The Corps Network Announces Winners of the 2018 Corpsmember of the Year, Project of the Year and Legacy Achievement Awards

WASHINGTON, DC [December 14, 2017] – The Corps Network, the national association of Service and Conservation Corps, today announced the winners of the 2018 Corpsmember of the Year, Project of the Year and Legacy Achievement Awards. Honorees will be recognized at The Trail Ahead – The Corps Network’s 2018 National Conference – taking place February 11 – 14 in Washington, DC.

The Corps Network Announces 2016 Winners of Corpsmember of the Year, Project of the Year, and Legacy Achievement Awards

 

WASHINGTON, DC (December 7, 2015)— The Corps Network has announced the winners of the 2016 Corpsmember of the Year Award, Project of the Year Award, and Legacy Achievement Award. The Corps Network presents these three awards on an annual basis to select individuals and organizations from their membership of 120 Service and Conservation Corps across the country. Awardees are chosen through a rigorous application process.

The Corps Network's 2015 Award Winners


 

Every year, The Corps Network honors a select group of outstanding Corpsmembers and Projects, as well as leaders in the Corps movement. Click the links below to read about our 2015 honorees, who will be officially awarded at our National Conference in Washington, D.C., February 8 - 11, 2015. Congratulations to all of our winners and thank you for everything you do!


Corpsmembers of the Year 

Graciela "Gracie" Billingsley 
Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Colorado - Steamboat Springs, CO

Harris Cox
Civicorps - Oakland, CA

Mokhtar Mohammadi
Onondaga Earth Corps - Syracuse, NY

Jasmine Romero
Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, New Mexico - Taos, NM

Jeremiah Ruiz
Urban Corps of San Diego County - San Diego, CA

 

  • Click here to learn more about the award.
  • Click here for a list of past Corpsmembers of the Year.
     

Corps Legacy Achievement Award Winners

Ann Cochrane
San Francisco Conservation Corps

Paul McLain-Lugowski
Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps

 

  • Click here to learn more about the award.
  • Click here for a list of past Corps Legacy Achievement Award winners.
     

Projects of the Year

Beach Buddy Adventure
Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps

Energy Corps
California Conservation Corps

GURLS Corps!
SEEDS 

 

Jon Brito, 2014 Corpsmember of the Year, featured on AmeriCorps Alums blog


Kupu HYCC Team Molokai doing trail maintenance in Kamakou rainforest preserve with The Nature Conservancy
 

Service Learning - Connecting the Past and the Future in Hawaii
by Jon Brito

This blog originally appeared on the AmeriCorps Alums website, November 26, 2014

Today’s guest blog comes to us from Jon Brito. Born and raised on the island of Moloka’i, Jon served with the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps (Summer 2012 and 2013) as a team leader. He also continued his conservation and restoration AmeriCorps service with Ka Honua Momona during the 2012-2013 year. Jon is now a student at the University of Hawaii Maui College.

Born and raised on the island of Molokai, I have the honor and privilege to have my moʻokūʻauhau trace back to the ancients of the past. Having served a variety of AmeriCorps terms, I am currently back in school pursuing an Electronic and Computer Engineering degree with a side study in GIS technology at the University of Hawaii Maui College.

I believe utilizing technology will give us a better grasp of where conservation and restoration is needed with precision to better address any issues. I also believe getting a little dirty and sweaty in the field is food for the soul! This is my experience as an Americorps recipient and service learner.

In the Hawaiian Language there is an ‘olelo noe’au, or wise saying, that goes “ma ka hana ka ‘ike, ma ka ‘ike ka mana” which translates to “it is in the doing that one learns.” This is a life thought that I have heard countless times growing up, yet it is only in my adulthood that I have really come closer to understanding. It is a mantra that I have learned and relearned time and time again over the course of various AmeriCorps opportunities.

