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.

2018 Project of the Year: Southwest Conservation Corps and Montana Conservation Corps - Wyoming Women's Fire Corps

At The Corps Network’s annual National Conference in Washington, DC, we celebrate the important service Corps provide to communities and young people across the country by honoring Corps who have taken on especially noteworthy endeavors within the past year. Projects of the Year are innovative and show a Corps’ ability to work with partner organizations to give Corpsmembers a positive experience and provide the community with meaningful improvements. Learn more


The Wyoming Women’s Fire Corps (WWFC) is a pilot program that ran August through early November of 2017. Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC), Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) joined together in this collaborative effort. 

SCC and MCC each contributed a crew of six female Corpsmembers and two female Crew Leaders to work with the BLM in Wyoming. The goal was to give these 16 women the confidence, technical skills, and leadership abilities to pursue careers in wildland firefighting. The women completed training and were certified in S130/190 wildland fire fighting and S212 saw operation. The scope of work for the program included fire mitigation and prescribed burns, as well as various chainsaw projects in locations throughout Wyoming. Additionally, both WWFC crews had the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience while dispatched on a 14-day assignment to support the massive firefighting efforts in California.

The WWFC is a perfect example of innovation in the Corps Movement. It is a unique opportunity to develop collaborative solutions to several needs. First, this program helps address the huge gender disparity in wildland firefighting. Only 11 percent of permanent wildland firefighting jobs in the U.S. Forest Service are held by women. BLM faces similar statistics.

Second, the WWFC plays a role in addressing resource management concerns. Wyoming has large tracts of land that are potential habitat for the endangered sage grouse, but these areas need to be restored through the removal of encroaching conifers. An effort of this kind requires chainsaw work with a hand crew; perfect saw and physical training for a future wildland firefighter.

The WWFC is potentially the first all-women’s fire crew within the Conservation Corps movement. Additionally, this was the first time either SCC or MCC operated an all-female crew with a set purpose. The uniqueness of this program helped bring in far more applicants than anticipated; within just a two-week window, both Corps received three applicants for every slot.

The first WWFC cohort just closed their season. They report having had an incredible, life-changing experience. Each Corpsmember was an AmeriCorps member, earning a living allowance and finishing with a Segal Education Award. With only one exception, all SCC and MCC members are interested in applying for fire jobs next season; a testament to the empowering nature of this program.

At this point, it’s too early for SCC and MCC to report on how many WWFC participants became employed in wildland firefighting. However, they have already seen other positive effects of the program; SCC has been contacted by BLM and other organizations that are interested in hiring the Corpsmembers and learning more about replicating the initiative in other parts of the country. BLM and both Corps have deemed the WWFC highly successful and are working to repeat the program in 2019.

In the months to come, the two Corps will team-up to develop solutions for challenges discovered in the first year of operation. One of the key factors in the success of this pilot was the critical collaborative effort from staff at SCC, MCC, and the BLM. Several large conference calls took place to establish expectations, logistics and needs of all parties involved.

Both SCC and MCC have been strengthened in many ways because of the WWFC. Each Corps has developed relationships with communities in Wyoming and with the BLM of Wyoming. Additionally, their crews have increased their capacity to respond to wildland fires, complete prescribed burns, and tackle a backlog of habitat improvement projects. Most importantly, however, both Corps have increased diversity and are excited to play a role in opening-up an opportunity for women who are interested in fire, yet unsure how to get a start in such a male-dominated field. This project has developed into a stepping stone for this specific demographic.

As one Corpsmember said of the WWFC: “For women who are thinking ‘maybe I can’t do this,’ you totally can. You just have to have the determination and the willingness to put in a lot of hard work and sweat.” 

2018 Project of the Year: Vermont Youth Conservation Corps - Health Care Share Program

At The Corps Network’s annual National Conference in Washington, DC, we celebrate the important service Corps provide to communities and young people across the country by honoring Corps who have taken on especially noteworthy endeavors within the past year. Projects of the Year are innovative and show a Corps’ ability to work with partner organizations to give Corpsmembers a positive experience and provide the community with meaningful improvements. Learn more


The Health Care Share program of the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) recruits young adults to serve outdoors, in small teams, on tangible projects that benefit Vermont communities. Through service and meaningful employment, young adults gain a profound sense of agency and an understanding of what it means to serve neighbors in need.

