Next Generation of Aquatic Restoration Leaders: Abbey Toomer

 

Operated by Trout Headwaters, Inc., Waders in the Water (WitW) is an interactive, webinar-delivered training that instructs students in common restoration industry tools, techniques, and processes, workplace safety, and proven, practical, & innovative habitat enhancement. WitW graduates have a path to projects, jobs, and careers in the $10B/Yr restoration economy. Corps that offer the WitW training are better positioned to participate in the growing number of public-private restoration partnerships with for-profit, non-profit and government entities.

This summer, The Corps Network and THI are partnering on a blog series to highlight young adults who have benefited from the WitW experience.

 


She grew up in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas where she loved to fish Lake Norfork and the White River with her Dad and Grandfather, “Pa”. It was this draw to nature and the outdoors that, in 2011, led Abbey Toomer to join Florida’s Community Training Works, Inc., also known as Young American Conservation Corps. 

Starting as an office assistant in 2011, Abbey, now 28, learned the ins and outs of financing and managing a Corps. After three years in this position, she transitioned to working in the field and training other crewmembers.

Over the years, Abbey numerous certifications and completed trainings in proper ax usage, Wilderness First Aid and CPR, and wildland firefighter basic management. She also completed the Waders in the Water training, which introduced her to water safety and the concept of how all environmental systems are connected. With this experience, Abbey spent three months in Mississippi training new Corpsmembers with Climb CDC Conservation Corps in skills such as endangered species tracking, processing, handling, and cataloging invasive species.

Abbey has worked mostly in the Florida Panhandle, but has also worked in Ft. Lauderdale, St. Augustine, and on the Florida National Scenic Trail. Recently, she and her crewmembers are worked with the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory to expand Living Dock; a learning platform used by thousands of school children, marine biology and aquaculture students, and medical and scientific researchers. They also recently partnered with Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory on oyster restoration, coastal restoration and trail maintenance.

Abbey believes the Waders in the Water program provided her insight into new perspectives on nature. While she has always considered herself environmentally conscious and tries to live as “green” as possible, Abbey’s made some changes since the training. She now uses a “First, Do No Harm” approach in her work, pausing to assess both the environment and proposed solutions before taking any action. She asks herself, “Is this solution really the BEST thing to do for nature and this particular habitat?" Abbey strives to help Mother Nature heal herself, instead of counting on nature to fix whatever problems humans impose. She now considers the unique qualities and needs of each project location, knowing that, in restoration or rehab work, one size rarely fits all. 

The professional training she has received through WitW gave Abbey greater confidence to work on bigger restoration projects and communicate more knowledgably with land and project managers. She is excited about continuing Gulf Coast restoration work and looks forward to, along with her team, applying the knowledge she gained through WitW.

“So many folks living in rural Arkansas, and other communities throughout the US that struggle with crippling high unemployment, could really benefit from this training,” reflected Abbey. “These folks would not only become better job candidates for organizations and companies restoring lands and waters, but they would also improve their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities, for many years to come.” 

Sweat and Long Hours: Texas Conservation Corps Puts in the Work to Maintain Trails

Corps play an essential role in helping address the maintenance backlog on America’s public trails. In 2016 alone, young adults enrolled in member organizations of The Corps Network built or improved almost 22,000 miles of trail!

In honor of National Trails Day this Saturday, June 3, we’re recognizing Trails Across Texas (TAT), an AmeriCorps program of Austin-based Texas Conservation Corps (TxCC) at American YouthWorks. Learn about how the TAT crew connects their community to trails and helps get more people outdoors.


 

Meet the Crew Leaders:

Trail work isn’t easy. Keeping popular public trails in operation requires hours of physical labor, often in harsh conditions. However, as the members of the Trails Across Texas (TAT) program at Austin-based Texas Conservation Corps will tell you, maintaining trails is one of the most rewarding jobs out there.

“Trail crews put in sweat and long hours to make the public's experience greater,” said Ian Munoz, a TAT Crew Leader. “It’s hard, but I do it because it brings me joy like nothing else. I am constantly motivated by my surroundings when I’m working on a trail. Having the chance to work on or create something that people from all over can come to enjoy will keep me working on a trail crew for as long as I can.”