In the summer of 2012, I desperately needed a life change from the monotony of university life in California and looked to return to my home island of Moloka’i. I had left the island life with prospects of advancing myself in the social ladder by moving away, however I found myself still missing something. I decided to move home and got the chance to be a team leader for Kupu Hawaii’s Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps where I led a team of four high school graduates to various worksites throughout Moloka’i and the state of Hawaii.  I had so much fun that the following summer I led a second team!

As a team leader it was my duty to motivate and facilitate my team safely through various service learning experience. We definitely worked in the extreme environments from the constant rain of the Kamakou Preserve Rainforest to the sun burnt desert of the island Kaho’olawe.

The majority of my job was keeping these young adults interested in the work that we were doing. To me it was not only showing them the benefit the work had on the ‘aina or land, but also on themselves. We were all learning more about ourselves, each other, and our culture.

Our ancestors had walked and swam these areas, taking care of and nurturing them. Something I tried to get across was that this duty to continue caring for the land and sea came in part as an inheritance from the ancients before us. But, as future ancestors, this duty was also inspired by our need to pass down something worthy to the next generation. A lot of work has been put into the conservation of our natural resources, and it is something that needs to continue to be done.

I also served an AmeriCorps term as a year-long intern for the 2012-2013 year at the non-profit Ka Honua Momona. Ka Honua Momona is tasked with restoring two 500 year-old, thirty acre fishponds from pre-contact Hawaii to operating condition. Being part of the intern team I was charged with removing invasive non-native and maintenance of the pond walls . The work was dirty and wet, yet extremely fulfilling. To be apart of such a magnificent movement of Hawaiians getting out and working to to restore pono to our land and sea is truly a humbling opportunity.

If my AmeriCorps opportunity could be summed up into one word it would be this: more. Even after my time as a Corps member ended, I still wanted more. To continue to contribute and partake in the restoration and conservation of our valuable natural resources is still something that I do every chance I get. I have changed my uniform from the weekday adventurer to the weekend volunteer. While it is not a full time occupation for me (yet), at my core, I will always have that drive and need for more volunteerism and positive contribution to my people, the land, the sea, and to the world. Mahalo nui.

Click here to Learn more about Jon.

A Tribute to Ladine Daniels, Jr.

This week we received the very sad news that our good friend Ladine “JR” Daniels had passed away during his sleep this past weekend. We, and everyone who loved JR, are extremely saddened by this loss.

For those of you who don’t know JR, he lived in Charleston, South Carolina and was an AmeriCorps Corpsmember in the Sustainability Institute’s Energy Conservation Corps (shown on left in photo above with Sustainability Institute staff members). We first came to know him at The Corps Network when he was selected as a Corpsmember of the Year in 2012. Since that time, JR has continued to work as a staff member for the Sustainability Institute. He has also worked with us and as a member of the National Council of Young Leaders to promote issues he cared deeply about, including the need for re-entry programs for young people who have been incarcerated.


A wake for JR will take place tomorrow evening at 6 pm, and his funeral will be on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Charity Missionary Baptist Church 1544 E. Montague N. Charleston, SC. Flowers may be sent to Hilton’s Mortuary, Inc., 1852 E Montague Ave., North Charleston, SC 29405-5158.

If you would like to send a donation in JR’s honor, please send it to The Sustainability Institute at 113 Calhoun Street, Charleston, SC 29401. Memorials and tributes are currently being discussed with JR’s family so that they appropriately honor his memory.

Bryan Cordell, Executive Director of The Sustainability Institute (TSI), wrote the following message about JR to TSI’s Board of Directors:

“Most of you had the privilege of getting to know J.R. at our board and staff retreat or other SI functions. J.R. overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges to become a stellar Corps member, program graduate and shining star of our ECC program. For his leadership and dedication to AmeriCorps he was recognized as a 2012 national Corps member of the year. He also served as a member of the National Council of Young Leaders. We celebrated those things that J.R. achieved, but he was so much more than that to all of us. We soon hired J.R. at SI as the ECC team leader and supervisor where he devoted each and every day to helping the young people in our program find renewed hope and success. J.R. didn't see it as a job, he saw his work with us - and his work in the community - as his purpose. And, he was great at it. We had just made the decision last week to promote J.R. to lead and supervise our new Veterans Corps program, a challenge he was ready to take on and without a doubt would have succeeded at.”


