Energy Efficiency Program at Corps a Stepping Stone to New Opportunities for Taos Woman

The following story showcases one of The Corps Network's 2015 Award Winners. Jasmine Romero will be recognized as a 2015 Corpsmember of the Year at The Corps Network National Conference in February. More stories for our 2015 Award Winners can be found here.

Jasmine Romero was born and raised on the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. As a teenager, she moved with her mom to Albuquerque, where she graduated from high school and earned good grades. Next, she advanced to college where for about a year-and-a-half she worked toward a degree in engineering. But what came next would challenge Jasmine.

Starting with a heart attack suffered by her father back home on the Taos, Pueblo, a series of consequential events began to negatively impact Jasmine. Eventually she and her mom were forced to live out of their car. Jasmine turned to alcohol to cope with her problems, and soon it became yet another problem for her to overcome.

A little over a year later, Jasmine enrolled in Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. She had sought out counseling for alcohol abuse and heard about the program from her counselor. Jasmine says that, “At first I was hesitant about applying till I read their mission statement. The mission statement is what got me. One key phrase, ‘A stepping-stone to new opportunities,’ this simple statement meant that I had a chance to start over.”

During her term, Jasmine learned the basic skills to weatherize homes to make them more energy efficient. She obtained certifications from Santa Fe Community College in retrofit installer, lead safe practices, OSHA 10, and also First Aid and CPR. She enjoyed the work so much that she applied to return for a second season as an Assistant Crew Supervisor for the Corps’ energy efficiency program. The hard work and attention to detail that Jasmine provides when working make her well-respected among the Corps’ staff and her peers. One staff member remarked that “I know that I can leave Jazz with a task list at any point during the day and come back knowing the crew has been productive.”

Many of the homeowners who have received weatherization services from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps are thankful, including a memorably appreciative elderly woman. Jasmine recalls that “she was unsure at first, having a bunch of kids in her house, but she watched us work as a team and could see the quality work we were doing and was crying out of gratitude by the time we left.”

Jasmine is currently still serving in her second AmeriCorps term with the Corps. She hopes to continue advancing in the energy efficiency field and utilize the AmeriCorps Education Awards she has earned. The staff at the Corps think that, with additional certifications, she could very well become the first woman to serve as an official energy auditor / inspector in New Mexico—a compliment to how far Jasmine has come in developing her work skills. But she views things a little bit differently.

“I can go through and name all my certificates that I received. I can go through the trainings they have provided me and the education award that they have also presented to me. But this is not the important bits and pieces they have taught me. They have taught me how to manage myself as a person to make sure I have my priorities straight. They have taught me so much about life that I had no idea about. I have become 10 times a better person than I was before. They have taught me different types of communications, different types of personalities, and how to connect the dots between these two major characteristics of a person. I have learned how to better control my emotions whether it be at work or at home. They have helped mold me into the person I have always wanted to be.”

Boiler Plate: 
Meet Jasmine Romero, a 2015 Corpsmember of the Year.

How Sequoia Community Corps helped Marcos Molina build a better life for his wife and children


Where are they now? – Catching up with 2008 Corpsmember of the Year,
Marcos Molina


Marcos receiving his award at The Corps Network 2008 National Conference in Washington, DC.
 

Marcos Molina, a former Corpsmember with the Tulare County Youth Corps (now the Sequoia Community Corps), won Corpsmember of the Year in 2008 for his commitment to service and self change. Read below to find out what he's been up to since accepting his award, or find out more about Marcos and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2008 National Conference.

Marcos Molina is very honest about where he might be today if he had never joined the Sequoia Community Corps.

“I’d probably be in jail or dead,” he said.

Marcos heard about the Corps (which was then called the Tulare County Youth Corps) from a cousin. It was 2007 and Marcos was unemployed and involved in the court system. He and his wife and their two young daughters lived in a single room in his mother’s house. Marcos had dropped out of high school, but having a young family to support motivated him to get an education and turn things around. Marcos was quick to sign up for the Corps when he found out that the program offered a chance to work while also earning high school credits.