Born and raised in El Paso, Munoz is a self-described “Texas Outdoorsman” who joined TAT to give back to his home state. He recently led a project at Bastrop State Park in Central Texas. Using chainsaws and a range of hand tools – including mattocks, Pulaskis, shovels and McLeods – the crew removed hazardous trees and constructed hundreds of feet of new tread for the Lost Pine Loop.   

“With all of these tools comes daily maintenance and skills to keep them working well,” said Munoz. “The skills needed for chainsaw operation and hazard felling can be overwhelming, but safety and sound judgement are essential. With trail digging comes the skill to understand the science of water-flow and erosion.”
 


 

Managing water-flow is critical to maintaining trails. Karissa Killian, another TAT Crew Leader, also recently served at Bastrop. In addition to felling hazardous trees, her crew removed woody debris from the downslope of the trail. This allows water to flow off the trail instead of pooling.

“Trail crews maintain trails so that users can enjoy them,” said Killian. “We focus on making trails sustainable so that they can be used by many future generations.”

A native of Salt Lake City, Killian graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science. Her first job was with a U.S. Forest Service trails and wilderness crew. Her passion for this work led her to the TAT program, where she became immersed in the routine of working and living outdoors on multi-day assignments, or “hitches.”

“I enjoy working outside, using my hands, and being engaged in physical activity,” said Killian. “[Trail work] is like working in a community. Everyone is so nice and supportive. It can be a hard transition to living on hitch for most of your time, but it is rewarding to make close connections with other crewmembers.”

The TAT crewmembers are a diverse group of young men and women. Some came to TAT with experience in the outdoors, while others came from office jobs, looking to get more in touch with nature. As AmeriCorps members, these young adults receive a modest stipend for their service and can receive an AmeriCorps education award (scholarship) upon completing their service. Through their day-to-day service with the TAT program, the crewmembers gain the skills and experience to later seek jobs in conservation and lands management. Here are some of their insights from the trail.

 

 

Meet Trails Across Texas Crewmembers:

Carl Woody
Age: 28
Austin, TX

“Before this I did a previous AmeriCorps program, but before that I was working at a law office for about 3 years. So, this is a little bit different from what I’ve been doing before.”

“I absolutely feel more connected with nature. When it is your office and your home, you kind of have to appreciate it. You learn to really care for what’s important and how important it is to take care of the environment. It’s the only one we’ve got, so we might as well take the best care of it we can.”

“Well, trail work requires a lot of communication and team work. It’s 10 people trying to accomplish one goal at the same time, so you have to really know how to work with each other and communicate well.

“What do I like the most? I just like working with my hands a lot. Getting dirty, hard work, sweating a lot, obviously. What do I like the least? Probably sweating a lot…it’s hot and nasty outside here most of the time.”

“I’m actually going to graduate school next fall for environmental policy and environmental science. So, keep fighting the good fight!”

 

Brigid MulRoe
Age: 22
Malta, NJ

“Before I joined this program, I graduated from college a year ago and I did another Conservation Corps last fall, just for 3 months. I liked it so much; I got a little taste of the Conservation Corps world and decided that I wanted to do more, so I joined the Texas Conservation Corps for a 5-month term.”

My perspective on the environment has definitely changed since I’ve been living outside every day in a tent. We’re definitely forced to get up close and personal with the dirt and bugs and the rain, but I have really enjoyed it! I think that I feel a lot more connected to the work that I’m doing than if I were just sitting in an office thinking about it.”

“I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was. Just the fact that I’m capable of doing this work has surprised me and made me think about myself a lot differently”

“I really enjoy hitch life and living with a group of 10 people that are coming from different places and have totally different perspectives on everything, but working as a team when working on the trail or camp life. The thing I like the least, at least for this week is the bugs. Bombarded with ants, mosquitoes, chiggers, so we’re all learning to deal with that.”

“I’m planning on doing another AmeriCorps program. An emergency response program in St. Louis.”

