Financial Literacy Training for Corpsmembers Through DOI Federal Credit Union

Mario Mejia (Center) of DOI Federal Credit Union at Green City Force 

Did you know that the Department of the Interior Federal Credit Union (DOIFCU) offers a free, comprehensive financial literacy training designed for Corpsmembers?

Through both The Corps Cooperative and The Corps Network, staff and Corpsmembers from member organizations of The Corps Network, as well as their immediate family members, have the option to bank with DOIFCU. Part of the Credit Union’s mission is to not only offer the resources to manage your money, but to help people understand money management practices, too.

“My main goal is to link knowledge to the resources,” said Mario Mejia, The Corps Network’s account manager for DOIFCU and the lead organizer of the financial literacy training program. “Everyone has financial needs, but everyone isn’t eligible to access resources.  Partnerships like this open the doors to meet financial needs through competitive resources in a low to no fee structure, that’s step one. Step two is simply providing the literacy so that each member is equipped with the knowledge to maximize the resources. I see it as, you can have a car and keys, yet learning how to drive is the game changer.

Mario recently visited New York City to conduct a training with Corpsmembers from Green City Force. The topics covered included Credit Unions v. Banks; Money Management Benefits; Steps to Improve your Financial Management; Budgeting; Practical Money-Saving Tips; Banking 101; Credit 101; and Money Management Tools. The training involves an informational presentation as well as activities that prompt Corpsmembers to make financial goals, consider their current expenses, and develop an action plan for how to meet their goals.  

Mario Mejia (Center) of DOI Federal Credit Union at Green City Force 

“This training is specific to Corps, with a focus on youth and young adults from every stage of life,” said Mario. “…I’ve found that over the span of years from adolescence to young adulthood can have its advantages or disadvantages.  During that time frame, several life changes can take place that the average person isn’t prepared for, and can have a lasting effect on your finances.  This can range from situations such as first time homebuyer, birth of a child/children, a loss of a loved one, college expenses, first time saving/checking accounts, etc.  This is where access to financial resources and literacy has its greatest effect.  We realize every situation may be different, but good money habits coupled with access to services and financial coaches is the best way to direct through life’s changes.  Sadly, it doesn’t take much to end up in an upward climb to get back on track.  Often times your credit can be damaged even before you’re 18, which a good amount of youth encounter from misusage due to family members or lack of information.  Even if it’s not the topic of credit I regularly receive questions like: how do I get started, how do I get ahead, or how do I fix that…?”

Though Mario hosted the training for Green City Force, the presentation and activities have accompanying notes, allowing Corps staff the flexibility to lead the training themselves. Mario is currently working with a Corps to develop a way to do the training via video conference so Corps staff will be better equipped to present and answer Corpsmember questions in future trainings. Additionally, though the training at Green City Force offered a general overview of financial management, Mario is happy to customize the training around particular topics a Corps may want to cover.

“To me, the Green City Force training was extremely successful,” said Mario. “I considered the success rate based on their questions from the beginning, and how much their questions advanced by the end.  I watched as they began to connect the dots, internalizing the information and making it relevant to their own lives.  I heard the side conversation and as a presenter I watched the principles germinate throughout the room. That said I knew they were getting it...People walked away and I felt like they were encouraged and equipped with credit union sheltered services, a plan, and knowledge to make S.M.A.R.T decisions with their financial lives.  The resources were going to be a lot more successful because something clicked. They said I can do this and I feel comfortable doing this.”

Mario is currently in conversations with several Corps about the training and is excited to talk with any other Corps that are interested. In the future, Mario hopes to provide the training as a day-long seminar or as 2-hour-long segments for each topic that the Corps wants to cover. All seminars are customized to fit your needs.  At the end of the training, Corpsmembers receive a certificate in recognition of their achievements and commitment to better their lives with sound money management habits.

Interested Corps can contact Mario by email, phone (703-801-5713), or through the Special Offers page of The Corps Network website’s Members Only section.