“In high school I was a troublemaker. I was hanging out with the wrong people and the wrong crowd. And when I came to the Corps I was around different kinds of people and it was a whole different story. I just decided that I was tired of that no good life,” said Marcos.

Adjusting to the culture and the expectations at the Corps wasn’t easy for Marcos. Many of his supervisors were concerned he wouldn’t make it through the program. It was with the personal attention and support of one particular supervisor that Marcos was able to not only finish the program, but excel.

“My attitude was a big problem. Especially my attitude towards other people,” said Marcos. “I wasn’t really used to working with a supervisor and other Corpsmembers. Where I had worked before it was always ‘just a job’ and I was like ‘boom, boom – get it done.’ But then at the Corps there were different rules you had to follow, you had to have a good attitude, and there were attendance rules. They were teaching us the right way to do our jobs and handle problems.”

Marcos’s dedication paid off. He became an Assistant Crew Leader and was eventually promoted to Crew Leader. Marcos was not particularly interested in construction work when he came to the Corps, but through his time as a Corpsmember he learned every aspect of concrete work, chain link fence installation, landscape maintenance, and heavy equipment operation. He even became a Certified Construction Trades Trainer and taught new Corpsmembers how to operate heavy equipment.

These days, Marcos is a Supervisor with the Corps in the Weatherization program. With his various professional certifications, Marcos is qualified to train new Corpsmembers how to safely install energy efficient appliances, install new doors and windows, and generally make sure homes are as weathertight as possible.

“When they made me a supervisor, that really helped me out a lot – moneywise and all around. Then I could do more things with my family that I couldn’t do before because of the money,” said Marcos. “Now, since I was a Corpsmember too, I know how to approach the Corpsmembers because they’re in the same shoes that I was in. I know how to help them out. If they have any questions I’ll try to help.”

Marcos sees a little bit of himself in the Corpsmembers he trains. He realizes that many of them join the Corps without construction experience or knowledge of tools. It’s a good feeling for him to be able to take them under his wing and pass on the skills he learned at the Corps. Marcos maintains contact with the Corps’ mentors and supervisors who took the time to help him when he was a new Corpsmember.

“Some of them taught me a lot of the knowledge that I know now. I like to keep in touch just to get some words of wisdom every now and then,” said Marcos.

While with the Corps, Marcos earned his high school diploma, obtained his driver’s license, and bought his own car and apartment. Today, Marcos has a mortgage on his own home and multiple cars. He has considered going to college, but for now his main concern is making sure his family is provided for and comfortable. Marcos is very conscious about setting a good example for his daughters. He sometimes volunteers at their school and always makes time for family activities.

To young Corpsmembers and to youth thinking about joining a Service and Conservation Corps, Marcos says:

“The sky is the limit. That’s how I see it. There’s no stopping point, you should always try and reach for better things for yourself. So keep your head up and don’t let anything keep you down. If you put hard work into what you want to do, you’ll get it done…You can get stuff done no matter where you’re from or what your situation is.”

Starting Over Out West; How Corey Brown made a future for himself with the help of Mile High Youth Corps

Where are they now? – Catching up with 2010 Corpsmember of the Year,

Corey Brown


Corey receiving his award at The Corps Network 2010 National Conference in Washington, DC. Pictured with David Muraki, California Conservation Corps, and Brigid McRaith, Mile High Youth Corps
 

Corey Brown, a former member of Mile High Youth Corps, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2010 for his commitment to service. Read below to find out what he's been up to since accepting his award, or find out more about Corey and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2010 National Conference.

Corey Brown has one regret about his service with Mile High Youth Corps of Denver Colorado: he wishes he had joined sooner.

“I wish I’d looked into the Corps a long time ago,” said Corey. “…I feel like I could’ve had a better grasp on who I am as a person and also what I like and what I don’t like.”

Corey’s path to the Youth Corps was not an easy one. With his mother suffering from a severe mental illness and his father dealing with serious physical disabilities, Corey had to assume many responsibilities at a young age. He did the family shopping, cleaned the house, and earned money to pay the bills. Even while he was in college he continued to juggle a full course load, work, and family obligations. As Corey said, he was burnt out, depressed, and worried that he didn’t have room to make any mistakes.