We at The Corps Network definitely agree that JR would have excelled in this role, or any that he chose. He was a member of the Marine Corps, and had proven that he was an excellent motivator. One of his friends wrote the following on his Facebook page: “I served with Ladine Jr. Daniels in the Marine Corps. He was always uplifting and kept our little tight knit crew laughing. A phenomenal young man who has accomplished so much. Gone but not forgotten.”

Our friends at Spark Action in collaboration with The National Council of Young Leaders put together a moving tribute video to JR, that features him speaking.



One of the pleasures we have enjoyed at The Corps Network, is seeing how much JR had embraced his role as a spokesperson and become an even more compelling speaker over the past few years.

For instance, you can
 watch his speech at a recent Congressional Briefing with the National Council of Young Leaders. You can also read an updated “where is he now” story about JR from last year, with some fantastic quotes.

We will miss you JR! You are gone but will certainly not be forgotten.

Boiler Plate: 
This week we received the very sad news that our good friend Ladine “JR” Daniels had passed away during his sleep this past weekend. We, and everyone who loved JR, are extremely saddened by this loss.

Eliseo Nunez, 2014 Corpsmember of the Year, Recognized by City of San Diego


 

On Tuesday, March 18, 2014, the San Diego City Council proclaimed it "Eliseo Nunez Day in the City of San Diego." Eliseo, who graduated from Urban Corps of San Diego County in 2013 and now works as a UCSD staff member, was honored as a Corpsmember of the Year at The Corps Network's 2014 National Conference. Congratulations Eliseo!  

Click here to learn more about Eliseo 

2014 Corpsmember of the Year, Candace Washington


Candace Washington
AmeriCorps member - Civicorps
Oakland, CA

 

Candace Washington is the youngest of 10 children. She and her three sisters and six brothers were raised by a single-mother; they had no father figure in their lives. Candace’s eldest sister was responsible for making sure she went to school after their mother left for work every morning, but her sister never said much when Candace skipped class. For her sophomore year of high school, Candace chose the “home study” path, meaning she only had to be in school for about four hours a day. She stayed enrolled until her junior year and then dropped out.

“I felt there was no reason to be there,” said Candace. “My sister and other siblings did not really push me to get back into school because they did not finish school themselves, so it was very easy to give up on my education.”

After dropping out, Candace says she did not take life seriously. She was dependent on others, spending her time partying with friends or out at clubs.

“I was just a mess,” she said. “I had no education goals or career plan for my future. I thought just because I had some sort of income I would be set, but I was not.”

Eventually, Candace decided she wanted to make a better future for herself. Her brother and a cousin had both attended Civicorps in Oakland, CA and received their high school diplomas. Despite her lack of experience with tools or the outdoors, Candace knew she owed it to herself to give the program a try.

Upon joining Civicorps as an AmeriCorps member in March 2011, Candace demonstrated that she was there to utilize every opportunity the program offered. She quickly mastered new skills and proved her professionalism. As a crewmember in the Job Training program, she worked alongside her supervisor to train new Corpsmembers on the chainsaw and the weed-eater. In the classroom, she set the tone for her peers by maintaining her focus and helping others with their assignments. At Civicorps Community Meetings, Candace was recognized as the crew “hard-hitter,” and she was acknowledged for her outstanding class participation and perfect attendance record.  

Outside the classroom, Candace often participated in on-site yoga classes. Additionally, she joined the Corps’ cross-country ski trip, Yosemite service trip, and white-water rafting trip. She also attended weekend volunteer activities, such as the Walk to End Poverty and Coastal Clean Up.

