Photos of the Month: July 2018


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 July 2018.


American Conservation Experience


Arizona Conservation Corps


California Conservation Corps


Los Angeles Conservation Corps


AmeriCorps NCCC


Nevada Conservation Corps



Protecting the Monarch Through Public Education

Video by The Corps Network, featuring fun facts about monarchs collected from Outreach & Education Corpsmembers, both past and present.

Internship program through Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa gives young science professionals a chance to interact with the public and help the monarch butterfly

Monarch butterflies are in decline. A 2018 population report, which counts monarchs overwintering in Mexico, showed a 14.77 percent decrease from the previous year. Much of this can be attributed to habitat loss, pesticide application, and other human activities. One important way to stem this loss is through providing public education and good information. The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) is designed to do just that.

Housed at the University of Minnesota, the MJV is an information clearinghouse on monarch conservation. Representing a collective of 80 partners across the United States, ranging from local nature centers to federal agencies, the MJV seeks to align conservation efforts and ensure citizen scientists and professionals alike have access to the best data and practices.

However, to supplement the outreach efforts of their eight-person staff, the MJV partnered with Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa (CCMI), a program that engages young adults in hands-on environmental service. With funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and support from The Corps Network, the MJV and CCMI created the year-long Outreach and Education Corpsmember position in 2015. This program gives young professionals the opportunity to immerse themselves in conservation science and make an impact on the public.

Why is monarch conservation important? We asked Cora Lund Preston, the first Outreach and Education Corpsmember.

“Monarchs are an ambassador for all other pollinators,” she said. “Their beauty, incredible migration and dramatic decline have become a rallying cry for pollinator conservation across North America. Creating habitat for monarchs also benefits honeybees, native bees, other pollinators, and even other wildlife.”

One responsibility for the Outreach and Education Corpsmember is to present about monarchs at fairs, conferences, school events, and other gatherings. Cora, who now works as the MJV Communications Specialist, remembers nervously rehearsing her lines on the hour-long drive to her first presentation. Though she had conservation experience, monarchs were a completely new topic for her. As it turned out, Cora had nothing to worry about. The group was eager to learn about the monarch lifecycle and how to plant milkweed and nectar flowers.

Having a background in insect biology is certainly not a requirement for the Corpsmember position. Aislyn Keyes, the current Corpsmember, recently received her degree in marine biology.

“It’s so important to try things that are outside of your immediate field,” said Aislyn. “Resource management can be a hard field in which to find secure positions, especially if you only look at specific jobs. Each type of job offers unique skillsets that complement each other. The more well-rounded you are, the better!”

Another responsibility for the Outreach and Education Corpsmember is to create and distribute resources. During her time with the MJV, Cora led the creation of Parks For Monarchs, a guide for land managers. Shelby Kilibarda, the Corpsmember for the 2016 – 2017 season, who now works for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, developed the Monarch Highway Map, which depicts how monarchs migrate to Mexico along the I-35 corridor. Aislyn created a Monarch Conservation Efforts Map that shows conservation activities happening across the continent.

However, it’s those interactions with the public that are incredibly important.

“One particularly memorable experience for me was at the Minneapolis Monarch Festival in September,” said Aislyn. “I was taking a group of families to release a tagged monarch. I asked all the kids to form a circle and put their hands in. The parents stood around watching as I placed the monarch in their children’s hands. The monarch sat for a brief moment and everyone admired it in silence. When it took off, [everyone’s] eyes lit up in excitement. It was so special to see the impact such a small organism can have on people.”

Facts about Monarchs shared by Monarch Joint Venture Outreach and Education Corpsmembers:

Did you know?

