Where are they now? – Catching up with 2008 Corpsmember of the Year, Linnea Heu

 



Linnea Heu, a former member of the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2008 for her commitment to service and environmental conservation. Read below to find out what she's been up to since accepting her award, or find out more about Linnea and her Corps experience by reading her bio from our 2008 national conference.

Linnea Heu wasn’t always interested in environmentalism. Her decision to join the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) in 2005 after her freshman year of high school was motivated mainly by a desire to return to the island of Kaho’olawe. Linnea knew that first year AmeriCorps interns with YCC had the chance to participate in Kaho’olawe’s “regreening” process. The island sustained serious damage when it was used as a military live-fire training ground during WWII, but now its ecosystem is in recovery. Linnea had once visited Kaho’olawe on a school trip and felt a strong desire to return to this place that is currently only used for native Hawaiian cultural and spiritual purposes.

Now, after more than seven years since that first summer with YCC, Linnea can look back and appreciate how her experience with the Corps helped shape who she is today. Linnea has always been interested in science, but it was her time with YCC that steered her towards environmentalism.

When I was really young I used to think I was going to be a veterinarian or a zoologist. Then I started wanting to study botany and I even thought I might get into agriculture at one point,” said Linnea. “And then it was after my freshman year of high school that I got into [YCC] for the first time and that’s when I started to learn that I wanted to work in environmental sciences and restoration. Botany is still along those lines, but YCC definitely helped to guide me and focus my choices post high school.”

Linnea earned her bachelors’ degree in environmental science in 2012 and is currently a graduate student at University of Hawaii at Hilo, where she is studying how phytoplankton in the ocean is affected by nutrient-rich runoff from the land.

Linnea has never studied marine life before. After her first summer with YCC, during which she had the opportunity to work with numerous organizations and agencies, she returned to YCC for a second summer to work exclusively with the National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Lāwa’i. She later returned to the Botanical Gardens after her senior year of high school for another internship that was independent of YCC. Linnea’s background might be with terrestrial plants, but she doesn’t feel like studying phytoplankton is too big of a change.

“It’s different, but it’s not. I’m really just moving on to another part of the same system,” said Linnea. “Everything is all connected and it’s a lot easier to see in an island ecosystem where things are so small and compact. What I’m doing has everything to do with terrestrial restoration because whatever happens upland of the marine systems you’re looking at has a huge impact. All of that groundwater is impacted by whatever is happening on the island. It’s all connected.”

Looking back on her time with YCC, Linnea says the experience that had the greatest impact on her was working in the 10-month-long program between finishing college and starting grad school. She liked being able to get into a routine and become comfortable with her abilities as a researcher. She liked how her supervisors could trust her enough to send her out on her own to collect data. But Linnea definitely still considers her first two summers with YCC to be very formative experiences.

“There are just a lot of good skills I learned and I got an introduction to a lot of things I’d never thought about before in terms of conservation,” she said.

Linnea is not entirely sure what she wants to do when she’s done with grad school, but she knows she wants to get involved in environmental advocacy and resource management. She wants to keep learning and do research that is significant for both the environment and the people of Hawaii.

“As I got older I realized how connected the environment and the culture are,” said Linnea. “I’m very interested in continuing to learn about Hawaiian culture. There’s been a push lately in the sciences locally to integrate cultural components into your research. That’s awesome to see and that’s definitely something I want to do. I think it’s important for scientists to put in context the research they’re doing. Sometimes we remove ourselves from it, but really there are people who are very connected to the resources we’re trying to protect.”

To young people thinking of joining a Corps, Linnea says:

“Be absolutely open to all of the experiences that you’re going to have. If you go into it with a bad mindset, you’re not going to get everything out of it that you could. It is such an opportunity, so you want to be open to the whole experience. Maybe you’re not going to agree with the attitudes or approaches of all of the agencies and organizations you work with, but just keep an open mind and take it all in. The more you take in, the better able you are to develop your own opinions.”

 

Where are they now? – Catching up with 2011 Corpsmember of the Year Mari Takemoto-Chock


Mari Takemoto-Chock, a former member of the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2011 for her commitment to service. Read below to find out what she's been up to since accepting her award, or find out more about Mari and her Corps experience by reading her bio from our 2011 national conference.

Mari Takemoto-Chock is certainly not one to just sit around. In August 2011, almost immediately after finishing her AmeriCorps VISTA term with KUPU – the organization that runs the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps – Mari flew to New York for her first semester as a graduate student at NYU. She received her master’s degree in the spring of 2013.

Mari’s experiences at KUPU are part of what inspired her to study gender and race in graduate school. During her year with KUPU, Mari was instrumental in creating an Urban Corps to provide job training and life skills education for Honolulu’s under-resourced youth. Mari was struck by how a large proportion of the Corpsmembers at KUPU were Native Hawaiian. What did it mean that they all came from a certain minority group? Mari says her graduate studies have helped her look with a critical lens at questions about race and inequality. After Mari graduates in May 2013, she says she will probably attend law school. She is not entirely sure what she wants to do with a law degree, but she hopes to one day work for an organization like the Legal Aid Society. She says there's also a possibility she will return to Capitol Hill; between college and her AmeriCorps term, Mari worked on energy, environmental, and education issues as part of the legislative staff for a member of the Hawaii delegation. Though Mari is still very much interested in environmental issues, she says her main interest, and what will probably shape her future career, are the issues surrounding at-risk youth. 