 

Arturo Gonzalez
Age: 25
Salinas, CA

“Before this program I was in a back country trails crew with an AmeriCorps program with a California Conservation Corps. My supervisor told me about the TxCC program, so I came here after that.”

“I feel like I already was connected to nature. I really love nature, so even though I enjoyed it before, I still enjoy it now.”

“Being on this crew has taught me that you don’t need technology or a lot of the stuff that you’re used to having.”

“The things I enjoy the most about being on TAT crew is probably all the hiking and the general work itself, especially backcountry style rock work. My least favorite is probably chores, especially dishes.”

“Right after this, I’m not sure what I want to do, but I am gold-listed to be a sponsor for a backcountry trails crew.”

 

Michael “Mikey” Thomas
Age: 29
Rhode Island & Austin, TX

“I’m originally from Rhode Island but I’ve lived in Texas since I was 15 years old. I have lived in Austin for 11 years now. Before I joined TxCC, I was a kitchen lead at a restaurant. I have been doing that, primarily, my whole life. I was traveling and playing music, also.”

“I would say I always felt connected to nature, but through this program I feel more so.”

“As for what I’ve learned through this program - Lots of technique, but as far as life skills or lessons, there is a level of contentment that you learn when you’re outside, away from everything for 10 days at a time. You find pleasure in simple things; when you go back into the city, that carries over. So, I’m more content in general.”

“I love the work itself. I like the lifestyle of living in a small group and sharing food. I also like the solitude and rock, tread, and chainsaw work. There’s nothing I don’t really like. I enjoy working with my hands, so I like it all.”

“The initial goal coming here was to get a job doing park maintenance, but after doing this for a long time, I think I would like to eventually get into trail design and layout.”

 

Ryan Garwood
North Texas

“I’ve been living in Austin, TX for about 5 years now. Originally, I am from North Texas. Before this, I was working in an automotive shop.”

“I joined this program to do something new. I started working in the shop and being in the daily grind, and then I found this job on Craigslist. I didn’t know it was in Austin and I had been living in Austin for 5 years and never heard about it. Thankfully I found it and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

“Since working on this crew, I feel way more connected to nature now. Being out 10 days at a time, you definitely get one-on-one with nature. One of the biggest things I have learned is just how powerful nature really is. That it can rebuild itself; the elements are very powerful.”

“The most valuable lesson I have learned is walk in a single file line, not shoulder to shoulder so you don’t broaden the trail out.”

I like the comradery of the trail crew. It’s like a family environment everyone has each other’s back. Do chores, one person does one thing, and another person does another thing and it all works out. My least favorite thing is probably the bugs and insects, and creepy crawlies.”

“After my term of service, I would like to do another term, but, at the end of the day, I would like to be in Texas Parks and Wildlife or do some firefighting. That would be cool.”

 

Anna Jones
Age: 21
Waco, TX

“Before this I was working in a zoo at their gift shop, and before that I was working as a grocery store clerk. I heard about TxCC on Reddit and it sounded like something I would be interested in and maybe a career field that I would like to move towards. I’m really glad I made the decision!”

“I do feel more connected to nature. I’ve never really camped a lot in my life, only once before this program. It’s a different experience completely to be out in the wilderness for 10 days at a time. Especially out at Cap Rock where we were primitive camping, which was a unique experience but I really enjoyed it! Something I have learned about nature is that it is amazing what the environment can do. Out at Cap Rock we had to the stone staircase, because the rain just carves out gullies and stuff. Erosion is a big thing, it’s amazing what can happen to the earth over a span of a few years.”

“Honestly, my favorite part about this work is probably camp related things. Learning how to live out here and learning to live with minimal things. It’s a very different life than living in the city with all of these things you think you need, until you just go out into the wilderness and realize you don’t need any of them.”

“I think what I enjoy the most is honestly the comradery in the crew. You get so close with these people, working with them 10 days at a time and living with them for hours. My least favorite thing is probably the bugs. I love animals, just not insects. They get in my tent and it’s very upsetting.”

“After this, I plan to go back and finish off my degree. I want to get a degree in Wildlife Biology.”