  • Monarchs grow 2,000 times their size in the 10-15 days they spend as caterpillars. That’s like a human baby growing to the size of an elephant in two weeks.
  • The chrysalis doesn’t form around monarch caterpillars. Instead, the caterpillar’s exoskeleton splits down its back and the chrysalis is revealed underneath.
  • Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed (there are over 100 species of milkweed in the United States), but adult monarchs eat nectar from a wide variety of flowers.
  • In the late summer and fall, adult monarchs that live east of the Rocky Mountains will migrate up to 2,000 miles forested mountaintops in Central Mexico, where they have never been before. Monarchs that live west of the Rockies, however, migrate to groves of trees along the Pacific Coast in California.


African American Connections to Green Spaces in Chicago During the Great Migration: A Conversation with Dr. Brian McCammack

The Corps Network’s Moving Forward Initiative – supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation – seeks to address bias and structural racism in the conservation workforce and help increase the employment of young adults of color in public lands management and conservation-related careers.

As part of this initiative, we aim to provide information to help people develop a foundation to understand the history, policies, practices and societal dynamics that have shaped our country and the conservation field. 

Brian McCammack is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Lake Forest College in Illinois. He is the author of, among other works, Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago. We spoke to Dr. McCammack about his research into the intersection of environment and race in the Midwest during the “first wave” of the Great Migration.


What was the Great Migration?

The first wave of the Great Migration, which my research focuses on, is dated to roughly between 1915 and 1940; the quarter-century or so between World Wars I and II. This is a time when you have 1.5 million African Americans leaving the South for the urban North and settling in cities like Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, etc.

This movement is driven by racial oppression in the South, the tenant farming system, the rise of Jim Crow, disenfranchisement. There are also the labor demands of WWI in the North, the hope of making a better life, finding better jobs, and having at least more of a semblance of equality.

Chicago in particular, along with New York, are the two epicenters of the Great Migration. Chicago’s African American population grew extraordinarily during this period. Between 1910 and 1940, the African American population more than sextupled. Before the Great Migration, only 44,000 African Americans lived in Chicago; by 1940, on the eve of WWII, you have more than a quarter-of-a-million. This dramatically changes not just the demographics of the city, but the culture. You also begin to see, in really stark ways, the beginning of segregation patterns.

Part of what my research aims to do is push back on this notion that the kinds of environments where African Americans found themselves and were able to visit in the city were exclusively tenement houses and unhealthy environments. That really becomes too much of the story and discounts the ways African Americans found slices of the outdoors, both inside and outside the city.


From Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal

Can you talk about African American enrollment in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Chicago area?

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is created during the 1930s. An interesting thing about that for me is that during the Great Migration – and I’m painting with very broad strokes – you see African Americans leaving manual labor jobs that are directly connected to the soil, whether you’re talking about tenant farming or extraction industries in the South. They’re leaving a lifestyle of knowing the land through labor. Then, when they move north, African Americans are, by and large, getting jobs in factories. In many cases, migrants are leaving the South expressly to get away from knowing nature through labor, because tenant farming was an exploitative relationship. Industrial jobs in the North are arguably just as exploitative, but they do pay better and there is slightly more of a chance for advancement.

When the CCC forms, tens of thousands of young black men – who either themselves migrated out of the South when they were young children, or whose parents migrated out of the South to escape outdoor manual labor – are now going back to the land.

So that chapter of my book explores what it means for African Americans in the North, in the midst of the Great Migration, to go back to the land and know it through labor rather than through leisure, which, increasingly during the Great Migration, is how many African Americans come to experience and seek out nature. The CCC is an outlier – a callback to a relationship with nature that thousands of African Americans had left behind in the South.


Considering many of these young men or their parents had escaped exploitative labor on the land in the South, how would young African American men have perceived the CCC? Was it seen as a good opportunity?

A big draw was the dollar-a-day wages. They’re making thirty bucks a month. In the midst of the Depression, the chance to be able to support your family was huge.

In Chicago, you have up to about half the employable African American population out of work. People are literally going hungry. They’re being evicted from their homes. You have people sleeping in the parks in Chicago. There’s a PBS documentary about the CCC, and you see that many enrollees look back fondly on the Corps because you’re getting three meals a day, clothes, new shoes. All of that is beneficial.

