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


From the National Service Blog of Serve.gov

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.

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.

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Kayje Booker

***Update! Click here to find out what Kayje's been up to since accepting her award.***

Joining the Washington Service CorpsAmeriCorps program changed Kayje Booker’s life.  In the year before, she was working a variety of jobs, mostly in the food industry, and feeling generally dissatisfied and directionless in her work life.  In her first year of AmeriCorps, Kayje had the task of co-creating an after-school program for academically challenged kindergarten through sixth graders, in which she facilitated a civic engagement course.  The following year she implemented a civic engagement curriculum with 500 AmeriCorps members across the state of Washington and assisted Abt Associates with their evaluation of Washington Service Corps.  Underway this year is a complicated project she is developing which includes the creation of a ‘Homes for Service’ initiative in Washington. 

-- "Serving others is now and will forever be a non-negotiable part of my life.  However I spend my days, I must be able to come home at the end and know that my hours accomplished something that made the world a little better for someone else.”  

(written in 2005)

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.”

2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Philandrian Tree

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

During her terms as an AmeriCorps member with the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC), Philan Tree has accomplished many notable achievements. Philan was instrumental in setting up CREC’s collaborations with several chapters within the Navajo Nation.

Her direct work with these chapter houses resulted in two Memorandums of Understanding between Coconino County and the Leupp Chapter and the Tonalea Chapter. Because of these MOU’s and Philan’s diligent work with these chapters, CREC was able to employ 17 Navajo Nation AmeriCorps members to work directly with their chapters providing energy efficiency measures to the most needed homes in those underserved communities. Philan also procured a Resolution of Support from the Western Agency of the Navajo Nation allowing for CREC’s Energy Conservation Corps (ECC) to provide home weatherization to many families with great need in Navajo Nation lands of Coconino County.

Philan provided leadership for the first fully Navajo crews that were hired and employed by CREC within the Navajo Nation. Her skills in speaking and writing in Navajo provided access to County services that would have otherwise not been available to some of the elderly Navajo peoples. Led by Philan, these AmeriCorps members spent hours painstakingly translating and developing phrases to explain weatherization techniques and processes in Navajo so the elder residents in the community could understand the benefits and work that these hardworking crews were accomplishing. Philan also spent much of her own time assisting these residents in filling out their applications in order for them to sign up for the weatherization program.

During this timeframe 204 homes were retrofitted within these chapters of the Navajo Nation and Philan’s AmeriCorps members all finished their terms with an additional 45 hours of service to these communities. Simply put, these accomplishments would not have been possible without Philan’s determination, networking savvy, and clear goals for herself and the program.

Philan continues to be a positive influence on her peers and the community. She remains in contact with many of her former crew members encouraging them to continue to make positive changes in their own lives by participating within their local community. She encourages them to be proud of their heritage by respecting traditional ways and teaching others the importance of the Navajo language and encourages her peers and co-workers to speak their native language and to be proud that they are able to speak it. Also during her time as a CREC ECC AmeriCorps member, Philan spent her spare time coordinating volunteers as the chair for the Native American Parent Advocacy Committee. She generated an average of 10 additional volunteers from the Native American Community who help Native American youth to remain in school and to further their education by attending college.

Philan continues to take classes on a part-time basis to complete her Bachelor’s degree at Northern Arizona University and is currently set to graduate in December 2011 with a dual degree in psychology and applied indigenous studies. Philan is also currently working full time at the Coconino County Career Center helping among other tasks to find work for displaced construction workers. She has also been taking care of her father who has been with cancer for the past 6 years.

Despite these challenges and heavy workload, Philan is known for her selflessness, dedication, and can-do attitude. Upon completing her degrees, Philan says that she would like to “create a sustainable program to aide with the housing issues in the Navajo Nation. Currently there are no housing codes on my reservation and I would like to change that for the better.”

Philan also says that from her time with the Corps, “one of my most memorable moments was when the crew and I just finished working on the home of an elderly couple and one of the younger guys told me he wished he would win the lottery and just spend his earnings working on peoples’ homes.”

Wendy Spencer Confirmed as CEO of Corporation for National and Community Service

Yesterday, wrapping up a round of nominations before the Easter recess, the Senate confirmed Wendy Spencer as Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Originally nominated last fall, Spencer was confirmed along with several new members of the CNCS Board of Directors. The Corps Network and its 151 members are delighted with the confirmation of Ms. Spencer. Her extensive history and experience in the world of service are just what is needed at this time.

Ms. Spencer served on President George W. Bush’s Council on Service and Civic Participation and was appointed by three governors to lead Volunteer Florida, the Governor's Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service since 2003. Volunteer Florida is the official statewide coordinating agency for volunteers and donations in times of disasters. During Florida's record-breaking 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, Volunteer Florida coordinated more than 252,000 volunteers, as well as donated items totaling more than $85 million in value, which was the largest mobilization of volunteers in the history of U.S. natural disasters at that time. Ms. Spencer has worked across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to mobilize citizens to address problems facing their communities, and she is uniquely qualified to lead the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Many members of The Corps Network, as well as the organization itself, rely on programs administered by the Corporation, and Ms. Spencer’s proven leadership will help ensure that these programs continue to serve the thousands of people across the country for years to come. Additionally, in these trying economic times, it is important to have someone at the helm who can advocate passionately about the true importance of these programs, not only to the people who serve in them, but to those being served. With funding for the Corporation squarely on the table for cuts, and more and more Americans applying for Corporation programs to serve, having a CEO who can make the case for the importance of service is required, and Wendy Spencer is just that person.

