Secretary Jewell and journalist Richard Louv discuss how to address the disconnect between youth and nature

Image from the 2013 GO Week informational brochure

As part of Great Outdoors America Week 2013, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and journalist Richard Louv discussed the future of youth in conservation at an event at the Center for American Progress. Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and several other books about the relationship between children and nature, is possibly best known for creating the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the idea that children are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a variety of behavioral and physical problems. 

In a question-and-answer format, Louv asked Secretary Jewell a range of questions about her views on the importance of encouraging youth outdoor recreation and about how to build a connection between young people and Americas natural spaces. Both Secretary Jewell and Louv stressed the idea that the future of our country’s conservation efforts depends on building an appreciation for nature in today’s youth. Both advocated for more unstructured outdoor play for kids. Secretary Jewell acknowledged that confronting the current lack of youth involvement in nature would require “building a bigger boat” – government can’t tackle the challenge on its own. She stressed the need for parents, teachers, schools, NGOs and businesses to all be involved in making nature more accessible for youth and adults alike. Secretary Jewell praised The Corps Network for helping create an entry-point into the green careers sector for America’s youth. She also advocated for a strong 21st Century Conservation Service Corps to simultaneously tackle the youth unemployment crisis and the backlog of maintenance work on our public lands.

Click here to see a video of the event.

In their own words: Members of the National Council of Young Leaders Discuss their Recommendations for Public Action

Members of the National Council of Young Leaders meet with Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education

Created in July 2012 in response to a recommendation from the White House Council on Community Solutions, the National Council of Young Leaders is tasked with informing policymakers, business leaders and funders about the issues faced by America’s young people. The 14 founding council members, ranging in age from 18 to 34, come from diverse upbringings in urban and rural low-income communities across the nation. They represent our country’s Opportunity Youth: the 6.7 million young Americans who are neither in school nor working, but who pose enormous potential for our economy and our future if they are provided the opportunity to get on track and get ahead. Though each council member has overcome different kinds of obstacles, they all share in common their participation in transformative youth programs that helped them become the successful young adults they are today.

In the fall of 2012, the Council released its first publication - Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America. The report outlines specific actions that could help Opportunity Youth and their communities. One of highlights of the publication is the Council’s Six Recommendations for Immediate Public Action, which are as follows:

1) Expand effective comprehensive programs
2) Expand National Service
3) Expand Private Internships
4) Increase All Forms of Mentoring
5) Protect and Expand Pathways to Higher Education
6) Reform the Criminal Justice System

We wanted to hear the Council Members describe in their own words why these specific Recommendations are important to them and important to the success of America’s young people.


Read why Recommendation #4 - Increase All Forms of Mentoring - is important to Council Member Francisco Garcia 
Read why Recommendation #5 - Protect and Expand Pathways to Higher Education - is important to Council Member Adam Strong 
Read why Recommendation #3 - Expand Private Internships - is important to Council Member Philan Tree
Read why Recommendation #6 - Reform the Criminal Justice System - is important to Council Member Christopher Prado
Read why Recommendation #4 - Increase All Forms of Mentoring - is important to Council Member Ramean Clowney
Read why Recommendation #4 - Increase All Forms of Mentoring - is important to Council Member Shawnice Jackson


Representing Native American Youth: How Philan Tree works to improve opportunities for young people in her community


Where are they now? – Catching up with 2012 Corpsmember of the Year, 
Philandrian Tree

Philandrian Tree, a former member of the Coconino Rural Environment Corps, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2012 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 Philan and her Corps experience by reading her bio from our 2012 National Conference.

Philan Tree’s association with The Corps Network did not end after she received her Corpsmember of the Year award at our National Conference last February. Along with Ladine Daniels, a fellow 2012 Corpsmember of the Year, Philan was nominated by The Corps Network to be one of the 14 founding members of the National Council of Young Leaders. The Council, formed in July 2012 in response to a recommendation from the White House Council on Community Solutions, is comprised of low-income young adults from across the country. The council members have diverse backgrounds, but they are united by how they have all had transformative experiences with youth programs like Year Up, Public Allies, Youth Leadership Institute, and YouthBuild, USA. The Corps Network is proud to have Philan and Ladine as our representatives on the council.