 

Josh DelRio
Age: 28

“I joined TxCC for a new experience. Before TxCC, I was playing Rock n’ Roll and working for a moving company.”

“My perspective on nature has changed. What I’ve learned is that nature heals itself pretty readily, considering what humans do to it. That’s definitely the best thing I have learned about trails and nature.”

The most valuable skill I have learned is how to live outside for more than a week. Definitely got that on lock down.

“Being on a trail crew, at least for TAT, we’ve been to a lot of different areas. So, being able to go to all of those places and different environments were the coolest part. My least favorite, recently, is the chiggers.”

“After my term of service, I would like to get into wildland firefighting. Hopefully get the Travis County fire rescue gig. Somewhere around there, chainsaws are cool and fire is awesome. After seeing that at Cooper Lake, that probably sparked my interest very much.”

 

 

 

Corps and National Forests - Video and Blog Post

Travis Wick, an intern serving out the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region (Region 4), created this film about the partnerships between Corps and the Forest Service. Corps help complete mission-critical projects at National Forests throughout the country; this video specifically looks at Corps serving at Forests in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. Below, read a blog post from Wyoming Conservation Corps related to this work. 

 

Conservation Corps in the Rocky Mountain West

Evan Townsend, Wyoming Conservation Corps
(April 13, 2017)

FOR THOSE of us who have participated in conservation corps, we know how formative those summers or even 10 months are for our lives. Imagine crews of 4, 6, or 8 people from all over the country coming together to serve their country, communities, and public land (and waters). Young people and military veterans from all walks of life come together for a common cause – to serve others before themselves and in doing so, that service makes us better people.

Katie Woodward, a crew leader for the Utah Conservation Corps, speaks in 2016 but these words could have easily come from a member in the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930’s:

“Conservation work serves a duel purpose of one hand doing a critical part to take care of our lands but also to serve something for ourselves.”

Thanks to the U.S. Forest Service’s Travis Wick for directing this video and also to the Northwest Youth Corps for posting this. The conservation corps of the Rocky Mountain West are proud to have such great neighbors and we are proud to serve our country with them. Featured in this video are members from this video:

Actions You Can Take to Help Protect AmeriCorps

In this current budget cycle, AmeriCorps could face major cuts or even total elimination. This would be a major blow to the member organizations of The Corps Network and the young people and communities our Corps serve.

Creating the federal budget is a long process that involves many players, but Congress ultimately decides what gets funded. Here are some steps you can take to show support for AmeriCorps.*
 


REACH THE WHITE HOUSE:
Do you, your organization, or your organization’s board members/sponsors/funders have any connections to the White House? This includes any connections you may have with Republican Governors. If so, let us know ASAP. We have a small window to let the Administration know it's a mistake to include AmeriCorps on the elimination list.

 

TARGET APPROPRIATORS: 
Reach out key members of Congress who sit on the Labor, HHS Appropriations Subcommittees in the House and Senate. Encourage your organization’s board members and partners to do the same. Congress will ultimately decide whether AmeriCorps survives.

REQUEST APPROPRIATIONS: 
Reach out to your Members of Congress (House and Senate) and let them know that you want them to support appropriations requests for AmeriCorps and other key CNCS programs. See this message we’ve sent out to the network. Cut and paste the CNCS/AmeriCorps requests into an email or word doc, and send to your Member of Congress and ask for their support on these funding levels. 
 

ENGAGE PARTNERS IN MEDIA OUTREACH:
Identify a Republican Governor, Mayor, State Legislator or former Member of Congress who could write an Op-Ed or Letters to the Editor. We need outside Republican voices who can validate the local impact of AmeriCorps. Let us know if you have connections with any such officials so we can help craft the message. It is more than likely that AmeriCorps members have, in some way, helped improve your community. Now is the time to ask your elected officials for their help. 
 

CALL YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS:
Join with the national service community today to let you Senators and House Member know that #AmeriCorpsWorks and #CorpsWork! Simply click this link, enter your information, and you’ll be connected with both your Senators and House Member on the same call and given a short script.

of Congress to urge them to support AmeriCorps. You can do so by using the online systems of BOTH Service Year Alliance and Voices for National Service. We need all the help we can get, so encourage your friends and coworkers to make their voices heard, too!