National Service and Americorps

The Corps Network and Service and Conservation Corps are major participants in AmeriCorps and other National Service programs. This funding helps Corps to offer more young people positions on their crews, get more projects done, and serve the pressing needs of their communities in an extremely cost effective manner.

USS Rafael Peralta Named for Former California Conservation Corpsmember


                

Sgt. Rafael Peralta in Marine uniform (left) -- Rafael as a San Diego crew leader (right)

From the California Conservation Corps

The Secretary of the Navy has announced that one of its next five ships will be named in honor of Marine Staff Sgt. Rafael Peralta.  The ship will be a guided-missile destroyer.

Rafael was a former California Conservation Corps crewleader at the San Diego Center in 1998-99. He was 25 when he was killed in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004, while covering an exploding grenade with his body, thus saving the lives of several fellow Marines. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

Rafael's supervisors while in the CCC in San Diego included Cynthia Aguayo, Brian Lussier and Jennifer Reed, all of whom were impressed by his dedication.   

 "He knew what he wanted and had a plan for his life," Cynthia said.  "He was very enthusiastic about everything he did and a great motivator for P.T."

Brian promoted him to crewleader and recognized his drive. "He tried really hard and always went above and beyond." Brian still remembers a 10-day spike with Rafael and crew in the Anza-Borrego desert, where the crew hiked three miles to work each day and removed tamarisk plants.

Jennifer said "of anybody there in San Diego, he made the greatest impression of being a role model for other corpsmembers. He was an outstanding young man, a leader," she said. "I recall him coming back to see us in his Marine uniform," Jennifer said. "He was so proud and looked so sharp."

Type of destroyer to be named after Rafael Peralta

Congressman Duncan Hunter has been a longtime advocate for Peralta's recognition and is still urging the Navy to award him the Medal of Honor. Hunter added an amendment to the defense budget to name the next available Navy ship after him.  Hunter also pressed for naming a ship after San Diegan John Finn.

San Diego C II Philip Lembke recalls Peralta's CCC days and was pleased to hear about the Navy honor.

"I've been following the Congressman's fight for this, and I'm overjoyed ... 'Rafa' was a determined, focused and committed young man, whose purpose was to achieve his goals, in order to make life better for him and his family."

An editorial in the Union-Tribune of San Diego noted with pride that three of the five new ships will be named after San Diegans.  It concluded:

"It's not yet known where the three ships will be based.  But if they ever find their way into San Diego Bay, go down and think about Peralta, Johnson and Finn.  What they did, they did for you."

 

Conservation Corps Boost Youth Leadership, Community Service and Outdoor Involvement, Study Shows

 

Editor's Note: this News Release was Originally Published by the Public Lands Service Coalition, of which The Corps Network is a member.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Destry Jarvis
Phone: 540.338.6970

WASHINGTON, D.C.–-Young people who participate in Conservation Corps exhibit improved leadership skills, community engagement and environmental stewardship according to a recent nationwide evaluation.

The study, conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University, assessed participants from 10 member Corps of the Public Lands Service Coalition against a random comparison group.

Using data collected during the 2011 program season, researchers found that after a season of service, Corps members displayed numerous developmental advantages. These include enhanced leadership and teamwork skills as well as a greater willingness to accept responsibility for personal actions.

Intensified engagement with the land was evinced by stronger interest in outdoor recreation. Ninety-five percent of Corps alumni indicate they plan to go backpacking within the next year, versus just 23% of the comparison group. Another 91% of Corps participants plan to purchase outdoor recreation gear within the next year, and to spend substantially more than their nonparticipant peers.

In addition, Corps participants’ interest in natural resource management careers increased during their service, while non-participants’ interest in such jobs actually declined during the same time period.

“This evaluation offers further proof that Conservation Corps provide important benefits to public lands and the public good, and we encourage our land management agencies to increase service opportunities for America’s Conservation Corps members,” said Mary Ellen Ardouny, Vice President of External Affairs for The Corps Network, formerly known as the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps.

The Public Lands Service Coalition represents 36 Conservation Corps whose 17,000 members complete crucial maintenance on America's public/tribal lands and waters.

Coalition Members

American YouthWorks • Backcountry Horsemen of America • Calif. Assn of Local Conservation Corps • California Conservation Corps • Campfire USA • Canyon Country Youth Corps • Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia • Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy, Inc • Coconino Rural Environment Corps • Colorado Youth Corps Association • Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa • EarthCorps • Greater Miami Service Corps • Groundwork USA • Los Angeles Conservation Corps • Montana Conservation Corps • National Congress of American Indians • National Parks Conservation Association • National Wildlife Federation • Nevada Conservation Corps • Northwest Youth Corps • Operation Fresh Start • Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (CO) • Sequoia Community Corps • Sierra Club • Southeast Alaska Guidance Association • Southwest Conservation Corps •Student Conservation Association • The Corps Network • The Wellness Coalition • The Wilderness Society • The Y • Utah Conservation Corps • Vermont Youth Conservation Corps •Veterans Green Jobs • Washington Conservation Corps

Advocacy

The Corps Network promotes the idea that Corps provide a solution to multiple problems in American society.

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