And many enrollees liked the labor outdoors. I would imagine just as many probably didn’t like it, no different than any population doing hard manual labor outdoors in all the elements.

The wages, the food, the clothes, and you’re helping out your family and getting job training. The training white enrollees received, based on my research, is generally better. There were more opportunities for advancement in the CCC for white enrollees. But, for all enrollees, there were classes you could take after your day in the field. There were also sports the CCC, promoted to boost morale.

There definitely were some positive aspects of the CCC. However, some of my work focuses on thinking about the ramifications of how the CCC was segregated, even in the North. In this period, we have white officers who are commanding segregated CCC companies. And while several sources, including the Chicago Defender, the biggest black newspaper in the country, say the segregated African American camps near Chicago were some of the best in the country, a lot of black Chicagoans and other black Illinois residents are going to camps in downstate Illinois or elsewhere in the Midwest, where white officers are frequently, and I think rightfully, accused of racial bias and racial intimidation.

So, getting back to the Great Migration, there is this real tension between how moving to places like Chicago gave African Americans a way to assert themselves and find a greater measure of equality than they were able to find in the South. And oftentimes with the CCC, you have these white officers who are treating black enrollees as if they were sharecroppers. The tension is in the feeling that these young men, these products of the Great Migration, have taken a step backwards by enrolling in the CCC, despite all the benefits.



What do you feel is the legacy of the CCC for African American enrollees? 

I think it does, at least temporarily, lead to an increased connection to nature. However, after WWII, you have an even greater wave of migrants to cities like Chicago. This second migration really dwarfs the first wave and leads to intensified segregation and a further restriction of opportunities for African Americans in urban centers to really connect to nature. So, I think there’s this window in the 30’s when African American enrollees – and there’s roughly a quarter of a million nationwide – who are connecting to nature, and I think hold that with them for the rest of their lives. But, the material reality of what comes after this period is the creation of barriers to maintaining that connection to nature.

The biggest CCC project I write about is north of Chicago – building what’s called the Skokie Lagoons – taking all this marshland and basically digging it out and trying to create lakes connected by channels so there’s flood control and you can develop the land around it. This space also becomes a leisure retreat for those who live nearby. The sad reality is that this is on the far North Side of the city, which is almost entirely white. This is the kind of segregation that I’m talking about, that pretty much restricts African Americans to the South Side of the city, far from all these places where enrollees worked. The products of their labor are actually enjoyed by middle class whites.

For enrollees, I think the story is one of personal connection to nature during that period when they’re in the CCC, but there are these broader structural forces that, once these enrollees exit the program, really prevent them from maintaining those connections. Even if they’d enjoyed their time in the CCC, even if they found it productive from the standpoint of connecting to nature, it becomes harder and harder to do that in the post-WWII era.

As far as job opportunities, you can’t discount the training in the CCC and the way it helped African American enrollees learn skills they could actually apply. However, it’s also worth noting that African Americans were likely to stay in the CCC longer. They’d stay for six months, then re-up for another six months, or even stay longer. Especially during the Depression, it was harder for them to find jobs due to racial discrimination. Last hired, first fired. Even when the economy starts picking up in the late ‘30s, the white working class is the first to benefit. The African American working class – the kinds of young men that are in the Civilian Conservation Corps – really don’t see the fruits of that until industrial production ramps up with WWII.


Can you talk about green spaces that African Americans sought out or created for themselves as they moved North? For those who settled in cities, what were the opportunities to get outdoors?

I think one of the biggest reasons connecting with green spaces was so important for migrants was because it was intertwined with connections to Southern folk culture. Being able to connect with the environment is a way to connect with the rural lifestyle you left behind. A lot of migrants didn’t necessarily want to leave the South; they were essentially forced to leave because of the racially oppressive and violent policies afflicted upon them.

