Mary Ellen's Blog: TCN on the Map

Less than two weeks ago, I sat in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just off the West Wing of the White House, listening to the stories of four inspiring young adults from member programs of The Corps Network. There was Ray Santos, a Youth Opportunity AmeriCorps Crew Leader from American YouthWorks (AYW) in Texas, who uses his own experience as a formerly court-involved AYW Corpsmember to lead formerly-incarcerated and at-risk Corpsmembers. There was Kenesha Jackson, a young mother who, with the help of Greater Miami Service Corps, reimagined her future and enrolled in college. We heard from Aisha Dorn, a Civic Works alumna who used knowledge she gained during her term of service to start her own brownfield remediation company in Baltimore, MD. And there was Katherine Martinez, a young woman who experienced a boost in self-confidence and became a strong leader while developing tangible job skills through Curlew Job Corps’ welding program.

These four young adults were The Corps Network’s representatives at a White House Community Leaders Briefing on the topic of Corps and the role national service can play in creating opportunities for diverse young people. I applaud Ray, Kenesha, Aisha and Katherine for their willingness and courage to share their stories of service and transformation, especially in front of top officials from the White House, the EPA, and the Departments of Labor, Energy, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development.  They were an excellent representation of the thousands of extraordinary young people enrolled in the 100+ programs of The Corps Network. There are many Corpsmembers all across the country who, like the four individuals who spoke at the White House, are transforming their communities while also transforming their own lives.

Those of us in the Corps community have heard similar personal stories to those that were shared at the White House. We know from firsthand experience how service in a Corps can help a young person get on the right track, plan for the future and develop into a successful, community-conscious adult. What was exciting about this month was that through the White House briefing, as well as through The Corps Network’s Annual Day of Service, the transformative power of Corps was shared with people outside of the Corps world who previously might not have ever heard of The Corps Network or Service and Conservation Corps.

At the White House briefing, The Corps Network was introduced to important Obama administration officials, like Hallie Schneir, Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls; and Roy L. Austin, Jr., Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity. At The Day of Service, The Corps Network gained recognition in the nation’s capital through high-visibility service projects at four DC-area National Park Service sites. I am proud to say that in our second year of hosting the Day of Service we were able to attract nearly double the volunteers, double the sponsors, and double the number of participating Corps.

The Corps Network is on the map. I feel confident that now, more than any other time during my tenure with The Corps Network, Corps are seen by a wide range of people as a tested and trusted model for improving our communities, protecting the environment, and creating opportunities for diverse young people. We’re in a good place to maintain this trend and expand awareness. I know that Corps will only continue to impress as they go about their daily business of making the world a better place. 


Our Staff Visits Florida Corps as part of Effort to Develop Gulf Coast Restoration Corps

Staff members from The Corps Network, including Vice President Marie Walker and Gulf Coast Restoration Corps Director of Development John Hosey recently had the privilege of visiting two members of The Corps Network in South Florida. Their time with Community Training Works, Inc. and Greater Miami Service Corps was a refreshing reminder about all the great work our network members are doing across the country making a difference in their lives of in the communities where they serve.

Community Training Works, Inc. crews work out of a number of locations across the state of Florida. Our staff members were pleased to get to know Chris Butler and his crew working in the Ft. Lauderdale area.  The crew work for the local Department of Corrections and Department of Transportation repairing and installing security fences as requested. You don’t have to be around these young men long to see the difference this program has made in their lives. When asked why he choose this program, Chris said, “I want to provide a good living for my wife and children and I always wanted to find a place I could learn a trade and have a future."

The Greater Miami Service Corps is also making a big difference in the lives of dozens of young adults every day. They have teams that work across the Miami-Dade County area on projects that are as diverse as the members themselves. The teams are made up of intercity youth (18-26) who come from a variety of culturally diverse backgrounds. Many of the members attend classes and earn a high school diploma and/or a degree from the Miami-Dade Community College system.

The Corps Network (TCN) wants to thank these wonderful Corps programs for all their hard work and accomplishments. Their success is based on a number of ingredients that come together to make something special. One of these special ingredients are the program directors and support staff. They dedicate countless hours and energy towards helping young adults succeed and find a productive place in their local communities.