Corey realized it wasn’t healthy or productive for him to live this way. Fortunately, one of Corey’s mentors moved to Colorado and offered him a place to stay in Denver. Corey knew he owed it to himself to at least consider the offer. He eventually decided that the best thing he could do for himself was leave school, leave New Jersey, and head out to Colorado.

“It was a really, really hard decision. I basically just got up and left with the clothes on my back and a few things and a little bit of money in my bank account. It took me probably a good year to really finally make the decision and go all in,” said Corey. “I just felt like I was stuck and kind of helpless. I felt like this opportunity, even though it was a pretty huge risk, I only had to gain. I couldn’t really go any further down from where I was at.”

Not long after arriving in Colorado, Corey was referred to Mile High Youth Corps. During his tenure with the Corps, from May 2009 until November 2010, Corey mainly worked with the Corps’s water conservation project. His main job was to install high-efficiency toilets in low-income households throughout Denver. Though Corey admits the work wasn’t glamorous, he learned a lot about the importance of water resources.

Corey was eventually promoted to be a Mile High “alumni mentor.” Having the responsibility to motivate other Corpsmembers and help them work through their problems left a big impression on Corey. He has considered finishing his bachelor’s degree in psychology so he can one day become a licensed counselor.

“I think I look back at my own personal story and see how having mentors and counselors in my life meant a lot. If I didn’t have those few people I probably wouldn’t be where I am today,” said Corey. “I wouldn’t have the confidence I now have. I wouldn’t be as successful. So knowing that one person can make such a big difference in somebody else’s life is what interests me in this work the most.”

After leaving Mile High, Corey spent about a year weatherizing homes in Denver and Arapahoe County with the organization Veterans Green Jobs. He then transitioned to his current position as a maintenance tech with a nonprofit that provides housing for single-parent families facing homelessness. Corey is responsible for helping with the upkeep of the organization’s 100,000 square feet of property. In his spare time, Corey volunteers his maintenance skills by providing general upkeep services for a local church. He is also looking into volunteering with the Denver rape crisis center – an organization he feels strongly about and has donated to in the past.

Right now, Corey is focused on becoming a wind energy technician. He begins classes with Ecotech Institute in Colorado in January 2013. His goal for now is to get his degree from Ecotech in the next two years and start building his career as a wind tech.

Corey says his decision to pursue a career in the green sector was inspired by his time with the Corps. He was always interested in the environment, but his Corps experience made him more passionate about conservation. However, a career path is not the only thing Corey gained from Mile High, however.

“I think probably the biggest impact was on my confidence level. I feel like before I came out to Colorado I was very passive…I’d been through a lot and didn’t have the confidence that I should’ve had,” said Corey. “Going through the Corps and being promoted, just knowing that I could be really good at what I do and be well-liked by my coworkers and peers I think was definitely a huge confidence-builder for me.”

To young people thinking about joining a corps, Corey says:

“I would recommend that if you are interested in corps at all you should definitely look into it as soon as possible. It’s more than just a job. I would just recommend using it for everything it’s worth. I know a lot of Corpsmembers do look at it as just a job and they don’t use all the other resources that a corps can offer. There’s a lot of networking that’s available and a lot of educational opportunities.”

 

How AmeriCorps helped Ladine Daniels find personal success

Sadly, Ladine "JR" Daniels passed away in his sleep in early November 2014. JR was a loved and respected member of the Corps community. He will be greatly missed. Click to read our tribute to JR.
 


Content below originally published in February 2013 
 

JR, formerly a Corpsmember with the Sustainability Institute, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2012 for his commitment to service and self improvement. Read below to find out what he's been up to since accepting his award, or find out more about JR and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2012 national conference.

Where does Ladine “JR” Daniels see himself in the future?

For starters, he plans to have his weatherization business, IMSEI (IM Southeastern Independence), off the ground within the next two years. He hopes his future is full of opportunities to learn new and better ways he can help people in his community save money and the environment. Unrelated to growing his business, his main goal is to become known in his community as someone who works to expand opportunities for youth.

“I want to become a mentor to kids who are heading down the path that I went down,” said JR. “I want to let them know that it’s not worth it.”

