How Service and Conservation Corps Celebrated Earth Day in 2015

Corpsmembers enrolled in Service and Conservation Corps help protect the Earth and its wonders on a daily basis through their service.

Earth Day always provides a great additional opportunity to promote the benefits, goals, and fun of spending time outdoors and in nature.

Below you can discover the numerous ways that Corps programs served the Earth this year and gained attention for their work. For instance, 2 mayors of major cities spent time with Corps! One Corps also participated in a Google Hangout for Earth Day with the Clinton Global Initiative. 

Boiler Plate: 
Discover the numerous ways that Corps programs served the Earth this year and gained attention for their work. For instance, 2 mayors of major cities spent time with Corps! One Corps also participated in a Google Hangout for Earth Day with the Clinton Global Initiative.

7 Questions with Michael Muckle

This week is the inaugural article in a new series of interviews with Corps Staff members.

Michael Muckle is the Director of the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg and talks about his experience working at the Corps, advice from mentors, and what inspires him.

 


1. What are some of the projects that your Corps is working on right now that excite you the most?

There's a few things here in New Jersey that we're currently working on that I'm excited about:  

a. Our upcoming HOPE project at the Gateway National Recreation Area @Sandy Hook is something that I'm really anticipating because it will give our Corpsmembers such a unique opportunity to learn preservation craft skills while rehabilitating a historic building in a really beautiful setting.  

b. The second project I'm excited about is developing a partnership with the American Conservation Experience (ACE) to put our Waders in the Water trained Corpsmembers to work here in New Jersey.  ACE has taken the lead on some riparian restoration projects in the mitigation banking arena here in the state and we look to partner with them to place our Youth Corps WitW Level 1 Corpsmembers on site with them.  

c. The third ‘project’ I'm excited about is helping the state of New Jersey develop its implementation plan for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  We believe that WIOA will enable us to implement new ideas and programmatic strategies on a local level to expand and lengthen the services to our Corpsmember participants – who are requiring more effort and more time to achieve certain goals within Youth Corps. It’s an opportunity to amend our programs with opportunity to increase the quality of service for the next decade…maybe longer. That’s exciting.  

2. What kinds of careers are typically available in your neck of the woods for Corpsmembers?

Jobs usually available for our Corpsmembers are found in retail, foodservice and warehouse work given our rural location here in New Jersey. Other typical placements are entering into Community College, or directly into military service.    

Here at our program we're trying to change the mindset of Corpsmembers by offering them unique service opportunities that shadow careers within the field of public service. In doing so, we hope to reveal what’s possible to the Corpsmembers by introducing them to people in the field that have themselves blazed an unconventional career pathway. That one-on-one interaction is essential to the building of confidence and gaining of trust on behalf of the Corpsmember.  When they see that others like themselves can achieve, they buy into the idea and start to believe.        

3. What are some of the most typical problems you face when working with Corpsmembers, and how do you solve them?

I thought hard about this question. ‘Typical’ problems working in Youth Corps, as most readers might guess, are anything but typical. On any given day, we encounter myriad problems ranging from the relatively benign like punctuality and attendance to the more serious and detrimental behavioral issues -  drug addiction, sexual abuse, gang involvement, etc. The stories of our Corpsmembers are as dramatic as they are varied. We approach all these issues from a position of patience and understanding while utilizing our entire staff in addressing an individuals’ needs. We’re all about second chances. It is challenging, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. It’s particularly satisfying when a young adult has an epiphany about his or her life and then decides on an action of assuming responsibility for their future. It’s all worth it in the end!

4. What’s something about your organizational culture that you are proud of and something you want to improve?

There are two things in particular I’m proud of relative to the organizational culture here at the Phillipsburg Youth Corps. First, I’m proud of the legacy of service this program has provided to this community. Our seventeen years here haven’t been easy. We’ve had ups and downs, but we’ve had a lot of help from a lot of people. I think that we've become an essential part of this community here in Phillipsburg and Warren County. We’re very proud of that.