Looking back on her time at KUPU, Mari says her experiences not only inspired her studies in graduate school. She says that helping build the Urban Corps provided excellent exposure to how programs are developed, implemented, and maintained.

“I got a really good, broad overview …from funding to developing to implementing and devising policy,” said Mari. “And then also the day-to-day of managing behavior and discipline. I think the thing I took away the most was that broad overview.”

Mari says her Corps experience also helped her think in a whole new way. She feels that if she had not joined the Corps, she would probably still be on Capitol Hill thinking about issues from a political perspective.

Mari maintains close contact with people at KUPU. She goes to the Corps to visit her former coworkers whenever she gets a chance. She also frequently checks the Corps’ Facebook and Twitter pages to stay posted on what kinds of projects they’re working on.

To youth considering joining a Service or Conservation Corps, Mari says:

“I think it’s a really good opportunity for self-reflection and self-development. So I would say to be really open to that. I think just being out in nature is a good opportunity – for some reason it inspires a lot of self-reflection. Not many people get the chance to spend that much time out in nature. So I would say to really take advantage of that.”

 

 

2011 Capitol Hill Awards Ceremony


 

U.S. Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (third from left) poses with the staff of KUPU, who operate the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps and the newer Urban Corps. Corpsmember of the Year Mari-Takemoto Chock is third from the right.

On Wednesday morning Forum attendees made their way to the Cannon House Office building to honor The Corps Network’s 2011 Congressional and Federal Champions. Many Congressional Representatives and staffers took time to express their appreciation and support. U.S. Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) came to receive an award but also honored Mari Takemoto-Chock, a former member of her staff who was also honored as a Corpsmember of the Year. Congresswoman Hirono pledged her support for the Youth Corps Act and soon thereafter introduced the legislation in the House of Representatives.

Watch Video about the Mission and Projects of KUPU and the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps

From the KUPU website and YouTube page.

The kupukupu fern is one of the first plants to bring life back to areas devastated by lava flows. In Hawaiian, the word kupu means “to sprout, grow, germinate or increase.” This makes KUPU a fitting name for Hawaii’s leading Youth Conservation Corps.

Watch this video to learn more about KUPU’s mission “to bring life back to the people, the land, and the ocean,” and learn about their plans to turn a property once used by the fishing industry into a new center where KUPU members can meet. Hear from KUPU members and alumni, and see some of the beautiful landscapes this organization works to protect.

Hawaiian Airlines to Show KUPU's Capital Campaign Video on Flights

This week in their newsletter, KUPU (operators of the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps) announced some exciting news.

This December Hawaiian Airlines has agreed to start showing KUPU's Capital Campaign video on flights in and out of Hawaii. The video aims to raise money for renovating KUPU's Net Shed Facility into a green jobs training center. Congratulations to KUPU!

2011 Project of the Year: Stimulus Dollars Triple Growth of Youth Corps and Conservation Projects in Hawaii

 

Winner: KUPU, Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps

From 2009-2010, Kupu and its Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps was thankful for the opportunity to serve 45 young adults, 27 conservation agencies, and numerous communities across Hawaii through an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funded Recovery Youth Conservation Corps (RYCC) project.

Through a number of partnerships with state, federal, and nonprofit conservation agencies, new Americorps members produced considerable benefits for communities as well as themselves. The RYCC project was based on the Youth Conservation Corps’ year-round program, where over the course of 11 months participants gain knowledge, skills, and job training while serving their communities. Statistics truly speak to the success of this program.

In total, the ARRA funding allowed for 45 individuals to be hired, nearly tripling the previous size of the Corps’ year-round program. They contributed a combined total of 66,461 hours of work, a value approximated at $1.2 million. 2,270 community members also volunteered and assisted Corpsmembers with their projects, for a total of 16,380 hours. Over 50 organizations were provided with some kind of aid, and 29% of the participants who have completed their full term of service (11 people) have found permanent jobs as a result of the training they received.

Beyond the statistics, the funding has allowed the Corps to expand its administrative capacity, as well as build meaningful partnerships throughout Hawaii. It’s an excellent example of the value the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has served in one state.

Hawaii Five 0 Star Meets Kupu's Urban Corps


 

Yesterday Hawaii Five-0 shot on location just outside Kupu's training facility in Kewalo Basin Park. Daniel Dae Kim, one of the show's stars, took time to take a photo with the Urban Corps. On the show, Kim plays a police officer tasked by Hawaii's Governor to a special crime investigation team. While Dae Kim has appeared in numerous movies and television programs, he currently is most well known as "Jin," one of the most beloved characters on the recently completed science fiction series Lost.

The Kewalo Basin Park area is being transformed by Kupu's new Urban Corps. Recently it was known as a space known for rubbishness, drugs, and abandonment. Now it has been changed into to an amazing park and facility worthy of being showcased by a hit national television show.

Urban Corps has installed slate and granite in the bathrooms of the facility, landscaped the surrounding park, and will be constructing an imu pit (Hawaiian underground earth oven).

While these early achievements have been great, what's more amazing is that the young men in Urban Corps are transforming into individuals who take responsibility for the world around them, growing personally while giving back to their community.

To learn more about Kupu, the Urban Corps, and the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps, please visit Kupu's website.

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