Strengthening America with the Clean Energy Corps

The Corps Network’s Clean Energy Corps program was featured this week on the Huffington Post in an article written by Interim CEO Mary Ellen Ardouny. The article explains how this youth development program, funded by AmeriCorps and operated in nine Corps, is making a difference.

She writes: “When we envisioned the program several years ago, we thought it would be an excellent way to engage Corpsmembers in work that would lead to credentials and careers, while at the same time saving energy and money for residents in their communities. I'm pleased to report that after nearly two years, the program has proven successful.” 

In a recent six month period, the Clean Energy Corps weatherized and retrofitted 493 homes, of which 98 percent showed reduced annual energy usage based on pre and post-test data. In this same six month period, 3,510 households were informed about energy and cost-saving strategies and 746 additional community volunteers were mobilized on service projects.

But perhaps the biggest benefit comes to the Corpsmembers themselves. They receive credentials like the Building Performance Institute (BPI) Insulation/Air Sealing Technician certification, which allow them to more competitively pursue careers in the growing green energy industry.

Corps currently participating are 
American YouthWorksCivicWorksGreen City ForceHeart of Oregon,Limitless VistasSEEDSChenango Community CorpsThe Sustainability Institute/Energy Conservation Corps, and Youth Conservation Corps.

Read more here. 

Baltimore Teens Trade Summer in the City for Conservation in the Wilderness

 

They traveled 2,000 miles from home, trading high-rise buildings for towering trees, city lights for twinkling stars, and an urban cacophony for the melodies of songbirds.

Relaxing? Hardly. These six Baltimore teenagers aren’t on vacation. They are working long, hard days to restore the wilderness character of Carson National Forest in New Mexico.

All six are members of the Student Conservation Association (SCA), a national nonprofit organization that engages young adults in hands-on conservation to build connections with nature and provide career skills and training. In June and July, the crew members worked in urban parks back home in a pioneering SCA program that employs under-represented city youth in green summer jobs near their own neighborhoods. When given the option of performing similar work in a national forest, the teens jumped at the chance.

“There’s not many wide open places like this left, so we have to do what we can to protect them,” says 17-year-old Malik Moore. “Plus, I get to go out West for the first time. No way was I going to pass this up.”

None of the SCA team had ever traveled this far before; few had even been more than a few miles from home. During the day, they build hiking trails, restore campsites, and remove invasive plants before heading to basecamp to prepare their own meals over an open fire, take in environmental lessons from their crew leaders, and retreat to their tents for a restful sleep. “This is an adventure, no doubt about it,” states Howard Thorne, Jr. “But we all know why we’re here. There’s work to do.”

The project is part of the Forest Service’s 10-Year Challenge to achieve specific stewardship objectives at more than 400 US Forest Service sites by 2014, the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. S. Elwood York, Jr., the Forest Service’s wilderness program leader in Washington, D.C., says he also had another objective in mind in creating the Carson opportunity for the SCA Baltimore crew.

Read more about this story here.

2009 Project of the Year: Reducing Water Use in Denver

Winner: Mile High Youth Corps

With utility rates rising and the threat of drought, Colorado-based Mile High Youth Corps tackled the issue of saving water through its Water Conservation Program. In partnership with Denver Water, Mile High Youth Corps developed the Water Conservatin Program in 2007 to help low-income households, nonprofit agencies, affordable housing complexes and faith-based institutins across the metro area save water and lower their utility costs while promoting water conservation. Small teams of Corpsmembers are dispatched to area homes and agenices to replace toilets using more than 3.5 gallons of water per flush with high-efficiency toilets (HETs), which only use one gallon per flush.

"The crew was friendly, professional, fast and thoroughly explained everything," said William Fitzwater, a Denver Water client who received his free toilet earlier this year.

The Water Conservation Program grew out of MHYC's Energy Conservation Project with the Governor's Energy Office (GEO). In 2006, MHYC began working with GEO to install low-cost energy saving measures in the homes of 2,000 clients of the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP). Corpsmembers fit kitchen and bathroom faucets with low-flow aerators, installed water-efficient showerheads and assessed homes for water leaks. This year, the Water Conservation Program expects to double the 854 HETs installed in 2007. Typically, households see a 15 percent reduction in their water bills.