The sad story is that they find racial oppression in the North, it’s just different. The majority of migrants in the Great Migration aren’t living in suburban environments. They are, by and large, restricted to the more cramped, rundown and unsanitary portions of the city. So, if they’re connecting to green spaces, chances are it wasn’t privately owned green spaces. Most of the working-class migrants coming to Chicago don’t have a yard, don’t have room or time to cultivate a garden. There certainly were black Chicagoans who did that, but I think that was more of an exception. So, if they’re seeking aspects of nature, they’re doing so in public spaces. They’re becoming modern urban dwellers, seeking out green spaces just like every other working class modern urban dweller seeks out nature in city parks, in the beaches, in the forest preserves around the city. And, if you have little bit more money, going on vacation at a rural resort.

A lot of black Chicagoans, especially those who were more well-off, went to resorts. The most well-known one that I write about is in Idlewild, MI. Several hours away from the city, a self-segregated African American resort colony springs up, and this is only the most notable of them. This is happening all over the country on various scales.

The predominant story, however, is that these urban dwellers would, maybe on a Sunday – the one day off they have each week – go with their family and friends to a city park and just hang out. One of the things I write about is playing music – ukuleles and things like that – on the tennis courts in Washington Park, a massive 371-acre Frederick Law Olmstead-designed park that’s built in the late 19th century, when African Americans didn’t live anywhere near it. But as the “black belt” on the south side of Chicago expands further, it ends up abutting this huge park. By the 1930s, it becomes a de-facto black park.


So Chicago’s parks were at least informally segregated?

Yes, I think that would be the best way to put it. “De-facto segregated.” There weren’t necessarily signs posted. However, to give you an example, look at Jackson Park Beach on the South Side of the city. African Americans began using the lakefront and continued to push south as the black belt expanded. They’re going to beaches that are closest to where they live and work. Well, the white folks who lived in Hyde Park and elsewhere and were using Jackson Park Beach – and there’s no official explanation for how this came to be – but there was a fence erected on the north end of Jackson Park Beach and it was just generally known that African Americans were only to use the north end of that beach and whites reserved the longer, sandier, better portion of the beach for themselves. If an African American ventured to the southern portion of the beach, they were risking violence. This is how the race riot started in the city in 1919. A young African American boy – 17 years old – unwittingly floats too far south into what whites were trying to protect as a whites-only beach. A stone is thrown at him and he drowns, and it touches off this race riot.

So yes, parks were not officially segregated, but, if you were to interview folks who grew up in Chicago in the ‘30s and ‘40s, they’ll say you just knew you couldn’t go to the white recreation areas. And that line keeps shifting over time. Washington Park was a white park up to the 1920s. Then there’s this decade of transition and, by the ‘30s, whites basically abandon their use of Washington Park.


One thing we want to examine is why the environmental movement looks how it does today. Why has it lacked diversity? From your perspective, do you see any historical context for why the conservation movement and our land management agencies are predominantly white?

That’s sort of my next project, actually. Figuring out how environmentalism stayed white is basically the argument of my second book – it’s still in its infancy.

I think there are a lot of reasons. The Civilian Conservation Corps gives you one indication. I think a lot of white enrollees look back fondly on their time in the CCC, and I think that’s true for many black enrollees, but that vastly different labor context that we talked about taints that connection to the environment.

In the period right after the Civilian Conservation Corps, you have mass suburbanization, white flight from city centers, and hundreds of thousands of additional African American migrants pouring into city centers. Opportunities to connect to nature, whether you’re talking about city parks or forest preserves, or even the wilder spaces where CCC companies worked, they become more restricted because of suburbanization and these structural barriers that are erected in the post-WWII era.

If you look at the decade after that, when the environmental movement is coming about in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it’s mainly a middle class white movement. One thing I’ve talked about and written about before is the Black Panthers talking about environmental justice issues: pollution in the cities, inadequate garbage removal, disease, and other issues that afflict their communities in the ‘60s. They’re talking about stuff that the Clean Air Act helps resolve. However, by the time you get all that legislation on the books in the early ‘70s and the environmental movement becomes institutionalized and more of a lobbying and litigation movement rather than a grassroots movement, it begins to wholeheartedly ignore African Americans and issues that concern people of color in favor of promoting rural and wild spaces.