“So far it’s been a really good experience,” said Philan. “Just working with the different council members…I’ve been able to learn a lot about what other programs are out there. I’ve been learning about the different issues the council members face because they’re from different parts of the country. Then, from there, we came together to make recommendations to bring to elected officials and appointed officials in the government. It was interesting to work together to make those recommendations. Overall it’s been a really good learning experience.”

The Council’s purpose is to inform policymakers about the challenges faced by low-income youth and to offer suggestions for what can be done to ensure all young Americans have access to opportunities. As a member of the Council, Philan has had the chance to visit the White House and meet with a number of top officials. “We met with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, we met the president of the Ludacris Foundation…It’s also been great to work regularly with Dorothy Stoneman, the president and founder of YouthBuild USA,” said Philan. “We’ve had a lot of access to good people that can give you a lot of insight into how programs operate. I feel like I’ve learned a lot… A lot of the meetings that we’ve had with the Departments, they’ve really been very welcoming and very receptive to our ideas and recommendations.”

The council members were chosen for their diverse backgrounds. Some of them have experienced homelessness. Some of them have struggled through drug addictions. Some have spent time in prison. Each council member brings their personal experiences to the table. Philan acts as the voice of rural and Native American youth.            

Before joining the National Council of Young Leaders, Philan already had experience working on behalf of Native American peoples. When she was in college at Northern Arizona University, she and a colleague drafted a grant proposal for a home weatherization program that could help residents of Coconino County’s Native American reservations. Someone from the University’s AmeriCorps office was so impressed by the proposal that she referred Philan and her colleague to the City of Flagstaff Budget Manager as well as the Senior Program Manager at Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC). The Corps quickly offered AmeriCorps mentorship positions to Philan and her partner so they could access the resources they needed to make their plan a reality.

As a Corpsmember, Philan was instrumental in securing Memorandums of Understanding between Coconino County and two chapters of the Navajo Nation; the Leupp Chapter and the Tonalea Chapter. Because of these MOUs, CREC was able to employ 17 Navajo Nation AmeriCorps members to work directly with their chapters to install energy efficiency measures in homes in underserved Native American 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 on the Navajo Nation lands of Coconino County.

As a result of Philan’s leadership, over 200 homes received much needed repairs and upgrades. Philan used her Navajo language skills to help inform elderly reservation residents about services they otherwise might not have known about. She led CREC’s first fully Navajo crews in translating informational materials and developing phrases to help explain weatherization techniques. Philan personally helped many residents fill out their applications for the weatherization program.

“I just really appreciated all of the support that everyone gave me back home. A lot of the chapters supported me, a lot of the people in the community really supported me. If it wasn’t for all that support, a lot of what we did wouldn’t have happened,” said Philan. “It was important to show them [reservation residents] that they can have a say in how programs are delivered. They would give suggestions and they would give feedback on how we should go about delivering these services and their ideas were well received. Often they were right and we would implement what they said. They had more of a direct say in how they wanted the services to work for them.”

After leaving the Corps, Philan took an internship with a local elected official on the Coconino County Board of Supervisors. She then moved to her current position providing communications and government relations support for the Navajo and Hopi tribes in her district.

“I work with the local governments on the reservations as well as their communities. I’m the point of contact for them when they have questions. I’m working on both sides to see when the county can provide a service or provide assistance, and then figuring out when we have to refer tribes out to another agency or program,” said Philan. “There’s just a lot of government-to-government relationship building between the county offices and the local leaders…A lot of my work is just finding the best ways to get services out to the residents on the reservations.”

Philan hopes to continue in this line of work. She wants to see more services reach Native American communities. She wants to see more support for Native American students. When she’s not at work or involved with the National Council of Young Leaders, Philan makes time to chair a grant advisory committee that works on behalf of Native students in the local school district.

Philan feels that her experience as a Corpsmember with CREC helped prepare her for what she’s doing now and what she wants to do in the future.

“Now I have experience with what programs work and why they work. When I look at other projects and opportunities coming in, I know what questions to ask. I got some good supervisory experience,” said Philan.

To other young people thinking about joining a Corps, Philan says:

“Just look around at the different types of Corps because they’re not all the same. And think about where you want to be. The overall experience can be really fun if you take advantage of it and utilize all the opportunities.”