With partial support from AmeriCorps, VYCC Farm Crews grow fresh, local, organic food from March through November. This food is then packaged in weekly and/or monthly shares (much like CSA – Community Supported Agriculture) and delivered to hospitals, medical centers, and community clinics. Medical centers, in turn, identify patients and employees who have distinct needs (food insecurity, diabetes, heart conditions, etc.) and would thus benefit from the program. Health Care Share recipients receive shares for six months of the year, as do VYCC Corpsmembers. Additionally, Corpsmembers receive extensive nutrition education and undergo VYCC’s Food and Finance course. 

In 2017, the Health Care Shares initiative engaged 88 Corpsmembers and Crew Leaders. Seventy-two Corpsmembers benefited from the Food and Finance curriculum, and 72 Corpsmembers and their families received a Health Care Share. This is of particular importance as most Corpsmembers come from low-income households.

Throughout the year, Health Care Share Corpsmembers completed an anticipated 50 weeks of service, totaling approximately 10,800 service hours. Additionally, 700 volunteers contributed 2,800 service hours for an estimated financial value of $16,900. By year’s end, roughly 140,000 pounds of food will have been distributed to 500 families, benefitting approximately 1,700 individuals. In addition to the Farm at VYCC, 13 partner farms benefitted greatly from labor provided by VYCC’s Farm Crews. VYCC Farm Crews are, increasingly seen as a valued, nimble, and affordable labor source for farmers during critical moments of the growing and harvesting season.

While the Farm at VYCC has enrolled Corpsmembers to work on the Health Care Share for five summers, 2017 was marked by innovation in several ways:

  1. Expansion – Historically, all farm production happened on VYCC’s nine-acre diversified vegetable and poultry farm. This past growing season, the Farm program fielded crews in three additional Vermont communities: Richmond, Newport, and Bristol. Expansion allowed VYCC to enroll more young adults and add new partners.
  2. New Partners – At each Health Care Share distribution site, VYCC facilitates the formation and operation of “FOOD” teams - Fundraising, Operations, Organization, and Decision-making. These groups are comprised of community and municipal representatives with a stake in public health, nutrition, food security, and local agriculture, as well as youth advocacy, education, and workforce development. Each community that benefits from the Health Care Share brings new partners to this collaboration. This year saw five partner farms join in Rutland. The Newport Crew worked on a community farm managed by the Vermont Land Trust. Farm crews also gleaned produce on seven additional farms to secure additional produce. Partnering medical centers and communities include UVM, Central Vermont, Rutland Regional, and, new this year, North Country Medical Center in Newport. Lastly, VYCC was thrilled that the Farm now receives AmeriCorps funding directly from the Corporation for National Community Service through the SerVermont state commission.
  3. New Education Outcomes – Piloting the Food and Finance curriculum was a great success. This course teaches Corpsmembers how to stretch a budget and, in doing so, establish healthy dietary habits.

​Because the Health Care Share directly benefits community members, there is a real marketing opportunity. VYCC has raised its public profile in towns hosting Farm Crews and seen an uptick in applications, particularly from women. Farming has become a recruitment strategy as it appears to be quite popular among young adults. Additionally, VYCC’s work in food security has attracted the attention of philanthropists who otherwise would likely not be interested in the Corps.

With pluck and determination, Health Care Shares is replicable. For other Corps interested in this type of program, they offer the following insights:

  • Virtually all hospitals have Community Benefit Funds. In VYCC’s experience, the leaders of many medical institutions have been open to innovation.
  • Because VYCC provides food to hospital patients, they consider this fee-for-service revenue, much like traditional revenues used to build and maintain trails.
  • Farms have significant labor demands for roughly nine months out of the year. As such, there are opportunities for Corps to extend the length of service beyond the summer. For example, modest investments in greenhouses not only extend the growing season, but extend the learning, work and service season.
  • Hiring is key. One needs to find a farmer and educator to help operate the program.