A key component of the program is Corpsmember and client education. MHYC Corpsmembers receive comprehensive environmental education and techinal training. They also gain the skills and experience needed to be successful in today's workforce - especially the ever-grrowing Green Jobs industry. 

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.

2011 Corpsmember of the Year: Mari Takemoto-Chock



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

Mari Takemoto-Chock is from the rural town of Hilo on the eastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii. A strong student, Mari says that she “successfully managed to out-geek all other geeks in my senior year of high school.”

After graduating, Mari saw how huge the opportunity gap was between students from neighbor islands and students from Oahu. While Mari did go to college, this is not a common occurrence for a young person from Hawaii. The state’s public schools system ranks near the bottom of schools in the nation, and college is not always emphasized by schools. So Mari took it upon herself to help make a difference for other young Hawaiians, for whom opportunities need to be created.

She started by working after college for U.S. Congresswoman Rep. Mazie Hirono from Hawaii’s 2nd district. After getting a taste of high-level policy, Mari was ready to get a more hands-on experience. In 2010, Mari applied to be an Americorps VISTA with KUPU, the organization that operates the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps.

Among her many accomplishments, Mari has helped the Corps to improve their social media communications, helped organize Kupu’s participation in a Christmas parade where they handed out seed envelopes of native Hawaiian plants, and helped raise money for the organization. The bulk of her work, however, has been to plan and create the organization’s new “Urban Corps.” The Corps began its operations in January and will create a job training and life skills education program for Honolulu’s under-resourced youth. Corpsmembers will be trained to install solar panels, complete environmental conservation work, and will also learn about energy efficiency.

Mari says that the “intense, focused, cause-driven experience has been energizing.” She also notes that “work that is personally meaningful can make up for a lot of daily frustrations and disappointments (and there are many when piloting a new project).”

Once she completes her service as an Americorps member, Mari would like to return to Capitol Hill to work on energy, environmental, and education issues as part of the legislative staff for a member of the Hawaii delegation. She also hopes to earn a law degree with a focus on environmental and climate justice. Mari’s passion, success, and desire to help her fellow Hawaiians makes her a leader and role model for others.

2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Ladine "JR" Daniels

Sadly, Ladine "JR" Daniels passed away in his sleep in early November 2014. JR was a loved and respected member of the Corps community. He will be greatly missed. Click to read our tribute to JR. 


 

Content below originally published in 2012

After being convicted of a felony earlier in his life, Ladine “JR” Daniels says that “I was having hard time finding something to do with my life, and having been to prison, I was only working jobs that were not going very far.”

Once he joined The Sustainability Institute’s Energy Conservation Corps, Ladine gained valuable job skills, secured employment, and made headway toward his goal of starting his own business. While in the Energy Conservation Corps, JR served as a leading corpsmember in the weatherization crew. He inspired others when it came to completing the most difficult tasks and often reached out to younger corpsmembers, offering guidance and friendship.

His growth and desire to learn have been two of JR’s keys to success. He eagerly set out to learn as much as possible with job estimating, planning, and small business creation. JR often volunteers with his local NAACP branch doing outreach and mentoring as part of his choice to take care of himself and his family by learning a valuable trade and offering service back to the community.

In addition to his desire to learn and his strong leadership capacities, JR’s skillset became highly developed while in the Corps. He gained a high degree of proficiency with energy performance testing equipment, instructing others and assisting professional energy auditors through The Sustainability Institute operated Charleston WISE and Charleston WISE Impact Programs. With his newly gained abilities and maturity, JR was courted by potential employers well before his service term ended – though he chose to stay with the Corps and finish his service hours in order to receive an educational award.

JR was ultimately hired by Carolina Green Energy Systems (a local and well-established full-service energy retrofit company) with whom he has established himself as one of their leading weatherization technicians. Although he was competing against other potential hires without criminal histories, JR was chosen by his current employer due to his service, success and development with the Corps.