***This is a free service provided to all Members, Affiliates and AmeriCorps Basic Members of The Corps Network.

I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” - An Inspirational Corpsmember Speech from the Green City Force Graduation

Shella Hair, GCF Graduate and Corps Member speaker (Photo credit Anthony Clark)

A speech delivered by Corpsmember Shella Hair at the Green City Force Winter 2013 graduation ceremony

I would like to start by saying thank you to the Team Leaders, administration and staff of Green City Force. I would like to give special thanks to Lisbeth Shepherd for all she has done with GCF to make each cohort better.

Because of your support and encouragement, we are all here today celebrating this special day together. Also, I cannot forget this awesome group of Corps Members sitting in front of me. It has been a great pleasure to represent this Cohort; I couldn’t ask for a better group of people with whom to start a promising future!

Before this program I was living in a world guided by fear and failure; a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside of each of us; a world that sets us up for failure by giving us an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, work that does not need to be done, and enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. After High School they kick us out and say the future is ours with no manual instructions, not even a What’s Next After High School for Dummies book. Not every student is prepared for college and not every student is walking into a job. Most of us are just happy to graduate from High School.  They say the choice is ours, yet the truth is we have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, which is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

However failure became my best friend and fear was right around every corner I turned. I say failure became my best friend because it gave me an inner security that I had never attained from passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could not have learned any other way. I discovered that I had a strong will and more discipline than I had suspected. The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger after setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself or the strength of your relationships until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for if it is painfully won, it is worth more than any qualification I ever earned. So during those times failure came to my door, I embraced it with both arms opened wide.

We are all very special; every human on this planet. YES, each and every one of you.  So aren’t we all deserving of something better? Using our minds for innovation rather than memorization, for creativity rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? On February 4, 2013 I became a Corps Member of Green City Force and my entire life and outlook on life changed. I was given hope. I am no longer ashamed to say I am from NYCHA. In addition, after being a member of the Urban Farm Corps I found myself and discovered what I want to do with my life, my calling, and my passion:  Urban Agriculture. There’s something about taking vacant lots and fields and turning them into gardens and farms that provide fresh produce to the residents of that community. I love educating people of all ages on the importance of healthy eating, working with people to make a difference in their lives, and beautifying NYC with flowers, herbs, and vegetables! I was so inspired, I actually started a garden in my own development in the South Bronx.

The saddest part is that the majority of young adults do not have the opportunity to reflect as I did, experience the things I’ve done, or meet the people I’ve met. They weren’t given a second chance as I was. I will never be able to turn back these 23 years. I cannot run away to another country and start over. That part of my life is over, and going forward I want to make sure that no other young adult from public housing will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. Every young adult that lives in NYCHA from age 18 to 24 should be given the opportunity to be a part of Green City Force. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be – but only if we support one another rather than hold one another down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here because I am the best Corps Member, or because I am better than any of you. Truth is I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn’t have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, but at the base my backbone. In that way, we are all winners and we will all be successful.

Shella Hair, GCF Graduate Speaker (Photo credit Anthony Clark)

Looking around, we do not see the same people we saw on the first day of Green City Force. Some have left and others have given up, but we did not! We used GCF to move forward.  Before GCF, many of us were against all odds. Growing up in NYCHA made me feel worthless and useless; I became a product of my drug-infested, crime-ridden broken-down environment. I felt trapped. We all had challenges to face, but look at us now. We became AmeriCorps Service Members of Green City Force.  When the world labeled us and tried to break us down, we challenged it with our longevity to finish the program, beat them with our perseverance, and became a Force that is unstoppable.

I am now supposed to say farewell to Green City Force, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me. I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later,” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. In the long run I think it would be safe to say, leave behind what is not helpful and instead bring forward with you the lessons that will be the working parts of your greatest invention ever: Your life! Your future! Congratulations to us, Winter Cohort of 2013!

Green City Force Corpsmembers Featured in Music Video


Watch the new music video for the song “Ima Push,” by Gallo, to see Green City Force Corpsmembers in action! The video and song were produced through the Dream Reborn Song Competition, sponsored by Green For All. The competition looks for songs – by young musicians – “that spread a message of economic, social, and environmental justice.” The winner earns a $1,000 and the chance to shoot a music video. This year’s winning entry, “Ima Push,” is, as Green For All states, a song “…about finding a way to go on when you think you've got nothing left to give. Protecting our communities has never been more urgent. That means fighting pollution—by standing up to the fossil fuel industries. It also means making our neighborhoods more resilient—by investing in infrastructure and bringing green 
jobs and opportunity to the communities that need it most." The video features scenes of New Yorkers working to make their neighborhoods more sustainable, as well as scenes of the city recovering from Hurricane Sandy. Green City Force Corpsmembers can be seen throughout the video.