Of primary importance, the Farm at VYCC has increased VYCC’s capacity to offer the Corps experience to youth and young adults. Their ability to enhance learning outcomes is equally strengthened, as are their connections to the community.

2018 Project of the Year: LA Conservation Corps - Wiseburn Walking Path

At The Corps Network’s annual National Conference in Washington, DC, we celebrate the important service Corps provide to communities and young people across the country by honoring Corps who have taken on especially noteworthy endeavors within the past year. Projects of the Year are innovative and show a Corps’ ability to work with partner organizations to give Corpsmembers a positive experience and provide the community with meaningful improvements. Learn more


The Wiseburn Walking Path was designed to confront larger societal concerns around the lack of public outdoor exercise and fitness options within Los Angeles County. The 0.7-mile-long decomposed granite walking path is ADA-Accessible and seeks to improve community health for users of all ages. LA Conservation Corps (LACC) Corpsmembers were the backbone that transformed 3,200 linear feet of essentially unused slope from a regular illegal dumping ground into a valuable community resource.

This project was different than most other LACC endeavors because the Corps was the general contractor, responsible for every aspect of the project. On most LACC construction projects, the Corps is subcontracted to perform specific activities, such as pouring concrete for sidewalks and curbs, planting trees, installing landscaping, and installing park amenities, such as play equipment and signage. This project, however, involved LACC being responsible for all these activities.

Performing the role as a general contractor involved complex permitting and approval processes. Parts of the project crossed into the City of Hawthorne, requiring meetings with Los Angeles County and City of Hawthorne officials. Additionally, the project abutted the right-of-way of the 405-freeway, which required compliance with California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) design standards. 

The Corps found ways to work with new partners and leverage existing partnerships to find ways to improve project efficiency. The project was a creative collaboration between LACC, the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District, County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, the California Natural Resources Agency, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ Office, the California Department of Transportation, the Wiseburn Watch Community Group, and other constituent groups. Together, this multi-agency and community inclusive partnership worked to ensure that community needs and wants were heard, evaluated, prioritized, and incorporated as much as possible.

The gently meandering path is lined with eight pieces of outdoor exercise equipment. It also features five large seating areas, some with custom-designed hopscotch elements, that provide opportunities for play, rest, and community convening. Additionally, the project included the installation of 45 solar-powered pedestrian light poles and 55 security bollards. More than 150 new trees and 2,000 native plants were installed to provide a tranquil backdrop for users. Each amenity and component was carefully selected to provide physical, mental, and community health benefits.

Constructing the Wiseburn Walking Path Project provided significant job training and employment benefits to LACC Corpsmembers, as well as long-lasting benefits to Wiseburn community members. During the roughly 2.5 years of the project, over 80 Corpsmembers performed more than 13,000 service hours. For the core group of Corpsmembers, the skills learned involved using construction equipment, such as bobcats and skip loaders, performing grading and surveying, pouring and finishing concrete, and installing amenities and other infrastructure.  Their on-the-job training offered access to networking opportunities and introduced them to potential career choices. In addition to job training, LACC provided Corpsmembers who lacked a high school diploma the ability to attend classes through a charter school partner.

The project, while complex, is replicable. Similar projects might consider some of these lessons learned: 1) Focus on communication, internally and externally. 2) Set realistic expectations early; over the last two years, LACC regularly attended Wiseburn Watch meetings to not only provide updates, but to ensure that expectations were shared and being met. 3) Don’t assume a project is too big for your Corps. While it is of the utmost importance to work on projects you know you can perform successfully, it is also important to make sure you don’t assume a project is too complex. 4) There is always an opportunity for Corpsmembers to learn. In circumstances when LACC subcontracted other contractors, the Corps often assisted, or at least reviewed the work with Corpsmembers to help expand their knowledge.

Completing the Wiseburn Walking Path has strengthened LACC in many ways. The project increased their capacity to perform large-sale park construction projects; broadened their perspective on which projects they should and shouldn’t take on; and taught them the importance of planning to improve efficiency and effectiveness. The project has helped expand the knowledge, skills, and abilities of Corps staff and Corpsmembers, and has helped refine their approaches to training and mentoring. Finally, the successful completion of the Wiseburn Walking Path Project strengthened LACC’s relationships with a wide array of project partners. LACC is currently working on two projects that are similar to the Wiseburn Walking Path Project and are applying the aforementioned lessons learned.