The second would be the level of commitment and passion for the youth we serve on behalf of my staff. Their hard work and determination are so inspiring! They have a familial approach in everything they do, are wonderful mentors to the young adults they work with and are the most patient people I know. They propel me to want to do better…for them and our youth.

Something I would like to improve is to become more effective with communication; things develop and change so quickly over the course of a day sometimes, and it is difficult to be able to keep pace and inform everyone about those developments. Getting your message out to the right people is so essential to finding partners that support your program as well as identifying the youth we serve, and with so many systems to do so (i.e. Social media, websites, newsletters, etc.), your message can get muddled in the medium you choose. I’d look to improve upon that.

5. What’s your favorite kind of terrain and why (Beach, mountain, forest, lake, tundra, etc…)?

This is an interesting question, but I'm going to answer it like a politician, so I apologize beforehand. I just love the natural world. I can’t pick one type of terrain or environment over another because I feel just as comfortable down the shore as I feel up in the mountains. I have a deep fascination and appreciation of both and everything in between, which by the way, is why I love New Jersey. I’m originally from Connecticut and I had the impression that most people who travel through New Jersey are only familiar with;  the industrial I-95/Route 1/NJ Turnpike corridor.  But the best of New Jersey is just beyond all that you can see when you’re barreling down the NJ Turnpike. New Jersey has it all. Mountains, forests, farms, beaches...it’s perfect.

6. What’s something accessible to the masses (a movie, tv show, song, book, event) that has inspired or influenced you recently?

Anyone who knows me knows that this is almost impossible for me to answer efficiently or succinctly, but I’ll try. One is a song, and it’s not even a new song, but Ben Harper’s “With My Own Two Hands” from 2003 is a personal anthem of mine. One of my former students turned me on to it, and from first listen, it spoke to me. It embodies an ethos of service with an infectious reggae hook. It reminds me why I joined AmeriCorps in the first place in 1998 and cements my resolve as I continue to serve alongside our Corpsmembers. Good stuff.

The second is a book I’m just getting into by Robert Putnam called “Our Kids: the American Dream in Crisis.” It’s a study on the growing inequalities in America and how it is affecting our youth.  I’m hoping it might open my eyes to something so it can foster a constructive conversation among our youth. It is interesting so far.  

7. What’s one of the best pieces of advice a mentor has given you?  

One thing the person who had my job before me said as they pulled me aside while walking out the door for the last time was “Seek balance, Mike. You’ve got to seek balance in all you do.” That has stayed with me ever since. It was a tough time of transition for me, both personally and professionally. I was working long hours, so I understood where the advice was coming from, but still I didn't heed it. It took a few years to fully comprehend and implement that philosophy, and I still struggle most days - but putting emphasis on the things that bring me the most satisfaction - my wife, my daughter and our family - has helped me.


 

Boiler Plate: 
This week is the inaugural article in a new series of interviews with Corps Staff members. Michael Muckle is the Director of the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg and talks about his experience working at the Corps, advice from mentors, and what inspires him.

Photos of the Month: February 2015

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps Facebook pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from February 2015.

 


Civic Works



Kupu



Earthcorps



Heart of Oregon Corps



Arizona Conservation Corps



American YouthWorks

 


Mile High Youth Corps



Greater Miami Service Corps 



Los Angeles Conservation Corps



PowerCorps PHL

 

 

Photos, Press, Highlights, and Video from the White House Champions of Change Conservation Event

Earlier this week as we announced, both Anthony "Chako" Ciocco of Southwest Conservation Corps and Jon Brito of Kupu were honored by the White House for "engaging the next generation of conservation leaders."

Numerous staff members from The Corps Network were honored to attend the event on Tuesday, and watch Chako and Jon represent us and the Corps Movement so well!

Secretary Jewell Makes Big Show of Support at Event, and Through Secretarial Order

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell served as the keynote speaker for the event, and highlighted each of the fourteen honorees' accomplishments. She quoted each of the honorees, and even ended her remarks with a quote from a forthcoming blog post written by Chako, to soon be published by the White House! (See video at time mark of 34 minutes and 35 seconds). She also announced that she would soon issue a Secretarial order for her youth initiative, which among other features formalizes the continuing implementation of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. A press release about the order was released earlier today. We believe this is a significant development and thank the Secretary for her support!