“Being a part of Civicorps has made me a better community member,” said Candace. “Most of the work I did with my crew – like littler picking and trimming and cutting trees to reduce fire fuel – was me playing a part in keeping a clean community and a safe environment.”

A little over a year after joining the Corps, Candace completed her graduation requirements and received her high school diploma. She then applied for and was hired as the Civicorps Academy Intern. In this position she worked with the Head of School and the executive staff to ensure student success, and she led training sessions for new Corpsmembers. As her supervisors say, “Candace raised the bar on what was expected from the position and even began supporting other departments within Civicorps.”

As the internship came to a close, Candace was recruited to be the Recycling Hotline Intern for the City of Oakland’s Environmental Services Division. She continues to be actively engaged in environmental events and educational fairs.

In addition to her internship responsibilities, Candace is enrolled at College of Alameda. She has accessed her AmeriCorps Education Awards to help pay for classes and books. Candace wants to eventually transfer to a four-year school and earn a master’s degree in psychology.

“I am going to jump over any obstacle that may come my way. I know that if I continue to keep myself motivated and driven I can do it,” said Candace. “I believe that just being able to be a part of Civicorps has made me stronger, helped me better serve my community, and has opened my eyes to all the possibilities…Every family member is proud of me and my accomplishments and they tell me every day to not give up, and I’m not going to. I was able to start over, and in life that does not happen very often.” 

Boiler Plate: 
Candace Washington is the youngest of 10 children. She and her three sisters and six brothers were raised by a single-mother; they had no father figure in their lives. Candace’s eldest sister was responsible for making sure she went to school after their mother left for work every morning, but her sister never said much when Candace skipped class. For her sophomore year of high school, Candace chose the “home study” path, meaning she only had to be in school for about four hours a day. She stayed enrolled until her junior year and then dropped out.

2014 Corpsmember of the Year, Ruby Simonian


Ruby Simonian
AmeriCorps member - California Conservation Corps
Ukiah, CA

 

Ruby Simonian is the first of several of her family members to have participated as an AmeriCorps member in the California Conservation Corps. Soon after she joined the Corps in June 2011, Ruby’s twin brother Dylan also became a Corpsmember. Most recently, their brother Chris joined the CCC. When asked about his determination, Chris says he has his sister Ruby to look up to.

Before Ruby came to the CCC, she was making sandwiches at a Subway shop and not doing much else with her life. When her mother suggested she research the Corps, Ruby knew she had to give it a try. AmeriCorps and the CCC offered everything she was looking for: job experience, life experience, and independence.

Since enrolling in the Corps, Ruby has earned three promotions. First, she was respected enough by her supervisor that she was recommended for a Firefighter Specialist position, meaning that she was at the top of her class in the U.S. Forest Service Type II Fire Training course. In order to pass this course, Ruby had to complete a timed hike during which she carried 40 lbs. and walked three miles in under 45 minutes. Ruby took her position as one of the only women on the fire crew seriously; she has mentored other young women on how to succeed in the CCC program and how to maintain confidence in a male-dominated field.

After fighting numerous fires throughout the summer of 2011, Ruby moved ahead in her Corps career and earned her Commercial Driver’s License. She was then promoted a second time to a Crewleader I position, in which role she acted as her supervisor’s go-to person. Ruby learned how to communicate professionally, how to organize a crew of up to 15 people, and how to keep a crew motivated. Ruby was so successful in this position that she was promoted again to Crewleader II. At this point, she is trusted enough that she has taken crews of 3 to 5 Corpsmembers out on projects without direct staff supervision. Ruby’s opinions and insight are highly valued, and CCC staff and sponsors frequently seek her advice.

Another testament to Ruby’s success as an AmeriCorps member was her selection as a participant in the CCC Australian Exchange. Though many Corpsmembers apply for this opportunity, Ruby was one of only ten people selected for the Exchange program. As a result, Ruby spent a summer doing conversation work in Australia.