Click below to read about some of the ways GCF is helping youth and working to make New York City greener.


Green City Force Named Most Innovative Nonprofit in NYC by Mayor Bloomberg for Operating as Part of The Corps Network and AmeriCorps' Clean Energy Corps

Lisbeth Shepherd, Founder and Executive Director of Green City Force, and Wesley Booker, GCF Alum and current Community Environmental Center employee, accept NYC's Most Innovative Nonprofit Award from Mayor Bloomberg. The award recognizes nonprofits that exhibit "creative approaches and exemplary program implementation."

We are pleased to share wonderful news! Green City Force, one of our members who participates in The Corps Network's Clean Energy Corps program, has been named the most innovative nonprofit in New York City by the office of the mayor. A runner-up was also chosen.

"These organizations have proven records of improving lives in their communities, helping set New Yorkers on a path toward greater economic mobility," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "New York City continues to invest in innovative solutions to difficult challenges, and we are committed to supporting nonprofits that are doing the same."

Here is an excerpt from the press release published by Mayor Bloomberg's Office about Green City Force and the Clean Energy Corps program:

"Clean Energy Corps engages New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents between the ages of 18 and 24 on six-month environmental projects to educate on sustainability issues and provide critical work experience. Clean Energy Corps teams led the construction of Planters Grove at Lillian Wald Houses in 2011, an 8,000 square foot green space featuring a stormwater irrigation system.

Green City Force has produced a 78 percent graduation rate and a 65 percent job placement rate. On average, participants have achieved a full grade point increase in math or English. Following a two-week orientation, participant teams mobilize on community projects focused on energy efficiency, green infrastructure or urban agriculture. Each Friday is devoted to Green City Academy, a classroom component where participants learn environmental science, intensive math, career development, and technical skills. The program offers intensive follow-up over two years after graduation.

Located in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, Green City Force serves NYCHA youth who hold a GED or high school diploma but may lack the job skills, work experience or academic performance to secure career-track employment. Launched in 2009, Green City Force supports some of the key goals of PlaNYC—New York City's sustainability blueprint. Clean Energy Corps has served as a model for Americorps's national Clean Energy Service Corps, and has presented at the Clinton Global Initiative."

Green City Force will be awarded a first prize of $20,000 to support their work. Once again, please join us in congratulating them on this great honor!

The Green City Force Community Meeting


Green City Academy and the Community Meeting

It isn’t called Green City Force for nothing. The dictionary says that a “force” is a physical energy or power. Green City Force Corpsmembers show their power through their ability to educate people and make a real difference in how low-income New Yorkers consume energy. They display power by making a real difference in the lives of community members through service projects that range from food distribution at a local soup kitchen to Hurricane Sandy disaster cleanup. Corpsmembers also show power in their commitment to the Green City Force program and to each other. The main vehicle through which they express this commitment is the GCF Community meeting. 

Once a week, Corpsmembers gather for Green City Academy and the Community Meeting. Green City Academy, the classroom component of GCF, involves preparing Corpsmembers for green careers and higher education by helping them brush up on math and literacy skills and teaching them basic job readiness skills. Corpsmembers spend the day completing reading and writing assignments, meeting with career counselors, and working through the Roots of Success eco-literacy curriculum. All Corpsmembers also prepare for the Building Performance Institute certification needed for a career in energy efficiency auditing.

With just one day a week to cover classroom material and help Corpsmembers work towards their AmeriCorps Education Awards, Green City Academy can be very busy. The entire day isn’t spent in front of a whiteboard, however; for about one hour, after the books are put away, all Green City Force Corpsmembers and staff gather for the Community Meeting. The meeting is a chance for people to openly discuss their thoughts about the program and speak candidly about concerns or issues they have.