STRATEGIZE:
Join The Corps Network's National Service Coalition on Thursday, February 23, at 1:00pm EST. During this call, we'll discuss the service community's united national strategy, and how Corps should be engaged.
 

GET SOCIAL: 
Post your support for AmeriCorps on social media using the hashtags #AmeriCorpsWorks and #CorpsWork. Use photos and stories to show the huge LOCAL impact AmeriCorps has in communities around the country. Tweet @ your House and Senate Members and ask them to protect AmeriCorps! See below for some shareable images.

 

*IMPORTANT
Please note that AmeriCorps grantees are prohibited from performing advocacy activities, and social media activities related to advocacy, directly with grant funds, equipment, or while counting AmeriCorps hours of Corpsmembers or volunteers. You may perform education on program activities and operations with AmeriCorps funds.

You may perform advocacy on non-AmeriCorps funded time, staff positions or staff time, Corpsmembers' non-AmeriCorps service hours, or on personal time. Please refer to this recent post from CNCS on social media considerations and this general advocacy post.


 

 

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!

 

Photos of the Month: December 2016

Photos of the Month: November 2016

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps social pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from November 2016.
 

 


Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - CO 



Greencorps Chicago 



Civic Works 



Greening Youth Foundation 



Greening Youth Foundation 



Southwest Conservation Corps 



Washington Conservation Corps 



Washington Conservation Corps 



Operation Fresh Start 



California Conservation Corps 



Greater Miami Service Corps 



Montana Conservation Corps 



Citizens Conservation Corps 



Maine Conservation Corps


 

Three Reasons Why We’re Especially Excited about OAK Week 2016


Katheryne Lewis, one of The Corps Network's 2016 Corpsmembers of the Year, speaking at a White House Council on Environmental Quality event during OAK Week 2016.


Every year, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) – a national partnership of organizations working to connect youth and families with nature – convenes in Washington, DC for “OAK Week.” This is a time to advocate for policies that promote public lands stewardship and improved access to nature, as well as a time to celebrate successes in promoting outdoor recreation.

As a proud member of the OAK Steering Committee, The Corps Network looks forward to this annual opportunity to meet with like-minded organizations and push for our shared vision of a world in which all young people have meaningful relationships with nature. However, this year’s OAK Week is particularly exciting for a number of reasons.

First, we are excited about the presentation of the first OAK Awards on Tuesday, November 15th. Among the honorees are the National Park Foundation, REI and The North Face, all of which have been strong supporters of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) – a public-private initiative to engage 100,000 youth and recent veterans in public lands service and stewardship.

Second, we look forward to participating in the OAK lobby day on Wednesday, November, 16th. Among other causes, we will join our partners in advocating for the 21CSC and public lands appropriations that are so important to making sure our parks and forests are open to everyone.

Finally, The Corps Network is honored to participate in an OAK Week event at the White House on Thursday, November 17th. Katheryne Lewis, one of The Corps Network’s 2016 Corpsmembers of the Year, will speak at this event about her experience serving in the 21CSC through Montana Conservation Corps and Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. Katheryne is an extraordinary young woman who won our Corpsmember of the Year award, in part, for her outspoken leadership on the need to engage more women and minorities in nature. We are proud to have her speak on the importance of outdoor access for all.

The mission of OAK – to connect children, youth and families with the outdoors – is close to the heart of The Corps Network’s mission to promote Corps as a tool to support youth development and protect public lands. We are proud of our role on the OAK steering committee and look forward to this week’s events.  

The Corps Network Proudly Supports Launch of Service Year Alliance

 

The Corps Network is thrilled to join many other national service organizations in New York City today to celebrate the formal launch of Service Year Alliance.

We are proud to partner with this important new organization and glad we could be here today to hear from such inspiring leaders in national service as Retired General Stanley McChrystal, Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Civic Enterprises CEO John Bridgeland, and Shirley Sagawa, “a founding mother of the modern service movement.” It was a pleasure to witness Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, perform the swearing in for a new cohort of AmeriCorps members from Green City Force, a member organization of The Corps Network.