An An Interview with Thomas Hark, a 2017 Corps Legacy Achievement Awardee

Thomas Hark, formerly of Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, is a 2017 Corps Legacy Achivement Award Winner. We interviewed Thomas to learn more about him and his experience in the Corps movement. Click here to read his bio. 
 


Tell us a little bit about your background, where you come from.

I grew up in Minnesota and in my junior year of college took a summer job with the federal YCC program in Young Harris Georgia.  I had offers at 19 national parks but was oddly drawn to this small, indiscrete, operation in northern Georgia.  It changed the course of my life.

 

How did you become involved in Service and Conservation Corps? What were you doing before?

I thought I would return the next year to the federal YCC program and direct a camp of my own.  However, that year President Reagan froze federal funds and all but eliminated the YCC program.  I was shocked. 

An idea kept rolling around in my head and soon turned into a graduate thesis:  What are the necessary and critical elements to creating a public-private YCC program. I believed it was possible and was determined to prove it.

I graduated from college and took a job directing the Minnesota YCC summer program and when I learned that Minnesota would be hosting a national meeting on how to start a YCC I immediately and enthusiastically signed up. 

My application was rejected as I was an under employed college graduate with no professional experience to my name.  Yes, I had enthusiasm and passion but truly nothing else.  However, the night before the conference I got a call.  Organizers needed someone to pick guests up at airport and drive them 40 miles to the Wilder Conference center.  I jumped!

I was able to meet everyone who had anything do with YCCs at the time…legendary Robert Burkhart from the SFCC, Joanna Lennon from East May YCC and many others.

I also met an individual from Vermont, Peter Comart, who was there because a piece of legislation just passed with a one dollar appropriation and he wanted to learn how to put one of these programs together. Suffice it to say I overwhelmed him with passion and enthusiasm.

It was a match made in heaven.  I didn’t need much being hungry for a job and he did not have much to offer, outside an opportunity.  However, I had ideas and a plan, untested, and perhaps a little crazy.  They were game and promised all their support.  A few months later I was in Vermont.

One dollar.  No desk.  No phone. While I was wildly excited as it felt like the opportunity of a lifetime, the state agency apparently did not know I was even coming, as of course a one dollar appropriation was not much of a mandate.

I landed in May 10th and had my first 5 Enrollees working by mid-June.  I thought I would say a few years and then go home to Minnesota. 

However, what happened was significant growth every year, an outlet for endless creativity and experimentation, and an enormous amount of fun…25 years later I realized I was not going anywhere.  I loved Vermont.  VYCC was my vocation.  While I didn’t make much of a paycheck, I absolutely loved my work.  I literally pinched myself some nights after working 12+ hours, as I left work, thinking how it was possible to be so happy!

That one dollar was eventually, over thirty years leveraged to more than 50,000,000 dollars, more than 6000 alumni, and a 400 acre campus and to die for training center.

However, what was so cool was to have work that mattered and where every day I could see the positive life-changing impacts on the lives of others be they enrollees, staff, or others in the community, similar to my initial YCC experience in Georgia.

Part of the driving force was to emulate my hero, Liz Cornish, the camp director that hired me against her better judgment, supported me, challenged me, and in the process changed my life. I never forgot and I always have tried to live up to her example.

 

Who are some of your heroes? What did they do to inspire you?

Liz Cornish, the Camp Director in Young Harris YCC.  She was an incredibly talented Outward Bound Instructor who knew how to build teams by bringing the best out of each person.  She pushed me to my absolute limits and in the process created in me a hunger to help do the same for others.

 

Describe some of your most memorable experiences working in youth development.

The Mission of VYCC was for each member of the organization to fully embrace, adopt, and live by the idea of taking personal responsibility for all of their actions, what they say and what they do….

A young women was fired.  She was having an “exclusive” relationship which was prohibited as the goal was for each crew of incredibly diverse individuals in the short month long residential experience, to truly get to know each other and build a strong community.  Something not possible if two people spent all their time together and in so doing were not part of the community.