Everyone does not participate in the same meeting; for instance, the roughly two dozen EmPower Corpsmembers and their Team Leaders meet separately from the rest of the group. The EmPower Community Meeting begins with Announcements and a chance to discuss what the team accomplished over the previous week. This week, several Corpsmembers who had the chance to shadow building efficiency auditors talked about how they got hands on training in plastering, foam insulation installation, and window installation. Other Corpsmembers talk about how they met with the Green City Force Board of Directors earlier in the week.

Later in the meeting, it’s time for the Feedback Session. Corpsmembers and staff speak directly to one another and either give praise, or give positive reinforcement along with a suggestion for improvement. Corpsmembers encourage their peers to stay focused and not lose sight of their goals. They might use this opportunity to publically apologize to someone, to tell a friend that he needs to take the job more seriously, or to let someone know that they’re doing a good job. This open, honest communication allows for stronger bonding and more productive relationships. The Feedback Session also helps remind Corpsmembers why they came to the Corps in the first place; hearing personalized encouragement or concern from a peer might be just the right motivation a Corpsmember needs to get him or herself through the program.

Another section of the Community Meeting offers a chance for people to share their “hopes.” Corpsmembers and staff pass around a tiny potted tree and “water” the plant with their hopes for themselves, fellow crewmembrers, and the program. Corpsmembers that want to share a hope wait for their turn to hold the pot and stand in the middle of the group to speak. The whole process is professional and the hopes people share are insightful and sincere. Some of the hopes are very specific, while some of them apply to the whole group. This week, several Corpsmembers expressed the hope that everyone in the EmPower team would continue to grow and learn. One Corpsmember, who had seen Green City Force alumni warmly welcomed whenever they returned to visit their old supervisors, hoped for a day when he could make a triumphant return to Green City Force. Another Corpsmember who was concerned that he and his peers sometimes lacked motivation, expressed the hope that everyone on the team remain committed to the program and graduate with a sense of accomplishment.

“GCF is like a family. We do training and service and things like that, but at the end of the day we all come together because we’re a force. We’re a force moving towards the same goal,” he said. “We’re supposed to enjoy our time here because we’re here to learn. It’s only six months; it’s not like we’re going to be locked with each other forever. But we came together with a common goal and I feel like sometimes people lose that value. So my hope this week is that we can all appreciate what GCF is intended to give us.”



Improving Building Efficiency One Day...Tearing Buildings Down the Next


It’s windy and the weather is colder than the forecast predicted, but it’s easy to stay warm when you’re bundled in a head-to-toe Tyvek suit. Along with respirators, gloves and safety goggles, the suits are part of the uniform worn by the Green City Force Corpsmembers tasked with salvaging homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

It’s been almost six months since Sandy struck, but for some New Yorkers the storm might as well have just hit yesterday. Down in Sheepshead Bay, a neighborhood of Southern Brooklyn located along the Rockaway Inlet, many homes were completely inundated by storm surges. Even now, home interiors are still filled with mud-coated furniture. The walls are still covered in moldy sheetrock and wet insulation. Most families are simply not capable of addressing the storm damage on their own. This is where Green City Force comes in.

The goal of Green City Force, a Brooklyn-based Service Corps that enrolls residents of New York City Housing Authority buildings, is to end the cycle of poverty and protect the environment by training low-income young adults for “green collar” careers. The Corpsmembers, who range in age from 18 to 24, spend six months getting hands on training and learning about fields related to the clean energy economy, including energy efficiency, weatherization, urban agriculture, and improving community environmental health. Corpsmembers also participate in community service projects; but lately many of their additional service projects have focused on Sandy recovery.  

Today, a cloudy Thursday in mid-April, marks the third time that this team of Green City Force Corpsmembers has helped with the Sheepshead Bay cleanup efforts, building on the work of last Fall’s Corpsmembers. Using prepaid MetroCards issued by Green City Force, many Corpsmembers have traveled well over an hour to get here. Their first stop is a trailer run by Occupy Sandy; a coalition of Occupy Wall Street members working to distribute volunteers and resources in storm-damaged neighborhoods. Green City Force and Occupy Sandy are not officially affiliated, but the Corps has arranged to spend the day volunteering in whatever homes Occupy Sandy has scheduled for cleanup.