Even with this success, JR has even bigger goals for the future. He says that “I plan to begin my own company doing weatherization services for low-income families that are sponsored by church congregations here in Charleston. I’m hoping that as my business grows I can hire ECC members as they graduate and give them the same opportunity that Carolina Green Energy gave to me.”

President Obama Endorses Forest Service's Job Corps as "America's Green Job Corps"

 




Oconaluftee JCCCC Forestry Conservation students and Instructor help repair a retaining wall in trail rehabilitation work on the Cheoah Ranger District in Robbinsville. Shown (left-right) are Crystal Adu, Instructor Darrell McDaniels, Anthony Brown, and Steven Morris. (Photo courtesy of Holly Krake/OJCCCC)

From the Cherokee Feather

The new green curriculum of the Forest Service’s Job Corps will expand employment opportunities for its graduates, help revitalize local economies in rural communities and enhance the mission of the agency, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said on Friday, June 24.

“The Forest Service congratulates high school and college students far and wide who are graduating this month, and we are especially proud of our own graduates of the Forest Service Job Corps centers,” said Tidwell.

“Our students have completed valuable, hands-on projects giving them excellent tools to pursue career paths in green jobs while also creating life-long connections with America’s great outdoors.”

Recognizing the program’s efforts in green jobs training, President Obama has endorsed them as America’s Green Job Corps. At present, the Forest Service is awaiting final authorization from the Department of Agriculture for the go-ahead to directly hire Job Corps graduates to perform on land stewardship projects — a process which is expected to put hundreds of the program’s graduates to work before fall.

Locally, the Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Cherokee has implemented green training and conservation ideals across each of its training programs including Forestry Conservation and Wildland Firefighting, Office and Business Administration, and Health Occupations.

“Green training is not something we teach- it’s who we are” said Liaison Specialist for Oconaluftee, Holly Krake. “This summer we graduated over 25 students who trained on sites across the region putting these skills to use”.

Projects throughout western North Carolina include transplanting culturally significant rivercane with Western Carolina University in Cherokee, education trail construction with the Watershed Association for the Tuckasegee River in Dillsboro and trail revitalization on the Cheoah Ranger District in Robbinsville.

“Our graduates are skilled, trained, and competing well in the job market, military, and higher education. At the end of the day, Job Corps is just that- assisting our youth in getting jobs” Krake says.

The Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center is associated with the National Forests of North Carolina and currently serves 68 students. The USDA Forest Service operates 28 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers across 18 states with a capacity of 6,200 students. 

In the last 12 months the centers have graduated 4,263 students, better preparing them to enter the job market. Historically, approximately 80 percent of Job Corps graduates have started new careers, enrolled in higher education programs or have enlisted in the military.

“Forest Service Job Corps centers provide the education, vocational instruction, and job skills training necessary to obtain gainful employment and earn a living wage,” explained Tony Dixon, the National Director of Forest Service Job Corps.

“Job Corps students are making Forest Service facilities and operations sustainable, lowering its operating costs, reducing our carbon footprint, and restoring terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,” Dixon emphasized.

The centers directly contribute to the agency’s mission of conserving the nation’s national forests and grasslands. Job Corps students have fought forest fires, planted trees, improved wildlife habitat and built or maintained recreation facilities and miles of hiking trails.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

Green For All and The Corps Network Collaborate in Creating Green Careers Pathways for Low-Income Youth

 

by Vien Truong, Senior Associate, Green For All & Sally Prouty, President and CEO, The Corps Network

Green For All (GFA) and The Corps Network (TCN) are proud to work together tackling one of our nation's most pressing problems: youth employment and career pathways. All too often, future jobs will be out of reach to our nation's youth, especially those in low-income communities and communities of color.

At the Clinton Global Initiative's CGI America meeting, both TCN and GFA will be promoting the role of green jobs in solving problems of pollution and poverty. During the conference, which takes place on June 29 - 30, TCN will be announcing the upcoming release of a new resource: A Green Career Pathways Framework: Postsecondary and Employment Success for Low-Income Disconnected Youth. Green for All, which was launched at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2007, will also be attending the convening to discuss creating good, green jobs that have career pathways and pathways out of poverty for all communities.

