Vermont Youth Conservation Corps Storm Recovery Crew Uncovers the Recent Past

From the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps's October 17, 2012 newsletter 

Every time the flow of the White River changes, more debris from Tropical Storm Irene makes its way down river and carves away river banks.  An eight-person Recovery Crew is currently working along the Tweed and White Rivers in Rochester to appropriately extract and discard hundreds of pounds of debris, including over 200 tires.

The job requires physical strength, safety and risk management, and problem solving skills.  In chest-high waders, members ferry debris to pick up areas.  Along the floodplain, the crew bushwhacks through thick sections of the infamous invasive Japanese Knotweed to reach piles of debris. Rockbars and pick mattocks are used to dig out tires, pry out painted or treated wood, and maneuver waterlogged mattresses. Sturdy trash bags hold antique bottles, pieces of cable, and toys. The crew will tell you that it takes patience, a sense of humor, and great teamwork to make this project successful.

Learn more about this crew here

The VYCC is committed to Irene Recovery.  In the wake of the storm, crews helped 60 families clean out their homes in Waterbury, Richmond, and Montpelier. This year, crews are completing several projects related to Irene including trail repair and invasive species removal.  We also welcome Matt DeFrange to VYCC Headquarters Staff as an AmeriCorps VISTA through SerVermont.  Matt's focus is Irene Recovery through our Development Office.

Washington Conservation Corps Responds to Five Wildfires

So far this season, crews from the Washington Conservation Corps have responded to five wildfires.

The Corps currently has three 10-person crews contributing to the firefighting efforts in Eastern Washington. Earlier this summer, during the second week of July, a crew spent five days coordinating camp logistics for the effort to fight the Navarre Coulee fire near Entiat,Washington.

Among other things, crewmembers served meals, and supplied equipment to the fire line. At the end of August, the corps provided similar services to help in the efforts to fight the Taylor Bridge Fire near Cle Elum, Washington. Currently, corpsmembers are responding to the Highway 141 fire near White Salmon in the Columbia Gorge, as well as the Manila/Columbia Complex Fire near Grand Coulee, Washington. They are also in the process of deploying a 10-person crew to the Okanogan Complex of fires near Twisp. Crewmembers are assisting in camp management, equipment and supply delivery, engine crew work and line construction.

Read more about the Corps' efforts on their blog.

Americorps NCCC Alum Used Skills Gained from the Corps to Assist in 9/11 Emergency Response Effort

From the National Service Blog of

On September 11, 2001, AmeriCorps alum Olive Eckstein was in her native New York looking for work. When the planes struck the Twin Towers, Olive dropped what she was doing and headed downtown to the World Trade Center to see what she could do to help.  She felt a deep sense of commitment to her country, responsibility to others in need, and confidence that she could be of assistance – all of which she attributed to her AmeriCorps experience. Having been trained in disaster relief by AmeriCorps, and with prior experience as a paramedic, Eckstein had a skill set that would prove very useful in the rescue efforts. She befriended a group of EMTs at Shea Stadium and traveled with them to what had become known as Ground Zero. They spent the night dousing firefighters' ash-covered eyes with saline and tending to sooty wounds and burns as they tried to make sense of what they were seeing.

Soon, she was stationed at a nearby elementary school that had become a respite site for the firefighters, police officers, and steel workers who labored intensively at Ground Zero. She worked daily shifts serving food, supporting disaster workers, and organizing supplies to help sustain the recovery process.
Eckstein spent the next several weeks foregoing job interviews and social opportunities because she felt a deep obligation to help those in need.

“Volunteering as an AmeriCorps alum at Ground Zero was an incredible opportunity in the face of such a tragedy,” she said. “Just like AmeriCorps continues to do, it impacted my life in many immeasurable ways, and gave me the opportunity to be on the scene and help our nation's heroes in one of our darkest days.”

Now an MD, Dr. Eckstein has continued her path in public service in the medical field, serving as a Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellow in Houston, Texas.