Other Representatives also Highlight Importance of Youth in Conservation and 21st Century Conservation Service Corps

The event also featured high-ranking officials from numerous other agencies and the White House, including White House Counselor John Podesta, Department of Interior Assistant Secretary Rhea Suh, EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, USDA Deputy Under Secretary Arthur Blazer (pictured), and Acting Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality Michael Boots. Everyone was emphatic in their support of getting youth involved in conservation, and that the 14 "Champions of Change" were excellent role models for showcasing methods and strategies for involving youth in a variety of conservation efforts. The honorees were evenly split into two moderated panels, where they introduced themselves and answered questions from the moderators, from Twitter, and from the live audience. A video of the first hour of the event has already been posted on Youtube. In total it was a three hour event, so we are still waiting for the next video which should feature Chako and Jon's panel.

Additional Highlights Feature a Trip to Meet Wendy Spencer at the Corporation for National & Community Service, a mural tour at the Department of Interior that concluded with a stop in Secretary Jewell's Office

Both Jon and Chako were invited to the offices of AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) following the event. They were joined by Dr. Benjamin Blonder and Andy Hart, two other "Champions" who each had an AmeriCorps connection. CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer took a few moments to meet each of the honorees and take a photo with them. All of the champions also filmed quick videos with AmeriCorps staff.

Later in the afternoon, the Champions of Change were invited to take a tour of the Department of Interior, and see many of its fantastic and historic murals. Jon and Chako stopped to pose in front of one mural that depicted the Civilian Conservation Corps. The honorees gradually made their way to Secretary Jewell's office, where she again greeted the Champions and took more photos.

Party On Champions

But the fun didn't end there. The champions were invited by The Wilderness Society to their Ansel Adams Gallery to join a reception in honor of Bill Hodge, one of the Champions who was honored as a representative of the Wilderness Society's Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) program. An additional event was organized by our friends with the Outdoors Alliance for Kids.  

Praise from Members of Congress for Chako and Jon

“The White House Champions of Change award is a fitting recognition of Anthony’s environmental stewardship and leadership. He works tirelessly to improve outdoor access on the Navajo Nation,” Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet said. “In true Colorado fashion, Anthony, and the Southwest Conservation Corps, are dedicated to furthering opportunities for all of us to get outside and appreciate the outdoors, while also teaching countless young people the importance of being good stewards of our natural resources.” 

“Today at the White House, a local Moloka`i leader is being honored for his work to preserve our precious island environment and Native Hawaiian cultural practices. Jon has restored many endangered native Hawai`i species and habitats through his work with AmeriCorps and Kupu’s Hawai`i Youth Conservation Corps. I’m so proud of Jon and all that he has done to improve his community and the environment around him, while setting a great example for our keiki to follow. Congratulations, Jon, for this well-deserved honor! Aloha!” — U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard

 

Press

* We will continue adding to this list as new stories are posted and released.

Boiler Plate: 
Earlier this week as we announced, both Anthony "Chako" Ciocco of Southwest Conservation Corps and Jon Brito of Kupu were honored by the White House for "engaging the next generation of conservation leaders." Read about the highlights and see photos from Jon and Chako's big day!

The Corps Network Attends First Covening of the Opportunity Youth Network

Earlier this week, Mary Ellen Ardouny and Tyler Wilson of The Corps Network attended the first in-person convening of the Opportunity Youth Network in Maryland.

OYN was launched in early 2013 to bring together representatives of organizations working to reconnect opportunity youth in America (youth ages 16-24 who are not in school and are not working). A group of about 80 representatives from the nonprofit sector, the private sector, government, education, and youth-led organizations – all of whom work at the national level – currently participate in OYN. 

The goal of the meeting was to continue laying the framework for collaboration among all groups, and harness a collective impact without creating new initiatives. Members of The National Council of Young Leaders, including Corps Network Representatives Philan Tree and JR Daniels also attended the meeting and provided an essential voice for youth in the strategic planning process and working groups. The Council has already published a report of Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America.