And that’s how you get the environmental justice movement springing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s. You have people of color saying the environmental movement and conservationists are not representing our interests. And it’s only in the past decade or two that I think environmental groups have made a conscious effort to diversify their ranks, to address issues that matter to people of color, to get more people of color into the national parks. There’s still a long, long way to go.

The story I tell about the 1920s and ‘30s is the beginning of institutional barriers that prevent African Americans and other people of color from accessing nature. The barriers that come up in that post-WWII era dwarf the ones I write about in the 1920s and ‘30s. This is a story of mass suburbanization, redlining, residential segregation, disinvestment in communities of color and the lack of opportunities afforded them. All of that has an impact on the ability of African American families to maintain connections to nature. I think we’re still dealing with that legacy today.


Can you elaborate on what some of those barriers were that came up in post-WWII era that would’ve separated African Americans further from opportunities to enjoy green spaces?

The vast majority of African Americans who migrate to places like Chicago settle in city centers and the white tax base flees in droves. You have massive disinvestment in cities in this post-WWII era, and that has a tangible effect on places like Washington Park. Just walking into Washington Park, you can tell it doesn’t receive the kind of maintenance it needs. This is something I touch on briefly in the epilogue of my book, but all of those social problems that come along with disinvestments in communities – drugs, violence, gangs – that’s not confined just to city streets. That spills into park spaces and makes them uninviting places to go. All the issues that afflict black communities during what historians call the “urban crisis” in the ‘60s and ‘70s – that has a tangible impact on the experience of green spaces in the city. Parks became places that weren’t safe to let your kids run around.

The same sort of thing happens in a place like Idlewild, which was a retreat for middle and upper class African Americans. With the collapse of formal segregation barriers in many places in the post-WWII era, African Americans have no reason to maintain their own segregated resort any more. So you see a disinvestment in Idlewild. The resort is sort of in a remote, not exactly picturesque part of Michigan. If you could be on a nicer lake, or right on the coast of Lake Michigan, why wouldn’t you want to be there? However, this place where African Americans had traditionally connected with nature disappears. So that’s just one example of a way that African Americans’ connections with nature are severed in the post-WWII era.


For your consideration:

  • To this day, people of color are underrepresented among visitors to parks and other green spaces. What steps can be taken to make parks more accessible and inclusive?  
  • In your community, do you see any “de facto segregation” of parks or other outdoor spaces?
    • If yes, what are some reasons this might be happening? Is this de facto segregation problematic and, if so, what steps can be taken to integrate outdoor spaces?
    • If no, in what ways do you believe outdoor spaces in your community have been able to maintain visitation and use by diverse populations?
  • During our intervirew, Dr. McCammack discussed how there was tension among Chicagoans about the “proper” way to utilize green spaces. Some people looked down on new comers to the city who used the park for Southern folk traditions, like outdoor baptisms. In your experience, have you seen tension among different park visitors? Do you believe these tensions ever fall along racial, ethnic, or class lines? Have you ever been made to feel like you were using an outdoor space “improperly”?
  • Dr. McCammack discusses how one reason why the mainstream environmental movement has remained predominantly white is because the movement has traditionally ignored issues that are relevant to communities of color. What environmental issues concern you most? Do you feel like these issues get adequate attention? What are some reasons why these issues may or may not receive attention? 
  • For Corps: Do you make it a priority to engage in green spaces that can be enjoyed by all members of a community? Do your Corpsmembers serve in spaces that they can readily access during their free time? Would your Corpsmembers feel comfortable recreating in all the spaces where they serve? 