As TCN continues to develop plan for creating the Gulf Coast Restoration Corps, John Hosey is traveling across the region introducing existing corps programs to the GCRC project. This visit to south Florida was such an effort as John and Marie met with the Directors for both programs. “We are always looking for ways to include existing Corps programs in our plans to start the Restoration Corps in the Gulf Region. This visit allowed us to see successful programs in action and identify some of their best practices that may be replicated in the new Corps” commented John Hosey.  

Greater Miami Service Corps and The Corps Network Meet with U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson

Greater Miami Service Corps along with Mary Ellen Ardouny and Tyler Wilson from the Corps Network were happy to be able to meet with U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson at her Miami District Office recently.

During the meeting Representative Wilson learned about the great work Corps are doing in Miami and nationwide to engage youth and how that can be replicated through The Youth Corps Act. We also learned of Rep. Wilson’s passion for youth development and the non-profit she started called the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project.

2008 Project of the Year: Quality Neighborhoods Improvement Program

Winner: Greater Miami Service Corps


Through the Quality Neighborhood Improvement Program (QNIP), Corpsmembers repair and/or install sidewalks in local neighborhoods.  Since April 2007, 16 Corpsmembers have received hands-on experience installing 13,961 linear feet of sidewalk.  This partnership is mutually beneficial to all partners, achieving each entity’s organizational goals.  QNIP enhances property values in inner-city areas, many of which never had sidewalks.  In addition, Corpsmembers are trained and prepared for work opportunities in the construction field, a high growth area in South Florida. 

The partners include: Miami Dade County Board of Commissioners (set-aside funding for youth workforce development opportunities); Community Action Agency (intermediary with that allows Corps to obtain contract); The Office of Capital Management (policy support and tracking of all capital project completion); Miami-Dade Public Works (project oversight and inspections); Rainbow Enterprises (engineering sub-contractor and project superintendent); Miami-Dade Public Schools/Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center (academic, vocational, and GED training/scholarships); Miami Gardens Job Corps (academic and vocational training for co-enrolled youth); and The Greater Miami Service Corps (pre-employment and life skills, work experience, service learning, counseling, educational opportunities, internships, and job placement).

2012 Project of the Year: Miami Crime Mitigation Program


Winner: Greater Miami Service Corps

Traditionally, the boarding up of foreclosed and abandoned properties is completed by the banks or private companies. These entities charge exorbitant service fees which are sometimes transferred to the homeowner. To address this problem and to also mitigate crime associated with these kinds of properties (including theft and vandalism), the Greater Miami Service Corps initiated a new project to provide a cost effective, quality service that includes boarding up homes and cleaning the exterior of each property.

The program engages several partners, including the Miami-Dade Department of Permitting, Environment, and Regulatory Affairs and Miami-Dade Police Department. The program not only provides a revenue generating opportunity for the Corps, it also saves homeowners money. In addition, the work serves to provide a business training opportunity by teaching Corpsmembers how to determine required supplies needed to board up a building, its windows, doors, pools, and so forth. It also provides members with skills training in the construction industry and serves as a restorative justice project for Civic Justice Corps programs, thereby increasing positive behaviors. In addition to training, members are also working in cooperation with police to mitigate criminal activity within the Miami-Dade community.

The impact on Corpsmembers participating in this program is significant. 14 of the 17 Corpsmembers (82%) received national industry certifications including green credentials from the National Center for Construction Education Research (NCCER). Members also earned post-secondary elective credits with the University of Florida. Three members earned their High School Diploma and another three members were scheduled to earn their diploma by January 2012. It is also important to note that 29% of the 17 participants are former offenders. This project served as a restorative justice project for these members to give back to the communities they may have harmed.

Corpsmembers have impacted the community by mitigating crime on over 220 abandoned or foreclosed properties. The value of the support to the Miami-Dade Department of Permitting, Environment and Regulatory Affairs through Code Enforcement and the Miami-Dade Police Department is approximated at over $500,000 dollars.