At the trailer, about 10 Corpsmembers from the Green City Force EmPower Team and their Crew Leader, Kenta Darley-Usmar, gather protective gear, trash bags and crowbars. Their first job today will involve taking down the sheetrock and fiberglass insulation from the interior of a damaged storage room. The walls and insulation - wet, muddy, and covered in mold - crumble easily, necessitating the use of respirators. Corpsmembers use hammers and crowbars to break holes in the walls, then use their hands to pull down the sheetrock. Other Corpsmembers collect the debris in trash bags and take it to the curb.

After a pizza lunch provided by the grateful owners of the storage room, the EmPower team heads off to another house. This second home has already had the sheetrock and insulation removed, so Corpsmembers get to work pulling out moldy kitchen cabinets, doors and door frames. Some Corpsmembers wait outside and use hammers to remove nails and staples from the wood. Though they admit there’s something therapeutic about being able to tear things down, the Corpsmembers are solemn and very respectful of the property.


“It feels good to help families. This is a lot of work so you know there’s no way they could’ve done it on their own. But we get it done,” said Angie Lacy, a Corpsmember with the EmPower team.

Angie and a fellow Corpsmember, Angela Almonte, commented on how helping muck out damaged homes is in many ways easier than the outreach work they do as members of the EmPower team. Except for on service days like this one, the EmPower team normally spends four days a week doing environmental education in low-income neighborhoods. Their main job is to inform eligible residents about a state program through which they can receive energy efficient appliances for free. Corpsmembers then help with the application process and follow-up work. The team also distributes CFL light bulbs and information about ways people can reduce their utility bills. Eventually the Corpsmembers will become certified to actually do energy efficiency audits and install aerators and eco-friendly appliances. As Angela points out, helping muck out damaged homes is actually very applicable to the program’s main goal because it allows Corpsmembers the opportunity to learn about building safety and see the skeletal structure of buildings.

Angela discusses how the EmPower team’s outreach work can often be challenging because it involves having to get the attention of sometimes reluctant residents and then gain their trust. Whereas tearing down a wall is pretty straightforward, outreach work can be unpredictable. When they can, the team tries to set up their table in front of an apartment building that has a looped driveway so that residents can see there are multiple Corpsmembers all working together.

“Sometimes people kind of don’t feel like they’re being helped,” said Angela. “But it’s a really good feeling when you see that they know they’re being helped and they really appreciate it.”

Angela and Angie are both very dedicated to completing the six months of GCF and continuing on to college. Angela hopes to study architecture, while Angie wants to pursue a degree in biology. Both young women have an interest in science that brought them to Green City Force in the first place -- Angela attended the Gateway Academy for Environmental Research and Technology; a public high school where she had the chance to take classes in biotechnology and robotics. Angie took botany in school and excelled in environmental science. When Angela heard about GCF from her mother, and Angie saw a flyer for the program in her apartment building, they were both intrigued by the prospect of gaining green industry job experience.

“I’ve learned a lot while I’ve been here. It’s opened my eyes to a lot of things, like how the earth really is warming up, and how we’re running out of resources,” said Angie. “We’ve been to a lot of places and we’ve experienced a lot of things – things I definitely wouldn’t have experienced on my own. Our resumes are going to look great by the end of this.” 

Providing Relief – What Corps Have Done to Assist in Hurricane Sandy Recovery Efforts


Washington Conservation Corps members remove damaged household items from a flooded home

Hurricane Sandy took lives, destroyed homes and businesses, and left millions of people without power. As the storm bore down on the Northeast coast during the last days of October, Corps across the country were already mobilizing to help with the relief effort. Corpsmembers have played a significant role in helping communities in New York, New Jersey and 5 other states recover and rebuild.

Some Corps worked through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and FEMA, while others organized independent of the federal response. Some Corps worked in shelters, while others cleared debris. Some Corps travelled thousands of miles to assist in the relief efforts, while other Corps worked in their own backyards.

Find out which Corps have been involved in Sandy recovery, read about what they’ve done to help, and see pictures from the field:

Corps Involved in recovery efforts 

Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa Corpsmembers “mucking out” a home damaged by flood water

What are some of the things Corps have done?