Service and Conservation Corps Celebrate AmeriCorps Week 2018

Every year, Service and Conservation Corps across the country engage thousands of AmeriCorps members. This year alone, The Corps Network’s AmeriCorps Education Awards Program and Opportunity Youth Service Initiative will enroll more than 3,000 young adults and veterans in service to our communities and public lands. To celebrate AmeriCorps Week (March 11 – 17, 2018), we’re highlighting some of the many ways AmeriCorps members at Service and Conservation Corps #GetThingsDone for our country.


Member of The Corps Network's AmeriCorps Opportunity Youth Service Initiative with Texas Conservation Corps helps reduce the threat of wildfires:

  • Where is this Corpsmembers serving? 
    Austin, TX

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    This member is removing vegetation, or “fuel,” through installing a fuel break at Travis County Balcones Canyonlands Preserve

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    This member is learning about proper chainsaw operation and safety, as well as plant identification skills.


Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa AmeriCorps member helps put goats to work in the fight against invasive species:

  • Where did this Corpsmember serve? 
    Addie Bona is a Youth Outdoors Crew Member based out of Minneapolis, MN

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Addie manages invasive species by working with goat contractors to prepare sites, set up fences, put signs up in order for goats to eat buckthorn and other invasive species.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Invasive species management




Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa AmeriCorps member helps monitor wildlife:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving?
    Tamara Beal was a Wildlife Studies Crew Member based out of Ames, IA

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Tamara conducted two research projects. 1- She studied migratory patterns and behaviors of the Northern Long Eared Bat. 2- She learned how to remove and test lymph node samples from deer to study the presence of Chronic Waste Disease.

  • What skills did she learn/use? 
    Field work, including: how to set up thermal & infrared cameras; how to use an Echo Meter app to identify batt calls; and how to remove & prepare lymph node samples from deer.


Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa AmeriCorps member monitors river levels to help support outdoor recreation:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Ryan Schilling was an Individual Placement member with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (based out of St. Paul, MN).

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Ryan managed a River Level Reporting project, which resulted in a much more detailed and useable product for paddlers to make well-informed decisions before visiting a water trail.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 


Montana Conservation Corps AmeriCorps members help communities hit hard by winter storms:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Montana [Browning, Heart Butte, East Glacier, Babb, and St. Mary]

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone?
    Severe winter weather in North Central Montana and along the Rocky Mountain Front has caused the Blackfeet Nation and the State of Montana to declare a state of emergency. The communities of Browning, Heart Butte, East Glacier, Babb, and St. Mary have been especially hard hit. Heavy snowfall accompanied by winds as high as 65 miles per hour – blizzard conditions - has caused drifts as high as six feet in some areas, shutting down roads and trapping people in their homes. On the Blackfeet Reservation, schools have been closed and residents are running out of food.

    MCC Northern Rockies Office sent a relief crew whose members shoveled snow, delivered firewood, and helped out in whatever way they could. In a nice confluence of events, MCC Crew Leaders were able to add the load of wood they cut and split at the Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge to the firewood donated by UMCOR – United Methodist Committee on Relief – to the load they delivered to the Blackfeet.




Green City Force AmeriCorps Members supported by The Corps Network's Opportunity Youth Service Initiative grow organic produce in communities with limited access to healthy food: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    Pictured are Daniel Silvia and Nordesia Walters-Bowman. They are inspecting the produce on Farm Stand day at the Howard Houses Farm, located at a New York City Housing Authority Development.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Urban Farm Corps Members learn to build and operate urban farms and develop important skills through interacting with the public. They distributed nearly 20,000 lbs. of organic produce in 2017 at weekly Farm Stands across four Farms on New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) properties.



AmeriCorps Member with Rocky Mountaim Youth Corps - New Mexico takes a break from trail work to reflect on their experience:

  • Where is this Corpsmembers serving? 
    Cibola National Forest, Albuquerque, NM

  • How does this AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    This member is journaling during a break on the Crest Trail as part of their Individual Development Plan (IDP), a tool used with all RMYC members to help them build S.M.A.R.T. goals and build on their experience at the Corps to help them launch a career.