TCN's seminal white paper shows the opportunities in the green economy and its potential to offer a pathway out of poverty for low-income young adults, many of whom have disconnected from school, are struggling to find a way into the economic mainstream, or both. This correlates with GFA's efforts to develop and grow career pathways and pathways out of poverty for low-income and disconnected youth through our Youth Employment and Leadership Ladders (YELL) Community of Practice, which is co-chaired by TCN and the Wangari Maathai Center for Sustainable Cities and Schools. Through the YELL working group, our organizations will develop and share resources that create and sustain effective youth workforce training programs; research and provide best practices and strategies for removing barriers to training and employment for youth; and share other resources towards helping prepare youth for, and connect youth to, green collar jobs.

Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Since 2005, CGI Annual Meetings have brought together nearly 150 current and former heads of state, 18 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, along with heads of foundations, major philanthropists, directors of the most effective nongovernmental organizations, and prominent members of the media. These CGI members have made nearly 2,000 commitments, which have already improved the lives of 300 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued in excess of $63 billion. The CGI community also includes CGI University (CGI U), a forum to engage college students in global citizenship, MyCommitment.org, an online portal where anybody can make a Commitment to Action, and CGI Lead, which engages a select group of young CGI members for leadership development and collective commitment-making. CGI America is the newest addition to this community. For more information, visit http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org

 

California Conservation Corps Kicks Off EnergySmart Jobs Program in Grocery Stores


 

Republished from the California Conservation Corps' Newsletter. The CCC is a member of The Corps Network.


Using a Sacramento supermarket as a backdrop, representatives from the Energy Commission and PECI joined California Conservation Corps Director David Muraki (pictured above) and Sacramento corpsmembers in the official launch of the EnergySmart Jobs program. 

Sixty-one corpsmembers are being trained as surveyors to help grocery businesses large and small find energy-saving opportunities, particularly in refrigeration units. The store owner can then work with a contractor as far as implementation of energy-saving measures.

Unique for the corpsmembers are the use of iPhones to enter and transmit data from the grocery stores.

 



Sacramento corpsmember Caitlin Howard checks data entered into her iPhone.

One focus of the program is converting lighting in grocery refrigeration cases to energy-efficient LED lighting. LED lights emit significantly less heat so the compressors don't have to compensate to keep the cases cold. The work could be done by contractors after the initial energy survey, with businesses provided financial incentives to cover a portion of the cost.

The CCC has about 40 corpsmembers participating in the program right now, from Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles, Inland Empire and San Diego. There are also eight corpsmembers from the Los Angeles Conservation Corps. Alternates will be trained to backfill the crews as the current corpsmembers will have opportunities for job placement with the contractors.

The corpsmembers will travel throughout the region to visit stores. It takes 45 minutes to an hour per survey; some 20,000 businesses will be visited during the program's 14 months.

Conservation Supervisor Scott Linton is serving as project manager for the program. He says all the stakeholders are pleased with efforts to date and that CCC corpsmembers and staff have done an outstanding job.

"I'm incredibly impressed by the technological savvy of our corpsmembers and staff who are implementing the program in such a short amount of time, " Scott says. "They're raring to go and working faster than we can supply them with assignments."

EnergySmart Jobs is an initiative of the California Energy Commission, administered by PECI and financed through federal stimulus funds (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).

 

San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps Greens Program to Receive Recovery Funding

 

San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps just got some green to go green. The Corps is receiving $98,122 from the Department of Labor to help promote green job training. "This is going to kind of round out our program," Executive  Director Daniel Oaxaca said.   "We  are already doing construction, so we figured why not teach them to do green construction?" With the money, the program will eventually expand its YouthBuild program from serving two dozen students to 35 students. And it will build the curriculum to include green construction techniques including solar panel installation and maintenance. Learn more in theSan Gabriel Valley Tribune.

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