2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Aaron Dennis Crouse

(Written in 2009)

Aaron Dennis Crouse first started working with the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) the summer after his junior year of high school.  He spent his summer decommissioning roads and building trails leading to the Wild and Scenic Verde River. He was happier than he had ever been in his life.  During his senior year, however, he was hospitalized for severe depression.

Going back to CREC the next summer kept him going.  He decided to postpone college in order to stay at CREC.  He spent three grueling months working on a backcountry crew for the Southwest Conservation Corps, based in Tucson, AZ.   By September, he had been unanimously elected as Crew Leader even though he was the youngest person on the crew.   Before the term ended, he had already signed up for a year-long term back in Flagstaff. 

CREC was a life changing experience for Aaron.  As he said:

“This year has brought more than a fair share of tribulations for me: I struggled, once again, with being the youngest member on my crew; I contracted a MRSA infection and had to be hospitalized for 2 weeks after having a golf-ball-sized chunk of flesh removed from my knee; two of my high school friends died, as well as my Grandmother, who was the driving force in my life.  I honestly believe that I couldn’t have dealt with these challenges without my experiences in CREC and the support from my CREC family.” 

Aaron wants to continue working to improve the environmental health of the Arizona landscape he has come to love. 

It fills me with pride to know that I have spent the last year-and-a-half making a positive difference in the environment, and it fills me with elation to know that I will be able to continue this work," said Aaron. "Despite all of the challenges that I have faced this year, I will be graduating with friendships that are stronger than any natural substance, experiences inconceivable to those who have not had them, and a sense of accomplishment that will act as a strong foundation for the rest of my life.”

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Quintin Williams


***Update! Click here to read about what Quintin has been up to since he won his award***

(Written in 2010)

Before joining the Corps, Quintin Williams was like many young people, working an unsatisfying job that provided little challenge.

Quintin sought out the Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) and the Inclusive Crew where Corpsmembers with and without disabilities surveyed campgrounds and trails for Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines. Quintin himself is completely blind, and previous work opportunities had been with others who were blind or visually impaired. 

The Inclusive Crew’s mix, including mobility disabilities, gave Quintin a more complex understanding of accommodation. In addition, Quintin inspired his crewmates and used humor to break down barriers and honestly communicate about differences in ability, demonstrating a natural leadership that led him to promotion as crew leader.

Under Quintin’s leadership the crew took a local project and made it national: developing a new accessibility information database for the Forest Service that will provide the public with information on accessible campsites, facilities, and services.  The database is a leap forward for the Forest Service in its transition planning—and, by no accident, accessible to those who use a screen reader.

Quintin is a leader and ambassador for accessibility on public lands—one of the nation’s rising leaders in the field of service.

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Shanice Long

Observers who see Shanice Long advise Corpsmembers on how to master the requirements for the high school diploma, or hear her representing Corpsmembers in second chance appeal, might not suspect that this quiet young woman, who leads by example, came to Oakland’s Civicorps homeless, without a mom or dad, a sixteen year-old 11th grade dropout with 9th grade credits, with just the clothes on her back. 

Shanice Long walked in the door and then, as she says, “my life changed 100 percent.” She joined a crew working 32 hours a week in exhausting heavy trail maintenance. After hours Shanice headed straight to class and worked just as hard on getting her diploma—and so was able to give up the chainsaw and post-hole digger for the computer, working at Civicorps’ Learning Center, where she rapidly mastered a range of software and demonstrated a real gift in helping others achieve. 

Today after work, she still goes to school—but now that means community college, where Shanice is in her second semester, focusing on paralegal studies, using one of her two AmeriCorps scholarships. She just moved into her first apartment, bought a car, and has plans to continue at a four-year college.   

2011 Corpsmember of the Year: Oscar Alejandro Marquina


***Update! Click here to read about what Oscar has been up to since he won his award***

(Written in 2011 - some details may have changed)

In 2001 Oscar immigrated to the United States from Venezuela with his family. Seven years later, Oscar had learned to speak English and was serving as one of two original Crew Leaders for the Utah Conservation Corps Bilingual Youth Corps. 

After serving in this position for two summers, he was promoted to Senior Crew Leader in 2010. Oscar was instrumental in the development of this new program which was started in an effort to meet the needs of the growing Latino community in Northern Utah. His background and personal experience enabled him to understand and connect with Latino youth and their families. 

He held parent orientation meetings in Spanish and enabled potential members to complete their applications and conduct their interviews in Spanish or English. As finding transportation is often a challenge for low income youth, Oscar worked with guidance counselors to set up interviews at local high schools to work around this barrier. He also translated UCC materials and training resources into both languages. Oscar has become an incredible role model and mentor for Latino youth in Northern Utah.

He has demonstrated that a young Latino immigrant can learn English, gain valuable works skills, and obtain a college degree. In addition to encouraging Corpsmembers to pursue higher education, Oscar himself will graduate this year from Utah State University with a degree in Environmental Engineering, with hopes of pursuing a Masters degree in the future.

In his free time, Oscar also works with Engineers without Borders, an international program that helps create a more stable and prosperous world by addressing basic human needs such as clean water, power, sanitation, and education. He even led a trail maintenance workshop at the organization’s annual conference last Fall, illustrating that Oscar has become a distinguished ambassador for the work that organizations like the Utah Conservation Corps do.

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