2011 Congressional Visits

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa Staff members Candice McElroy (left) and Cindy Green (center) talk to Matthew Forbes (right), the Environmental Legislative Assistant for Representative Colin Peterson (MN).

While some individuals were able to meet and talk to their Representatives at the Capitol Awards Ceremony, other Forum attendees spent their afternoon on Wednesday pounding the halls of Congressional office buildings to meet their Representatives and Senators.

For some individuals the meetings were a routine practice but for many the experience was new, exciting, and intimidating. Earlier on in the Forum, a short session was led by The Corps Network’s government relations team to help coach attendees in how to talk to their Representatives about supporting local and national priorities such as Americorps funding, the Public Lands Service Corps Act, and the Youth Corps Act.

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.

The 2011 Friends of National Service Reception


Actor Brandon Routh (third from left), was excited to meet the Corpsmembers of the Year. His best known role to date was as Superman in 2006’s Superman Returns. Corpsmember De’Andre Alexander spoke powerfully at the reception and is on the far right.

The 2011 Friends of National Service Reception was held in the East Hall of Union Station and took on the form of a pep rally as National Service leaders rallied the crowd in opposition to proposed federal budget cuts. 

Numerous speakers voiced their support for Service including Senator Barbara Mikulski, AnnMaura Connolly, President of Voices for National Service, actor Brandon Routh, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

According to the Washington-based publication known as The Hill, “the most moving speech of the evening was given by De’Andre Alexander, The Corps Network’s Corps Member of the Year, who recounted his journey from the penal system to a life of service.”

The Washington Scene: How Service and Conservation Corps Fit the Picture


John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Entreprises and a veteran of Washington politics, engaged the Forum audience on Tuesday afternoon with a discussion about current politics and what proposed budget cuts might mean for Service and Conservation Corps. With energy and concentration in the audience fading after two intense days of workshops, plenaries, and socializing, Bridgeland (pictured right) stirred the crowd with a bold statement: he told the audience that if they made Congressional visits to Republicans they should avoid using the word “Americorps.” This prompted a defensive posture in the audience and served as an excellent means for discussing how the delivery of a message is equally important to the merit of the message itself.

Strategies for Postsecondary Success: Green Career Pathways


In a Tuesday afternoon plenary session several speakers discussed the opportunities and challenges that exist in getting young people who have dropped out of traditional school systems enrolled in postsecondary education. Adria Steinberg, Vice President of Jobs for the Future got things started showing how the facilitation of this connection is of vital importance. Mimi Clarke Corcoran, Director of the Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation at Open Society Foundations (left below), and Steve Patrick (center below), Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, followed up discussing how tying postsecondary education to green job credentials will be essential for preparing young people for the middle-skills jobs that will largely comprise the green economy forecast in America’s future.


The America's Great Outdoor Initiative: from Conversation to Action


Leaders from Federal Land Management agencies discuss their plans for increasing youth involvement as part of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative. From left to right: Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Youth Office Director at the U.S. Department of the Interior; Will Shafroth, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Interior; Meryl Harrell, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Harris Sherman, Under Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On Monday, leaders from U.S. federal land management agencies made the Forum one of their key venues for announcing their next steps of action in response to findings from a nationwide listening tour. As part of the Obama Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, the tour helped assess what Americans perceive to be obstacles to getting outside and enjoying America’s public lands both in cities and in rural areas.

A major component of the listening tour and initiative is getting young people further involved as stewards of America’s public lands. According to the speakers at the session, across the nation, over 2,000 young people provided feedback in 21 different listening sessions. Several common themes emerged. One was that government websites are not engaging and user-friendly. The government must use social media and modern technology to better appeal to youth and encourage them to get outside. Another theme concerns how it is challenging for many young people to find and win federal jobs with land management agencies — making it less likely that they will consider outdoor careers.

To begin addressing these problems, one solution that speakers talked about is a new website called youthgo.gov that is hoped to help make finding federal job opportunities easier for young people. Another is the creation of a 21st Century Conservation Corps, modeled on the Great Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps. The Corps Network will be a major partner in providing ready-to-go positions for individuals who will join the 21st Century Conservation Corps. It will essentially represent an effort to bring conservation corps to scale on a greater national level. 

A highlight of the day’s activities was Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s keynote address. He also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The Corps Network that will allow members of the network to fast-track cooperative work agreements with federal land management agencies.