Service Year Alliance formed early in 2016 through a merger of ServiceNation, the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project and the National Conference on Citizenship. At their core, these three entities all strove for the same thing: to promote access to, knowledge of, and support for national service opportunities. They merged to combine their resources and expertise into one united effort to make a service year “a common expectation and common opportunity for all young Americans.”

Over the past year-and-a-half, The Corps Network has worked with Service Year Alliance and its founding members on two specific initiatives to enhance the outward value of service year opportunities.

As anyone who has participated in AmeriCorps can tell you, a national service experience can provide a myriad of intangible benefits. Through their service, Corpsmembers develop skills in leadership, communication and problem-solving. They may visit new places, work with diverse people and become more empathetic, engaged citizens. The key is to make these benefits more apparent.

First, starting in the spring of 2015, The Corps Network worked with what would become Service Year Alliance on a pilot project in which Corpsmembers from eight member organizations of The Corps Network worked with instructors from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) to create online portfolios that captured what they learned through their service. These portfolios were then submitted to colleges for assessment, allowing Corpsmembers to earn up to six college credits for their service.

Currently, The Corps Network is partnering with Service Year Alliance to pilot the use of “digital badges” in defining the knowledge and skills gained through a service year. Via the LRNG online platform, Corpsmembers in this pilot will – by successfully completing various activities – be able to demonstrate their mastery of certain essential workplace competencies, like the ability to manage stress or have a productive disagreement. Corpsmembers will then receive digital badges: online icons linked to information about how he or she developed a given skill. Corpsmembers can link to these badges on their résumés, providing prospective employers with insight into the expertise a service year alumnus can bring to the job. 

Today we also celebrate the launch of the Service Year Exchange: an online platform developed through Service Year Alliance that connects young people who want to serve with service year opportunities, like those offered by the over 130 member organizations of The Corps Network. We are thrilled about the potential of this new tool to help more young people engage in national service and help our Corps recruit talented, ambitious Corpsmembers.

National service programs have a tremendous positive impact on our communities, on those who serve, and on the lives of millions of people who benefit from service projects completed by AmeriCorps members and others. Today, The Corps Network proudly joins many major companies, philanthropists and public figures in support of Service Year Alliance and the vision that national service programs can build understanding and empathy among diverse populations and empower the next generation. 

2017 Request for Proposals for Civic Justice Corps (CJC) through The Corps Network and CNCS

Eligibility: 
Must be an “Organizational/Service and Conservation Corps” member of The Corps Network in good standing with dues fully paid for each year as the program year may span more than one TCN fiscal year. Affiliate members are not eligible.
 

The Civic Justice Corps Request for Proposals (RFP) is open from November 10 to December 2, 2016. The program period would start October 1, 2017 for a three-year grant cycle. Please direct all questions via email to programs@corpsnetwork.org. We will create a list of FAQ’s to present during the Informational call on Wednesday, November 16 at 2pm EST (see last bullet above for recording of this call).

Each year, according to the Department of Justice report, “Roadmap to Reentry” (April 2016), more than 600,000 citizens return to neighborhoods across America after serving time in federal and state prisons. Another 11.4 million individuals cycle through local jails. And nearly one in three Americans of working age have had an encounter with the criminal justice system—mostly for relatively minor, non-violent offenses, and sometimes from decades in the past.

To address the needs of our court-involved and justice-involved youth and young adults, the proposed Civic Justice Initiative will build upon TCN’s Civic Justice Corps (CJC), a service-based re-entry and diversion approach to improve the employment prospects and labor market performance of young court-involved or “returning” citizens through an integrated, partnership-based program of education, training, work, and service.

In CJC, service is the center of a strategy that includes formal working partnerships with justice agencies, employers, and other community agencies, engaging systems in collaboration as a part of its method; individual case management and intensive services; life skills development, service-learning, education, and employment preparation; and meaningful service projects as well as the use of the trauma and healing curriculum, which is being developed by The Corps Network.  CJC is flexible—it has met the needs and tapped the assets of communities nationwide, from Wisconsin to Texas to California to Florida.

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