She could not have disagreed more with this rule.  However, she knew going in what was expected, she had had chances, and now VYCC was following through. She was sent home.

Several months afterwards I received a letter saying she still strongly disagreed with the rule…and she was angry…however, not because of this rule.  She went on to explain that upon her return this idea of personal responsibility that was woven into every aspect of VYCC life had just stuck with her, she couldn’t shake it.  And thus her whole life had changed.  Everyone in her life seemed different as no one seemed to take responsibility for anything.  It was incredibly disturbing.  She could never go back to being like them as VYCC had changed her.

She still didn’t like the rule but she was so thankful for the experience as this one idea around personal responsibility was empowering.  She was now in control.  She made decisions and good or bad, she owned them.  She felt like a whole new person. And she was.

 

Given your experience, what is the primary piece of wisdom you would give to a young person currently enrolled in a Corps?

Whatever you do, give it everything you have, or get out. It is your choice. It really is.

 

What is the primary piece of advice you would give to staff at Corps?

A poem by Marge Percy was recited by Robert Burkhart at the opening session of that conference in Minnesota on how to start a Corps.  The poem was entitled “To be of Use. A line in said “The work of the world is as common as mud…done well it is a Hopi vase that holds water and satisfies thirst for centuries…done poorly it becomes falls apart becoming dust…

Whatever you do.  Dot it with all your heart. Do it as well as you possibly can.  Take joy in it. Have passion. Have fun with it.  Take chances.  Don’t be afraid to fail. Embrace your successes and failures as just two sides of the same coin treating both the same.  Keep moving forward as hard as it can be at times.

This is what I have shared countless times.

 

In the future, what developments would you like to see happen in the Corps movement?

What I told folks when I first came to Vermont was that I believed every young Vermonter who wanted to have this experience should.  This belief drove everything I did.

I now have expanded my view.  I believe every young adult in our Nation who wants to work hard, make a difference, and grow as a person should have this opportunity. 

When I left VYCC I took some time to think and reflect and my conclusion was that this is powerful important work.  More, we live in a time where it is absolutely crucial that we instill character, virtue, practical wisdom, and what I call bed rock American values in every young American.  As we do, we will change our Country.  We can again become that shining city on the hill.  A beacon again for all the world.

 

What do you hope your legacy will be?

I set out to test an idea.  That idea was to create a successful public-private venture that, based on quality outcomes, and a solid business model, would last the test of time, providing these incredible life changing experiences, called YCC, to generation after generation.  A model that would withstand whatever political winds happened to be blowing.  A model that would teach practical leadership skills so that every alumni would make a difference for their own family, place of work, community and state, and through this nation. 

Each of us has it in us to change the world, or at least our small corner of it. Let’s do that!

 

The Corps Network Announces 2017 Winners of Corpsmember of the Year, Project of the Year and Legacy Achievement Awards

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, December 13, 2016, The Corps Network announced the winners of the 2017 Corpsmember of the Year, Project of the Year, and Legacy Achievement Awards. Awardees will be recognized at The Corps Network 2017 National Conference, taking place February 12th – 15th in Washington, DC.

2014 National Conference Photos

 

Where are they now? Updates from The 2014 Corpsmembers of the Year

 

Jon Brito 

Since the conference I have completed my fellowship with Hawaii Energy through a program of Kupu, called RISE. Through various technical retrofits and behavior changing programs, we helped save tens of thousands of kWh from Hawaii's electrical grid. This saved barrels of oil used and reduced CO2 emissions across the board.

I am still in school, still working towards my Electronic Computer Engineering degree on Maui through the University of Maui. I am also working on a GIS certification.

Something I have gained through my experience in the Corps is some amazing networking opportunities. Doing my GIS certification has led us to map out some of Maui's premiere environments and preserves. There is also this need to continue my work in conservation even though I currently am not directly employed.

I still continue to volunteer at the fishpond, and have cleared a whole shoreline of the invasive mangrove. Roughly 3 acres have been removed from the time I started at the fishpond. Currently I am still looking for more volunteer opportunities, but I am lucky because on Maui they are plentiful.