  • Operated emergency shelters throughout New York City: managed volunteers, monitored and assisted residents, cared for children and pets, maintained the facilities
  • Cleared debris
  • Cut down damaged trees and limbs
  • “Mucking out” - removing water and water damaged items and building materials from homes and businesses affected by flooding
  • Solicited donations of food and emergency supplies from individuals and businesses not hit as hard by the storm
  • Operated distribution centers and packaged emergency supplies for Sandy victims in need of food, water, blankets, clothing, toiletries, and other necessities
  • Canvassed neighborhoods to find people in need and spread information about repair work
  • Restored parks damaged by high winds 

NYRP clearing a downed tree in New York City 

AmeriCorps NCCC/FEMA Corps members assisting with water distribution in Far Rockaway, NY.

Get more pictures and more information on the recovery efforts and Corpsmember experiences

Student Conservation Association (SCA) Corpsmember in New Jersey

Southwest Conservation Corps members working with FDNY

Utah Conservation Corps members surrounded by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy 

Green City Force Corpsmembers and staff serving food 

Montana Conservation Corps members organize supplies at a distribution center

New Jersey Youth Corps clearing a downed tree







2011 Project of the Year: Over 1/2 Million Square Feet of Cool Roofs


Winner: Green City Force

Over the past 7 months Green City Force, a recent start-up corps, has participated in the New York Cool Roofs campaign with the NYC Department of Buildings, NYC Service, and the Community Environmental Center (CEC). The goal of the campaign was to paint 1 million square feet of rooftops with a reflective coating that can lead to energy savings of 18% in a building.

The white coating (a titanium paint mixture) works to reflect up to 85% of the sun’s rays during hot summer months, lowering the electrical costs needed to cool a building. Green City Force (GCF) was tasked with coating half of the 1 million square feet.

To date, they have surpassed that goal, having coated and cleaned over 600,000 square feet. But as an added bonus, many of Green City Force’s Corpsmembers have become leaders and people capable of recruiting others to this cause.

In May, when the Corpsmembers of GCF’s most recent cycle first started, they had yet to demonstrate their job readiness, professionalism, or ability to interact with their community. Only 6 of the 24 individuals had been employed in the previous year, and these individuals all had low-paying seasonal jobs. By having them paint rooftops, interact with residents on the way to roofs, and arrive at worksites promptly at 8 am, GCF Corpsmembers gained new confidence and understanding of what it takes to succeed.

One of GCF’s partners, Community Environmental Center, became so impressed with the dedication and professionalism of Corpsmembers that they asked GCF if Corpsmembers could supervise volunteers on some of their projects. GCF volunteers rose to the need, sometimes supervising up to 100 volunteers on large rooftops. Corpsmembers handled logistics like making sure brushes, paints, and other supplies were ready for volunteers. In addition to surpassing its square footage goal, GCF has recruited over 1000 volunteers and Corpsmembers have supervised work at over 10 sites. These numbers indicate a significant transformation for Corpsmembers.

To go from disconnected and unemployed to supervising fellow citizens in a project to better the environment and save energy costs, GCF’s Corpmembers have demonstrated admirable leadership, persistence, and professionalism.

2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Maurice Davis

“As a young person, it’s easy to feel directionless and full of self-doubt,” says Maurice Davis. “Often, you don’t put yourself forward, accepting life’s dire circumstances. But when you do take that first step, you are surprised. When you open doors, you find your calling.”

After finishing high school, Maurice had dreams of entering construction work, but he was unable to get a job without experience. Like over 50 percent of young people living in New York City public housing, which counts nearly half a million residents, Maurice was unemployed and fought to maintain hope in an atmosphere of entrenched poverty.

“Instead of discovering ways to improve myself, I accepted my stereotypes,” says Maurice. “I started to believe that I had no potential.” After seeing a flyer in his building, Maurice applied to Green City Force, and was one of 30 selected from nearly 200 applicants to become part of GCF’s Clean Energy Corps.