“I loved seeing how different people lived halfway around the world, which was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Ruby. “Most people don’t get that much of an eye opener in their entire life! From this experience I now want to be an ecopsychologist, teaching people about themselves while they learn about the environment.”

Ruby is a strong leader in the CCC. She is president of the Corpsmember Advisory Board, frequently represents the CCC at job fairs, and has been instrumental in generating new volunteer opportunities for her peers. Most notably, she was an integral part of the Ukiah CCC’s participation in a dog rescue program through which the Corps helped retrain rescued animals and prepare them for adoption.

Ruby has been a diligent volunteer at community fundraisers, accruing over 170 service hours at cancer awareness events. She also spends time working in her hometown as a peer advisor, teaching an anti-bullying class.

For now, Ruby’s main goal is to go to college and gain the credentials she needs to become an ecopsychologist. Ruby credits the CCC with helping her realize a passion for protecting the environment and helping other people.

“I believe the Corps has changed who I am and made me a better person,” said Ruby. “It has done nothing but help me grow and learn, and it has given me the opportunity to learn who I am and what I am.”

Boiler Plate: 
Before Ruby came to the CCC, she was making sandwiches at a Subway shop and not doing much else with her life. When her mother suggested she research the Corps, Ruby knew she had to give it a try. The CCC offered everything she was looking for: job experience, life experience, and independence.

2014 Corpsmember of the Year, Linda Santana



Linda Santana
AmeriCorps member - Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - Taos
Taos, NM

 

After graduating from college in 2009, Linda Santana decided to take a year off to figure out the next step in her life. At the suggestion of a friend, she began researching AmeriCorps programs and eventually applied to be an AmeriCorps member with the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC). Linda knew the Corps would be different from anything she had ever experienced, but she liked the idea of working outside and exploring new places.

Linda describes her first season with MCC as “life changing.” She returned to the Corps for a second season as an AmeriCorps Crew Leader and gained more personal insight and self-confidence. As the term came to an end, she realized she wasn’t quite ready to end her Corps experience; there was still a lot more she could learn in the conservation field. Though her time at MCC had been very rewarding, Linda knew she wanted to work in a new location and discover the opportunities available at a different Corps. This is what led her to Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC) in Taos, New Mexico.

During her time as an AmeriCorps member with RMYC, Linda has proven to be a phenomenal leader. She was the foundation for a crew that faced a great deal of adversity, including the loss of a supervisor. Though the members of her crew did not always show respect for each other, Linda maintained a positive attitude. As one of her supervisors said, “[Linda’s] personal standards and morals lead to a lifestyle comprised of healthy and admirable choices. As a mentor to many on her crew, she has exceeded the expectation of a mentor to offer herself as a friend and a pathway to experiencing sobriety and innocent means of passing the time.”

Linda has served as an ambassador for RMYC’s Youth Conservation Corps program. She has spoken in front of the New Mexico State Commission about her experiences with both RMYC and MCC.

“She understands the technical skills, but truly embodies that the true meaning of our work is personal growth and development,” said Maura Cassell, an RMYC Program Coordinator. “She is able to pass along this meaning of our work to her peers and she continuously serves as an influence and role model.”

One day, Linda hopes to become a bilingual outdoor educator. Working towards this goal, she voluntarily took on the role of Training Specialist at RMYC. She worked closely with staff to develop and carry out a variety of creative programs, including a course in which she taught Corpsmembers how to successfully complete a variety of fire training classes.

“I want to work in an outdoor environment where I can teach others, our youth in particular, about the importance of our land, why we should care for it and protect it, and about the impact we as individuals have on it,” said Linda.

In the future, Linda plans to return to school to receive her master’s degree in outdoor education. If it were not for her experiences with RMYC and MCC, however, she might have very different goals today.

“The Corps experience changed my life. It allowed me to get out of my comfort zone, learn more about other places and provided me with the opportunity to explore beautiful places in our country I may otherwise have never seen,” said Linda. “It allowed me to work with a diverse group of people and learn technical skills, as well as soft skills, that have helped me grow as an individual.”  