 

Edgar Galvez

Hi, everyone. This is Edgar Galvez - I attended The Corps Network 2014 conference as a Corpsmember of the Year. Let me tell you, that conference was amazing. I had a blast in DC, and getting to know the other Corpsmembers of the year. After the conference I came back home and started working for the union.  There have been so many projects that I’ve been working on, like schools, freeways, bridges. It's been incredible to see how things are built and destroyed.

I also go back to Fresno YouthBuild and talk to the new Corpsmembers that are coming in about my life, and how the Corps changed my life, and how it could happen to any of them if they truly believe in themselves.

The other wonderful thing that happened after the conference is that my wife just gave birth to my baby boy, Damian. It's truly a blessing.

What I gained from the conference is public speaking experience. That was my biggest fear or obstacle, but ever since I read my speech in front of all those people I believe in myself more. When it's time to speak in a group or conference, I think I can handle it now. 


 

Eliseo Nunez 

I woke up this morning and noticed my doormat was backwards. Instead of wondering what happened, right away my love for life made it clear.

“Welcome to planet earth, anything is possible!”

Since my trip to D.C. I’ve really been putting in the time and effort to make San Diego a better place. Clearly it has not only been an amazing opportunity for me to grow, but I feel that I have planted thousands of seeds. For starters, I am now a full time supervisor with San Diego Urban Corps. I find it hard to forget where it all began. My plan is to be the best supervisor I can be and to keep furthering my education. When it’s time to go, I’ll have such an amazing bag of tools I can use out there to keep making my city a beautiful place.

The San Diego Union Tribune has written two articles about me, the city council has awarded me with my own day in early March. Last night I just got a certificate of appreciation signed by an honorable judge here with the superior court. Everyone asks who, what, why?

Well, going back to my doormat. Nothing has changed, I welcome each day with open arms. I do my best to find the gain in the pain, the good in the bad, and the happy in the sad. Thank you guys for sharing these special moments with me and I pledge to continue to take it one day at a time!!!!!


 

Linda Santana

Since the conference, I’ve moved back to Los Angeles, CA. During the summer, most of my time was spent volunteering at a high school and doing things with my family. Most recently I got a job working for an afterschool program. I work with 2nd grade students, not only helping them with their homework but also providing them with other activities that will allow them to be successful.

As I reflect back on the past year and my term with RMYC, I can’t help but feel grateful for the experience the Corps provided me with. It inspired me, gave me confidence and provided me with personal growth. Although currently I’m not working in an outdoor/ conservation field, the skills I learned have helped me tremendously. My leadership skills have improved, I’m more assertive when it comes to getting things done but I’m also conscious of when I need to step back and allow others to do their job. I learned to have patience and let things go. Living in L.A. my personal as well as professional lifestyle are different but I still find time to go on occasional hikes and am trying my best to live a healthier and more fit lifestyle. 


 

 

Ruby Simonian

After my California Conservation Corps experience, I am now working for State parks in the beautiful redwoods of northern California. I will always take my corps experience with me in my future endeavors and will forever be grateful for my past excursions. I plan on continuing school and working towards my goal to become an ecopsychologist.

 

 


 

Candace Washington

Since the conference I have continued being actively engaged in public environmental events. Shortly after the conference I was invited to New York City for a fundraiser for Civicorps by Reeta, she is on the board of directors for Civicorps.  In May I was asked to be the emcee and say a speech to over two hundred people for Civicorps’ Gala. This was also an event to raise money for corpsmembers who graduated and went off to college.

I am still enrolled and attending community college where I am earning my credits needed to transfer. Currently I am working at the City of Oakland Environmental Services division; I received a one year extension. I was also offered a possible permanent position that pays twice as much as what I make now with the City of Oakland Public works call center. I have accepted the offer and I will start next year once I have a full two years of public experience.

For Baltimore Youth, Opportunity Goes Green - a story from our friends at SparkAction

 

Baltimore Center for Green Careers


By Alison Waldman, SparkAction
Click the link at the bottom to read the full story

At one point in his life, Jerrell Henry wasn’t sure what the future would hold.