Earlier in his life, JR was convicted of a felony and served time in jail. He was content to accept his jail sentence so he could have a clear slate and start over again once he was released. However, after completing his sentence in 2009, JR realized that starting over again wasn’t so easy for a young man with a record.

With the help of his church in Charleston, South Carolina, JR connected with Pastor Larry Bratton, who at the time was in charge of a nonprofit called BDB (Breaking Down Barriers). BDB, which helps community members overcome barriers to employment or services, helped JR find his first stable job after his release. However, Larry Bratton left BDB to become the Social Justice Advocate for The Sustainability Institute; a Charleston-based nonprofit that offers weatherization services to local residents and trains young people to become home performance professionals. JR eventually joined The Sustainability Institute’s Energy Conservation Corps as an AmeriCorps member.

JR spent six months in the Energy Conservation Corps, gaining hands-on experience in home weatherization techniques. He was a standout Corpsmember from the beginning, offering guidance and friendship to younger Corpsmembers. His success led to a job offer from Carolina Green Energy Systems, an energy retrofit company in Charleston.  JR enjoyed his job with Carolina Green, but he was interested in starting his own weatherization business. He ended up leaving the company to avoid a conflict of interest.

As JR works with his partners to get IMSEI weatherization company up and running, he continues to work for the Sustainability Institute. He is currently a Crew Leader, but he will soon be hired as a fulltime Supervisor. On top of administrative duties, his main responsibility is to manage and organize crews. He trains Corpsmembers in weatherization techniques and helps run harassment training, OSHA safety training, and a financial literacy class.

On top of building his business and working at the Sustainability Institute, JR is also trying to reestablish Breaking Down Barriers, the organization that helped him find employment when he got out of jail.

"Our focus is not just youth, it’s for anyone who has any type of barrier. Like if you need help with painting your home but you’re not financially able to, that’s a barrier. If you’re a single mom and you need help finding a home, that’s a barrier. If you’re an ex-convict, that alone is a barrier,” said JR. “We want to provide training to whoever needs it, but we also to want to provide services. For instance, I might be hot off the street and I need a job. We’ll teach you how to paint. Then we have someone who needs their house painted but doesn’t have money to paint it. We can kill two birds with one stone.”

In addition to JR’s work schedule and his involvement with Breaking Down Barriers, he volunteers with the NAACP, ushers at his church, and helps out at a recreational park near the Sustainability Institute. He also serves with Philan Tree, a fellow 2012 Corpsmember of the Year, as a member 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.  JR helps represent the voice of young people who have been involved in the justice system.

“My whole thing with the justice system is that it’s pretty hard to find second chances, even when what you did was so long ago,” he said. “Why should something I did six years ago – knowing that I’m not the same man I used to be, knowing that a lot of things have changed over these years – why should that hold me back from finding a job that I’m totally qualified for?”

Through the National Council of Young Leaders, JR has met with such public figures as Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, and Ronnie Cho, the White House Liaison to Young Americans. JR is very grateful for his experience with the Sustainability Institute and AmeriCorps. Without these organizations he feels he would have never had so many opportunities and he would not be as successful as he is today.

“I’ve had all types of people calling who want to do an interview with me…from Charleston, from the Aspen Institute in New York, from people in DC – this is all because of AmeriCorps. I understand I had to put in hard work, but with the opportunities that AmeriCorps gave me it was easy for me to just fly with it,” said JR. “All of it has been a blessing to me. The way the Sustainability Institute gives me support and puts their trust in me, the way they fight for me is really amazing. Any type of help I need – like I needed an apartment. I was staying with my mom when I got out of jail in 2009 up until the fall of last year. They helped me find a place of my own. They meet all my needs. They’re not your average employers.”

It’s not just the people at The Sustainability Institute that JR appreciates; he is also grateful that his AmeriCorps experience exposed him to the weatherization business.

“I just love this work. The smile I put on a homeowners face when the electric bill comes and they’re saving a couple hundred dollars. Knowing that I had something to do with that is really powerful,” said JR. 