Boiler Plate: 
After graduating from college in 2009, Linda Santana decided to take a year off to figure out the next step in her life. At the suggestion of a friend, she began researching AmeriCorps programs and eventually applied to the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC). Linda knew the Corps would be different from anything she had ever experienced, but she liked the idea of working outside and exploring new places.

2014 Corpsmember of the Year, Eliseo Nunez



Eliseo Nunez
Urban Corps of San Diego County
San Diego, CA

 

Eliseo Nunez overcame incredible odds to get where he is today. Growing up, listening to his father tell prison stories, Eliseo thought spending time behind bars was a rite of passage – “what it took to turn a boy into a man.” By middle school, he was involved in a gang.

“Everything was about having fun and I never thought of the consequences for my actions,” said Eliseo. “When I first joined, I thought it was all about hanging out, getting high and having fun.”

Though being part of a gang seemed cool, it didn’t take long for Eliseo to learn about the dangers of his new lifestyle. Making mistakes and refusing to take part in gang activities was not tolerated. Desperate to fit in and live up to the image of what he perceived as true manhood, Eliseo adapted to the rules and demands of gang life. He dropped out of high school at the age of 15 and soon developed a drug addiction.

“The first time I picked up meth, I felt like I really did not have a choice. I was a boy trying his best to be a man according to the standards of those around me,” said Eliseo. “The meth pipe was handed to me by a family member with smoke pouring out of his mouth like an avalanche. The only thing going through my mind was how I wanted to be just like my father.”

Eliseo’s actions eventually caught up with him. He spent two years in state prison and four in federal. Though it seemed unlikely he would break out of the grim cycle of poverty, drug abuse and institutionalization, Eliseo resolved to build a better future for himself. After receiving treatment for his chemical dependency issues at an inpatient recovery program, Eliseo was ready for a fresh start. When a probation officer told him about the opportunities at Urban Corps of San Diego County, Eliseo knew he had to apply.

“A high school diploma and work experience was something my soul thirsted for,” he said. “All I needed was a chance, and Urban Corps gave that to me.”

Though even the most open-minded staff members at Urban Corps originally misjudged him – Eliseo is, after all, covered in the gang tattoos of his past – he quickly became known for his professional demeanor and his natural leadership abilities.

“Here at Urban Corps, [Eliseo] has been a peer mentor for other youth in the program,” said Geneva Karwoski, an Urban Corps Case Manager. “He is walking, breathing proof that it is ‘cool’ to work hard, do your best, and succeed.”

Eliseo excelled as a student, sitting in the front of the room and staying after class to ask questions. He was the co-Valedictorian of the March 2013 graduating class and received a $1,000 scholarship. In career development, he also proved to be a hard worker. He gained experience in the Environmental and Recycling Departments, earned his Class C Driver’s License, and eventually became a staff supervisor at Urban Corps’ Recycling Buyback Center.

These days, Eliseo takes night classes at San Diego City College and runs the Buyback Center by day. His goal is to become an Alcohol and Other Drugs Counselor and work as a Case Manager at Urban Corps. On top of his school and work responsibilities, Eliseo is active in the Alcohol and Other Drugs Recovery Community. He volunteers on a weekly basis, guiding individuals through the recovery process by sharing his story and offering advice. Additionally, Eliseo often represents Urban Corps at events:  when he spoke on behalf of the Corps at the annual Commission on Gang Prevention meeting, his speech brought the Council President to tears. Eliseo tells his listeners, “Urban Corps is the stepping stone I needed to get from drug abuser to drug counselor…I needed a chance to find my purpose, and Urban Corps has given me that and much more.”

Boiler Plate: 
Eliseo Nunez has overcome incredible odds to get where he is today. Growing up, listening to his father tell prison stories, Eliseo thought spending time behind bars was a rite of passage – “what it took to turn a boy into a man.” By middle school, he was involved in a gang.

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