New laws will help revive the Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps


Some of the latest bills signed into Michigan law aim to modernize and expand the Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps (MCCC). Senate Bills 1261 through 1265 will broaden the scope of the Corps and facilitate the growth of partnerships that could lead to an increase in the number of Corpsmembers.

The new legislation will require the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to reach out to state colleges and universities that offer natural, cultural, and natural resource-focused curricula. The goal is to create university-based programs that provide college credit for students who participate in Corps, or that recognize student participation in Corps as field experience or internship experience. These measures would hopefully encourage college graduates to stay in Michigan and work for the MCCC.

Among other things, the Bills define the work that Corpsmembers will do (such as tree planting, waterway restoration, and trail development), and also define who can be considered eligible for Corpsmember positions (people no younger than 17 years old and no older than 27 years old on the day of their application). The legislation also gives the Department of Natural Resources the flexibility to purchase or rent property and equipment, and hire instructors, mentors, and other personnel necessary for implementation of the act. 

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) hears about Youth Corps successes

Karla Cordova, 18, tells the Great Outdoors Colorado Board of Directors about her experience on a chainsaw crew with Weld County's GOCO Youth Corps. The GOCO Board held its quarterly meeting in Fort Morgan last week. From The Fort Morgan Times.

From The Fort Morgan Times - by Jenni Grubbs

The Great Outdoors Colorado Board of Directors heard about many issues at its quarterly meeting last week in Fort Morgan, including the Colorado Youth Corps and the upcoming state legislative session.

The Youth Corps program is something GOCO invested $1 million in during fiscal 2011. The funding was for a partnership between GOCO and the Colorado Youth Corps Association.

"The purpose of the funding was to both complete conservation service projects of interest to GOCO and provide employment, training and education opportunities to youth and young adults in Colorado," according to a staff memo to the GOCO Board.

Twnety-two projects received money from this $1 million grant, and 72 weeks worth of work were done in 20 counties.

At least 233 young people received employment in 2011-12 through the Youth Corps because of the GOCO grant, and 134 earned AmeriCorps Education Awards totaling $247,468.

During the 22 projects, youths constructed or repaired 21 miles of trails, cleared 6.6 miles of trail corridors, constructed or repaired 6,519 feet of fencing, planted or transplanted 5,673 trees and removed 6,121 trees. More than 22,900 hours of labor were put in by the youths in corps.

One Youth Corps member spoke to the board about her experiences working with the Weld County Youth Conservation Corps.

Karla Cordova was on the chainsaw crew working in Weld County in 2011-12.

"Being able to do service for the community is a pleasure," she said. "I love to learn and serve."

After having battled cancer and recovering from multiple surgeries, Cordova said she was looking for something to do with her life. She said she chose to join the Weld County Youth Corps "because there's always something to learn and do" while working with that group.

During her work with the Youth Corps, she earned certification in using a chainsaw.

She also split wood, planted trees and removed junk from the Poudre River.

"The program helps me to be responsible and learn," Cordova said. "It's so awesome."

Next, Cordova plans to attend Aims Community College in Greeley.

She advocated for the Youth Corps program to the GOCO Board.

"I truly believe our program helps a lot of people who need it," she said.

GOCO Board President James Smith said he was happy Cordova chose to speak to the board.

"It's a wonderful thing to hear from the participants that it's changing their lives and making a difference," he said.

Jennifer Freeman, Colorado Youth Corps Association executive director, explained to the board that for each job in the Youth Corps, there are nine people like Cordova waiting to fill it.

The board members asked Freeman if more projects could be added and jobs created if the funding were available.

"We don't have any trouble scaling up," Freeman said.

She said that the GOCO grant funds jobs for people ages 14-25 as members of the Youth Corps. Those jobs can be trail maintenance, weed and diseased-tree removal, tree planting, fencing, drainage work, river restoration, new trail construction and lots more.

The Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA) is a statewide coalition of 10 accredited youth conservation corps that employ and train youth and young adults on land, water and energy conservation projects. For more information about CYCA or the statewide youth corps coalition, visit

The GOCO board approved continuing to fund the Colorado Youth Corps.

