCC to complete 48 hours of volunteer community service, Chris logged nearly 250 hours. For this reason, they nominated him for the Silver Presidential Service Award, which he ultimately received from the Corporation for National Service in September of 2010.

It’s this kind of ethic that Chris’s supervisors believe will ultimately make it easy for him to find a job with one of the agencies or departments he has worked with. He has already interviewed for a position with the Department of Water Resources, but says that “no matter where I end up, I just want to help people, whether that’s my career or not.”

2011 Corpsmember of the Year: Tyler Rose


(Written in 2011)

Tyler Rose dropped out of high school his senior year. He was not engaged and only had a short distance left to go. But life was complicated for Tyler, who was also about to become a father.

After getting his GED with YouthBuild USA, a program that also helps young people gain construction skills, Tyler joined the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC). As a new member of CREC’s Energy Conservation Corps (ECC), Tyler received additional skills training through Coconino Community College, earning certificates in Workplace Readiness, Introduction to Energy Auditing, Energy Basics, and Construction Safety. While learning how to weatherize and safely seal homes, Tyler also improved his speaking skills by going door to door passing out educational flyers.

These positive experiences helped Tyler realize that he wanted to make a career out of his green construction skills and energy efficiency knowledge. He dedicated himself to the work and spirit of the Conservation Corps. For example, when a major flood hit the Flagstaff area, Tyler volunteered beyond his normal work days to go to resident’s homes and help them lay sand bags to secure their homes from imminent flooding.

Near the end of Tyler’s term, his eagerness to learn and work hard was rewarded. He was promoted to the position of Crew Co-Leader. As a result of his hard work and the recognition that followed, Tyler was able to make connections within the community and secure himself a permanent job as an energy auditor with E-3 Energy, a local green energy company. Tyler says it’s “the best job I’ve ever had.”

Tyler is now working hard to become certified as a Building Performance Institute Certified Building Analyst. Once certified, Tyler will be able to perform building energy audits independently and advance within his current company.

In the long-term Tyler says he would be happy to become the owner of a green energy company or simply advance within the company he currently works for. While he says that being the single father of a 3 year old can be challenging, he’s happy with the progress he’s made on a green career pathway and takes pride in the fact that he’s making the world a better place—one house at a time.

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