To young people thinking about joining a Corps, JR says:

“I think the thing I would need to tell them is to make sacrifices. Starting off, you won’t even make as much money as you’d make at McDonald’s, but the experience, the training, the career development that you get in AmeriCorps will pay off in the long run…I would tell someone trying to join that it’s one hundred percent worth it. I would show them the change it makes. I would take them to the neighborhoods that I used to hang out in and show them the people I used to hang around with and I’d even take them to jail and show them where they’re headed if they continue with the life they’re living now. Then I’d show how I’ve been able to improve. I’d show them all the awards, all the committees I’m on. With just a little time – not even two years – I’ve gotten my own place, I’ve been nominated to be on councils, I was a 2012 Corpsmember of the Year, I travel a lot and I don’t even have to pay a dime for it. I just think that AmeriCorps is a very good thing that made a huge difference in my life, and I think it could do the same thing for them, too."

 

 

 

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.”

2011 Project of the Year: Community College Teams with Coconino Energy Conservation Corps

 

Winner: Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC)

Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) and Coconino Community College built an effective educational partnership in 2010 that has greatly enhanced the experiences of Energy Conservation Corps (ECC) Corpsmembers both in the classroom and in the field.

The partnership began when CREC approached Coconino Community College (CCC) after the College received an award to deliver weatherization training in Northern Arizona. With this award CCC was able to subsidize training expenses for CREC Corpsmembers.

The CCC campus has an extensive lab that allows for practical applications of basic safety, weatherization measures, and construction training activities that develop the Corpsmembers learning experiences. Courses cover Basic Weatherization, Tier 1 retrofitting, and Tier 2 retrofitting. Corpsmembers receive in-depth, professional training to become competent residential retrofitters. The six full days of training mirrors the Tier 1 retrofitting that Corpsmembers apply in the field.

The college also arranges for Corpsmembers to complete an energy audit on a volunteer residential home. First, however, they complete the installation of retrofit materials in a controlled classroom setting before working on the home. After completing their retrofit, Corpsmembers can see real time results from post tests, giving them a concrete understanding of the value and improved energy efficiency that result from weatherization of homes.

After students finish their terms, CCC and CREC combine resources to provide post-employment assistance by helping Corpsmembers find jobs within the local green construction field. So far six Corpsmembers who have completed this certificate training have accepted green jobs with local energy and sustainability companies in Flagstaff. This makes the training program even more effective as the skills gained through this collaboration directly impact the communities of Northern Arizona in terms of both overall energy conservation and developing a local, capable, and certified workforce.

2011 Corpsmember of the Year: Tyler Rose


(Written in 2011)

Tyler Rose dropped out of high school his senior year. He was not engaged and only had a short distance left to go. But life was complicated for Tyler, who was also about to become a father.

After getting his GED with YouthBuild USA, a program that also helps young people gain construction skills, Tyler joined the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC). As a new member of CREC’s Energy Conservation Corps (ECC), Tyler received additional skills training through Coconino Community College, earning certificates in Workplace Readiness, Introduction to Energy Auditing, Energy Basics, and Construction Safety. While learning how to weatherize and safely seal homes, Tyler also improved his speaking skills by going door to door passing out educational flyers.

These positive experiences helped Tyler realize that he wanted to make a career out of his green construction skills and energy efficiency knowledge. He dedicated himself to the work and spirit of the Conservation Corps. For example, when a major flood hit the Flagstaff area, Tyler volunteered beyond his normal work days to go to resident’s homes and help them lay sand bags to secure their homes from imminent flooding.

Near the end of Tyler’s term, his eagerness to learn and work hard was rewarded. He was promoted to the position of Crew Co-Leader. As a result of his hard work and the recognition that followed, Tyler was able to make connections within the community and secure himself a permanent job as an energy auditor with E-3 Energy, a local green energy company. Tyler says it’s “the best job I’ve ever had.”

Tyler is now working hard to become certified as a Building Performance Institute Certified Building Analyst. Once certified, Tyler will be able to perform building energy audits independently and advance within his current company.

In the long-term Tyler says he would be happy to become the owner of a green energy company or simply advance within the company he currently works for. While he says that being the single father of a 3 year old can be challenging, he’s happy with the progress he’s made on a green career pathway and takes pride in the fact that he’s making the world a better place—one house at a time.

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.”