Members of the National Council of Young Leaders speak at the Opportunity Youth Network convening.

The Corps Network Attends First Covening of the Opportunity Youth Network

Earlier this week, Mary Ellen Ardouny and Tyler Wilson of The Corps Network attended the first in-person convening of the Opportunity Youth Network in Maryland.

OYN was launched in early 2013 to bring together representatives of organizations working to reconnect opportunity youth in America (youth ages 16-24 who are not in school and are not working). A group of about 80 representatives from the nonprofit sector, the private sector, government, education, and youth-led organizations – all of whom work at the national level – currently participate in OYN. 

The goal of the meeting was to continue laying the framework for collaboration among all groups, and harness a collective impact without creating new initiatives. Members of The National Council of Young Leaders, including Corps Network Representatives Philan Tree and JR Daniels also attended the meeting and provided an essential voice for youth in the strategic planning process and working groups. The Council has already published a report of Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America.

Members of the National Council of Young Leaders speak at the Opportunity Youth Network convening.

[Video] Civicorps Corpsmember Stars in PBS Documentary, Leaves it Behind as Legacy

An Important Note from Civicorps Executive Director Alan Lessik:  Sharon was due to graduate Civicorps in December with plans to attend college, when Civicorps found out that she died from a heart attack on October 16, 2013. The video is a testament to the perseverance that corpsmembers all over the country feel as they work hard to turn their lives around and to overcome the barriers that they face. Sharon’s final words in the movie talked about her future and how “I really want to make it.”

In the video, Sharon reflected on her past, her gang involvement as well as her family and  discovering Civicorps as the path to a new and different future. It describes her academic and work life at Civicorps and in some footage from in one of the East Bay Regional Parks, she talks about learning new skills and appreciation for the outdoors as part of a crew.

In our community meeting today, we honored Sharon and viewed the film together. All of Civicorps mourns her death  and the greatest honor we can give to Sharon is to bring her words into our hearts and our actions. As one corpsmember said, “She was my age, trying to get to a higher place. So, I’m going to graduate for her. I’m going to go to college for her.”

Twenty-one year old Sharon Montano grew up in east Oakland, California in a neighborhood known as the “Dirty Thirties.” She did fine in grammar school but when she hit middle school she began drinking, smoking, and popping pills with friends whom she’d later lose. In her East Oakland neighborhood, violence was part of her daily life.

Going back to school turned out to be more difficult than she thought. Over the years, she started and dropped out of several remedial programs; then later became ineligible for others because of her age.

When she discovers Oakland’s Civicorps, where she meets other young people who have gone through similar rough situations, she finally gets another shot at a high school diploma — and a future. Sharon has gone from being a bad influence to a role model, and really wants to make it.

Directed by Raymond Telles

More Information on the ITVS website

Boiler Plate: 
Sharon was due to graduate Civicorps in December with plans to attend college, when Civicorps found out that she died from a heart attack on October 16, 2013. The video is a testament to the perseverance that corpsmembers all over the country feel as they work hard to turn their lives around and to overcome the barriers that they face. Sharon’s final words in the movie talked about her future and how “I really want to make it.”

The Corps Network Attends First Covening of the Opportunity Youth Network

Earlier this week, Mary Ellen Ardouny and Tyler Wilson of The Corps Network attended the first in-person convening of the Opportunity Youth Network in Maryland.

OYN was launched in early 2013 to bring together representatives of organizations working to reconnect opportunity youth in America (youth ages 16-24 who are not in school and are not working). A group of about 80 representatives from the nonprofit sector, the private sector, government, education, and youth-led organizations – all of whom work at the national level – currently participate in OYN. 

The goal of the meeting was to continue laying the framework for collaboration among all groups, and harness a collective impact without creating new initiatives. Members of The National Council of Young Leaders, including Corps Network Representatives Philan Tree and JR Daniels also attended the meeting and provided an essential voice for youth in the strategic planning process and working groups. The Council has already published a report of Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America.

Members of the National Council of Young Leaders speak at the Opportunity Youth Network convening.

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