Corpsmembers perform energy audits and help educate residents about energy efficiency in low-income neighborhoods. While starting a rigorous new training schedule for the Corps that included green job preparation and remedial education, Maurice continued taking care of his disabled mother and bringing his nieces to school each morning. Throughout the program, Maurice was professional and learned to lean on others as they worked towards a common goal: graduation, academic progress, and the satisfaction of completing GCF service projects.

“I’m elevated; I can say I’m on the track for a career, simply because I made an investment in myself. Now, my goal is to rise up in the field of making buildings more energy efficient. I expect to go to college, and to work my way towards a management role.”

Maurice has gained the attention of several interested employers, and in September 2011, Maurice spent a substantial amount of time working on a new park with The Corps Network and Planters Peanuts, work which was in many ways a culmination of his service experience. Maurice, a resident of the neighborhood in which the “Planters Grove” Park was built, committed to being one of two corpsmembers who will provide maintenance and upkeep at the park over the coming year. Maurice will work with a five-person committee of public housing resident volunteers to maintain the park’s diverse gardens. At the dedication of the park, Maurice gave an address talking about his own life and what the park meant to him. Through his address and his continuing commitment to Planters Grove, Maurice has become the face of Green City Force to Lower East Side public housing residents and to the city, state, and federal officials gathered for the opening. Maurice was quoted in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez chose the event to unveil the Civic Corps Jobs Act, an important step forward for the Corps movement.

Through GCF’s EmPower team and his role at Planters Grove, Maurice has discovered a love of working with people that he hopes to incorporate in his career. At a time when AmeriCorps and energy efficiency programs risk defunding, Maurice stands for the ideals of the Clean Energy Corps: an individual with a strong ethic of service, who has found renewed faith in himself, a career path and job related to energy efficiency, and a chance to prove himself as a leader and inspire others through his achievements.

Corpsmember Success Story: Joshua Edwards

Before attending the Green City Force graduation on June 29, 2012, 21-year-old Josh Edwards had not participated in a graduation ceremony since the 8th grade. For Josh, completing the Green City Force program was not just an accomplishment – it was a new beginning. As Josh said:

“[After] graduation, I got home that night and I just looked at the awards. You get an acceptance award and you get a completion award and I had them both in my hand and it felt so special knowing that I started something, I got into something on my own, and I finished it on my own…It was empowering.”

 Josh grew up in public housing in Brooklyn. His high school career is not something he is particularly proud of; he says he fell in with the wrong crowd and struggled to do well in his classes. He ended up needing to go to school for an extra year to complete all his credits. Josh says he felt lost and started to accept that he might spend his life working dead end jobs. Then his mother received an email about Green City Force – a Brooklyn based organization that trains and educates disconnected young New Yorkers (ages 18 to 24) for careers in the green industry. Josh was so intrigued by the opportunity to join Green City Force that he went all the way to Harlem to attend an information session about the program.

 As Josh says, getting into the program was not easy, but just the application process alone was a very good experience.

 “There are tryouts, an interview. It’s like you’re getting a real job,” said Josh. “You’re treated like an adult, you’re treated like a professional. And that’s just the entry point.”

 Josh says he was completely blown away by his first few weeks with Green City Force. He had never learned about green industries before and was amazed to hear facts and figures about water usage and ways to reduce utility bills in public housing buildings like the one where he lives.

 Josh continues to work for Green City Force on a part-time basis. He now does maintenance work at Planter’s Grove: an 8,000 square foot park – constructed by 2011 Green City Force Corpsmembers – located in New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA) Lillian Wald Houses in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Josh is now looking forward to starting college in January 2013. He hopes to study accounting and perhaps one day combine accounting skills with his passion for the environment.

 “I maybe want to become an accountant for a green business or something like that. That way I’d be doing two things that I love at the same time,” said Josh.

 Josh says Green City Force helped him build his confidence back and helped him understand that he is just as entitled to opportunities as anyone else. He says that before his Green City Force experience, he never knew his own potential.

“I’m already 21 and I already kind of lost three years since I was 18,” said Josh. “But I’m going to get back. This is a fresh start and I want to take everything that I can.”

On April 1, 2013, Josh began serving a second AmeriCorps term with Green City Force as a Junior Team Leader.