The Corps Network’s Service and Conservation Corpsmembers of the Year look on as Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signs a Memorandum of understanding with Sally Prouty, President of The Corps Network.

2011 National Conference - Collective Impact: Making a Difference in Our Communities Together


In a morning plenary session Elisabeth Wenner (right), a Director of Sustainability at Kraft Foods, talked about Krafts’ efforts to work with communities and other partners to make a difference. She described how Kraft decided to measure their impact and leverage sustainability as a business strategy rather than an afterthought, or something obligatory that had to be done for appearances.

One program she discussed was Kraft’s African cashew project, that aims to increase farmers’ productivity and income while promoting a sustainable global market for cashews. Another important effort Kraft undertook was mobilizing 750+ volunteers to build new public schools using sustainable materials in several locations where schools were crumbling and posing an environmental health risk to students.

The session concluded with a discussion where Elisabeth joined Jason Levine, Director of Marketing for Planters, and James Jones, Senior Vice President at The Corps Network to talk about how Planters, Kraft, The Corps Network, and its members would work together moving forward to build urban parks and partner beyond.

2011 National Conference: Moving the Needle - Making our Case with Data


In the Forum’s first stand-alone plenary session, Forum attendees and speakers grappled with the sometimes unpleasant, but crucial reality that organizations must document and demonstrate their impact with data. Two dynamic and expert speakers shared their perspectives on why concrete, measurable results are a necessary complement to anecdotal feelings of success. Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (pictured above), said that the current battle the Corporation faced to maintain its federal funding was a perfect example of why data is so important. In short, the Corporation will need to illustrate that its programs achieved clear impacts. 

A memorable highlight of the session came when the 2nd speaker, David Smith, Executive Director of the National Conference on Citizenship, told a story that described how research and data collection could overturn expectations. Smith explained that in one study of single mothers in a community, it was discovered that their #1 desire was not to receive expected supports such as child care. Instead the single mothers said that the most important improvement to their quality of life would come from the control of wild dogs that roamed their community and made it unsafe for their children. It was a good reminder that we must always understand the needs of communities before we attempt to help them.

Getting Things Started Right: 2011 National Conference Begins


The 2011 Corpsmembers of the Year. From Left to Right: Tyler Rose of Coconino Rural Environment Corps (Arizona), De’Andre Alexander of Operation Fresh Start (Wisconsin), Mari TakemotoChock of KUPU (Hawaii), Christopher Thomas of California Conservation Corps, Andrew McKee of NYC Justice Corps (New York), and Oscar Marquina of Utah Conservation Corps.

The Corps Network opened the 2011 Annual Corps Forum with an ambitious schedule. After a warm welcome to attendees and a big thanks to Forum planners and sponsors, the audience was treated to a 7 minute video about the 6 primary stars of the Forum— the Corpsmembers of the Year.

After celebrating the Corpsmembers, Former Senator and Service Champion Harris Wofford gave a heartfelt tribute to his recently departed friend, Sargent Shriver. Shriver was the first director of the Peace Corps and was an adament supporter of National Service.

Next Denise Fairchild, the Executive Director of the Emerald Cities Collaborative, talked to Sally Prouty about her work and described how Service and Conservation Corps will play an important role in helping to retrofit many of America’s urban buildings to make them greener and more energy efficient. 

Switching gears again, the trio of Mary Ellen Ardouny, Harry Bruell, and Gene Sofer provided an update about the state of politics in our nation’s Capitol. They talked about Congress’s desire to cut spending and what it would mean for Americorps. On a more positive note, they also described The Corps Network’s efforts to build federal partnerships and pass legislation that will benefit its members nationwide.


Harry Bruell and Mary Ellen Ardouny.

The Opening Session concluded with a surprise appearance from Mr. Peanut himself. He came to present a symbolic check that represented Planters’ investment in a new partnership with The Corps Network. Together, The Corps Network and Planters are creating urban parks in 4 cities that demonstrate our mutual commitment to improving communities. Afterward Mr. Peanut happily obliged an eager crowd by sticking around for photo opportunities.


Mr. Peanut proudly poses with (left to right): Sally Prouty, Executive Director of The Corps Network, Mr. Peanut’s Sidekick, James Jones, Senior Vice President at The Corps Network, and Jason Levine, Director of Marketing for Planters.