Growing up in Baltimore, he didn’t have a college degree and saw no opportunity to get a steady, paying job. He was on the pathway to a series of jobs that barely paid the bills, and wouldn’t give him a career.

Then he heard about Baltimore Center for Green Careers (BCGC), which offers local, hands-on training in green jobs.

So he tried it. Jerrell is now fully employed with a local company only weeks after the program’s end. That’s no small feat in Baltimore, where unemployment is considerably higher than the national average, especially among young African American males.

“I loved the program,” he says. “They kept us on our toes. They helped us learn about speaking to employees, and gave us job readiness.”

BCGC is one of several Corps programs honored at The Corps Network’s 2013 Conference in Washington, DC, in February.

Corps are comprehensive youth development programs in cities and states that provide young people with job training, academic programming and leadership training through experience in service. A direct descendant of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, today’s Corps have been growing in recognition and enrollment as the economy leaves more young people out of work and unsure of the next step to a steady career.

This year’s conference covered the ways that Corps can improve programs to better serve opportunity youth—young people ages 16 to 24 who are not in school or connected to the workforce. It also looked at how federal funding streams like the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) can be used to bring effective Corps programs to scale, and celebrated the best programs and members through its 2013 Corpsmembers awards and Corps Projects of the Year.

Here's a closer look at a growing green-jobs success story in Baltimore.

2013 Capitol Award Ceremony

 


Joel Holtrop, Chair,The Corps Network Board of Directors, and Harry Bruell, President & CEO, Southwest Conservation Corps, greet The Honorable Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Department of the Interior.
 

The 2013 National Conference came to a close on Wednesday, February 13th with our annual Capitol Hill Award Ceremony in the Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building. The event recognized our six 2013 Corpsmembers of the Year, three 2013 Projects of the Year, and the recipients of our Federal and Congressional Champion Awards.

Our Corpsmembers of the Year are young men and women who have stood out as leaders and mentors in the Corps movement. Some of this year’s winners had their Representatives in Congress in attendance at the Award Ceremony to offer their support. The 2013 Corpsmembers of the Year are Luis Gaeta, EOC Fresno Local Conservation Corps; Alex Hreha, Coconino Rural Environment Corps; Sarah Huff, California Conservation Corps; Brandon Penny, Civicorps; Raghda Raphael, Urban Corps of San Diego; and Jesse Roehm, Mile High Youth Corps.

Our Project of the Year recipients represent some of the most innovative programs at Corps throughout the country. The ceremony recognized EOC Fresno Local Conservation Corps for their responsible parenting program, POPS (Proving Our Parenting Skills); Civic Works of Baltimore, Maryland for the urban agricultural projects of their Real Food Farm; and Los Angeles Conservation Corps for their Flying Weed Warriors program, which involved the use if cutting-edge herbicide dispersal technology.

The award ceremony also recognized the recipients of the Congressional Champion Award. This Award goes to elected officials whose work promotes and encourages the growth and sustainability of America’s youth service and conservation corps. A number of awardees attended the award ceremony to offer words of support for the efforts of service and conservation corps. This year’s Congressional Champions are Senator Barbara Boxer, California; Senator Mark Begich, Alaska; Senator Christopher Coons, Delaware; Representative Ruben Hinojosa, Texas’s 15th District; Representative Raul Grijalva, Arizona’s 3rd District; Representative John Tierney, Massachusetts’s 6th District; and Representative Nick Rahall, West Virginia’s 3rd District.



Secretary Ken Salazar, a recipient of The Corps Network's 2013 Federal Champion Award, speeks at The Corps Network's annual award ceremony on Capitol Hill. 

 

Finally, the ceremony celebrated our three Federal Champions. This Federal Champion Award is given to policymakers and public officials whose work encourages the growth and sustainability of youth conservation corps. The three winners – Secretary Ken Salazar, Department of the Interior; Chair Nancy Sutley, White House Council on Environmental Quality; and Secretary Tom Vilsack, Department of Agriculture – have all demonstrated their support for youth corps in numerous ways, and have all provided leadership in the process of creating the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, based on the model of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.

Congratulations to all of our winners and thank you to all of the individuals who joined us for the ceremony and made remarks, including Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment  at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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