2007 Project of the Year: TCYC Gains Secondary Emergency Responder Status


Winner: Tulare County Youth Corps (now Sequoia Community Corps)

Tulare County Youth Corps (now Sequoia Community Corps) corpsmembers participated in flood control this past winter season when water flooded public roads, portions of Sequoia Airfield, and areas surrounding the Tulare County Jail and Juvenile Detention Facility. The corps assisted county personnel in pumping water from flooded areas, replenishing supplies, and repairing levies and bridges to mitigate further flooding.

TCYC’s invaluable assistance led to an agreement with Tulare County to be a secondary emergency responder in 2006. TCYC prepared for this role by offering a new certification program in Bobcat operation. Seven corpsmembers have been certified in Bobcat operation and six more will be ready to test by November 2006. 

The testing consists of written and hands-on field navigation on uneven and unstable terrain and includes a full range of maneuvers such as moving land for repairing and shoring up levies and bridges where water breaks overflow, leveling of surfaces, and trenching for water flow redirection. Thus far in 2006, fully trained and certified corpsmembers assisted in trenching for disaster relief in Tulare County. 

2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Alana Svensen

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

As a Corpsmember with the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), Alana helped coordinate the first rotation of 600 NCCC members to the Gulf Coast in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In other NCCC rotations in the Northeast Region, Alana framed homes with Habitat for Humanity, helped with education programs in Maryland and the Bronx and became a Certified Wild Land Firefighter in upstate New York.

Unsure what she wanted to to do when she graduate college in 2003, Alana joined the Corps to "give back to society." During her time deployed at the Red Cross staging area in the Gulf Coast, teaching children in the education programs, and building trails and homes, Alana feels she learned a lot about other people but even more about herself and what she can do. She plans to use her newly discovered logistical and building skills, as well as the insights she has gained, to continue to serve through a nonprofit or government agency. 

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. 

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..”

Disaster Relief

Responding to a disaster can provide a transformative experience for many Corpsmembers. In 2011, crews nationwide responded to at least 251 disasters including fires, floods, and storms. 4 Corps sent crews to Joplin, Missouri after devastating tornadoes leveled the city.

EarthCorps Alumnus Assists Japan Disaster Relief, Aims to Create New Conservation Corps in Japan


Tatsuya Tsukamoto, a 1999 EarthCorps alumnus, has been supporting recovery efforts in Japan following the devastating March 11th earthquakes and tsunami.

According to EarthCorps Director Steve Dubiel, "Tatsuya has continually pursued his dream of launching a conservation corps movement in Japan."

Tsukamoto recently emailed Dubiel and says that he's currently working with the volunteer Center in Tochigi and the Tochigi Conservation Corps to provide relief and assistance to affected communities.

In the Fukushima area, Tsukamoto and the Corps have been working in a damaged city named Iwaki City (right), near where one of Japan's nuclear power plants was damaged and is releasing radioactive materials. As a result, Tsukamoto and the Corps are planning to start a Fukushima Conservation Corps to "restore the city and the environment," but only once the nuclear plants become safe. (See more photos).

Tsukamoto wrote Steve saying: "I would like to ask you and EarthCorps to send some volunteers in the future, after Atomic Energy plants become safe. Also, I may ask you and Conservation Corps in USA to support starting Fukushima Conservation Corps, when it is ready."

To learn more about EarthCorps and it's international mission to restore habitat and lead environmental service volunteers, please click here. 

270 California Conservation Corpsmembers Provide Logistical Support for California Wildfires


Members of the California Conservation Corps from across the state are responding to the Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest and other wildfires throughout California. Currently there are 20 crews statewide -- 270 Corpsmembers -- assisting with logistical support at the fire camps. On the Station Fire, there are 12 CCC crews assigned from eight different locations: Camarillo, Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo and Watsonville. Along with the Station Fire, CCC crews are also currently dispatched to the Morris Fire in Los Angeles County as well as fires in Mariposa and San Bernardino counties.


So far this year, the CCC has dispatched crews to 23 different fires, under the direction of CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service. Corpsmembers routinely work 12-to-16-hour days at the fire camps, unloading and distributing supplies, checking in and replacing broken tools, and washing and rolling fire hoses. For more information about the CCC, visit