Legislative update

Lobbyist Adam Eichberg, who represents GOCO's interests at the Capitol, told the board about what he expects to see come up at the legislative session that starts in January.

But first he pointed out that November's election results "significantly impacted the shape of the legislature," with Democrats controlling both chambers of the General Assembly and new leaders, including state Sen. Pres. John Morse, whom Eichberg called "a friend of GOCO" and state Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll.

In the state House, new Speaker Mark Ferrandino was someone Eichberg said was a "Denver liberal" who "doesn't quite get what we do," but that House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst would be "good for GOCO."

"I think that's going to be beneficial for us," Eichberg said. "The funding source will be protected, I think."

GOCO primarily gets its funding from the Colorado Lottery Funds, which the state legislature could decide to redirect to other state needs during the budget process.

Eichberg also told the board that members of the Joint Budget Committee, which is made up of both state House and state Senate members, would have new members who all likely would be good for GOCO.

They include: Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver; Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton; Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs; Claire Levy, D-Boulder; Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen; and Crisanta Duran, D-Denver.

"We're in good shape with the JBC," Eichberg said.

But he added that it was expected that "someone would go after the (GOCO) funding source again. Our hope is again to kill (such bills) in committee."

He said he was "optimistic" that GOCO lobbyists would be able to do that in 2013.

Eichberg also said the he would be keeping an eye on a bill concerning conservation easement tax credits, as well as other bills concerning open space and caps on donations and tax credits for conservation.

"Every year there is some surprise," Eichberg said. "I think it will be a very interesting session for John Hickenlooper. The House Democrats are new. They're in power for the first time in 10 years. I think there will be a good partnership, but there will be some challenges."

He said that Hickenlooper will have to work hard to avoid the problems former Gov. Bill Ritter had with the priorities of members of his own party in the legislature.

The new legislative session begins on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013.

--Contact Jenni Grubbs at

TCN Staff Attend Annie E. Casey Foundation Event on Youth Employment Crisis

On Monday morning, several members of The Corps Network staff attended an event hosted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Patrick McCarthy, President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and an expert panel discussed many of the challenges that young people face in a time of scarce jobs, and the enormous value that programs that help youth can serve. Jamiel Alexander, a member of the National Council of Young Leaders and a representative of YouthBuild USA, introduced a short video.

Our partners at Spark Action have produced an excellent write-up about the event that we recommend. It includes a link to watch a recording of the event in its entirety.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation also released a new report in conjunction with the event titled Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity. 

Click here to download and read the full report

White House Releases 2012 America's Great Outdoors Progress Report

Earlier this month the White House released their latest progress report about the America's Great Outdoors Initiative. Corps and the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Initiative received several mentions throughout the report and in quotes from top officials.

But this was the crucial one: "USDA and DOI investments in Youth Conservation Corps programs increased participation by 20 percent this year above 2011 levels." Bravo!

Click here to download and read the full report 

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.”



National Council of Young Leaders

Members of the National Council of Young Leaders at the 2012 Opportunity Nation Summit

From YouthBuild USA

The National Council of Young Leaders is a 14-member body comprised of diverse young men and women from across the United States. These Council Members, who range in age from 18 to 34, provide information and insight to elected officials and policymakers on the issues that affect low-income and disconnected youth from their communities.

Because of their very different backgrounds, each Council Member offers a different and unique take on what services and policies are needed to improve opportunities for disconnected youth. The Council's Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America include policy prescriptions in the areas of education, criminal justice, community development and family. 

The Council was formed in July 2012 in response to a recommendation from the White House Council on Community Solutions, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. The founding partners of the National Council of Young Leaders are:

  • Jobs for the Future
  • Opportunity Nation
  • Public Allies
  • The Corps Network
  • Year Up
  • Youth Leadership Institute 
  • YouthBuild USA

Click here to read bios for each of the Council Members and get more information on the Council's founding partners.

The Corps Network is proud to be represented on the Council by 2012 Corpsmembers of the Year Ladine "JR" Daniels and Philandrian Tree.  

Click the links below to read more Corps Network stories on The National Council of Young Leaders: 



Philan Tree (left) and Ladine "JR'' Daniels (right) - 2012 Corpsmembers of the Year and members of the National Council of Young Leaders. Pictured at the 2012 Opportunity Nation Summit.

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.