AmeriCorps Members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico ASL program open up trails and expand their conservation vocabulary: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    These members are partnering with the City of Albuquerque in the Piedra Lisa recreation area.

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    These members are participants in our ASL Program and are working to open up the trail corridor and clear branches and debris from the trail.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    In addition to learning about trails and trail maintenance techniques, member are learning through American Sign Language and broadening their vocabulary in the conservation field.


AmeriCorps Members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico build sustainable trails: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Gila National Forest, Silver City, NM

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    This member is part of a two-year project to restore trails and build retaining structures to prevent further trail damage. In this picture, the member is looking for hazard trees that could pose a danger to the crew while they work in the burned area.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    During a typical spike, members spend 10 hours a day working on trails and engaging in professional development trainings related to trail design, maintenance and construction.  During the evening, members work together on meal preparation and life skills trainings such as leadership, conflict resolution or thinking about next steps after the Corps.


AmeriCorps Members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico help establish a new wildlife refuge:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    This motley crew of kick@ss females are serving at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, NM

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    This crew was tasked with building two miles of wildlife-friendly fence as one of the first components to a major restoration project as the brand new refuge takes shape in Albuquerque's South Valley.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    This crew is not only learning about power tools and the safety protocols associated with working on federal land, but are also engaged in RMYC's Urban Conservation Corps. This program focuses on getting urban young adults exposed to and interested in federal jobs working with federal land management agencies.  A critical component of this program in 'Mentor Mixer' day: think of speed-dating with mentors! Members are paired with federal employees that work with different agencies in a variety of fields - from HR, to accounting, to law enforcement and park rangers. This program allows Corpsmembers to see the vast array of employment options with the Corps' agency partners.



AmeriCorps Members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico help preserve cultural and historic treasures: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Mountainair, NM

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    This summer crew was involved in historic preservation in the park. They helped restore some of the ruins the park is tasked with protecting.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    This crew was trained by park staff in the methods unique to working with a variety of natural materials and ancient techniques that were used thousands of years ago to build the missions.



AmeriCorps Members with Southwest Conservation Corps spend days in the backcountry, working on the Continental Divide Trail: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Along the Continental Divide Trail (Rincon La Vaca Trail) in the Weminuche Wilderness on the San Juan National Forest.

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    For the last two years, SCC crews have spent a combined 130 Days in the backcountry building a more sustainable trail through rocky slopes and wet marshy areas. This is to accommodate heavy use from through hikers, hunters, and backcountry horse men/women. On a side note this is the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System and the 40th Anniversary of the CDT. It’s important to highlight this, as well as the Corps’ efforts working on the CDT over the years.

  • What skills are they learning/using?
    Backcountry travel, leadership, geology, alpine ecology, technical trails (rock work and sustainable trail construction), teamwork, communication, and a plethora of other things you learn when you are in the backcountry for 15 days at a time.





AmeriCorps Member with Arizona Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Opportunity Youth Service Initiative helps restore ecosystems: 

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Gila River Valley near Safford, Arizona

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Chavez Ventura (crew 113) from the Tohono O’odham Nation is felling an invasive species of tree (tamarisk) in the Gila River Valley.  Helping to restore an ecosystem.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    AZCC Gila crews are all proficient Class A Sawyers! 



AmeriCorps Member with Arizona Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Opportunity Youth Service Initiative helps maintain trails and public lands: 

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Bar-V Ranch of Pima County Parks and Recreation, near Tucson, Arizona

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Ashley Childs (crew 110) is using her McLeod tool to clear brush for a fencing project.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Knowledge about trail maintenance and how to use trail tools are required.  She is also learning how to erect wire t-post fences.



AmeriCorps members with Arizona Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Opportunity Youth Service Initiative/Education Awards Program put their McLeods to use to maintain public lands: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Bar-V Ranch of Pima County Parks and Recreation, near Tucson, Arizona

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    The crew members (crew 110) are using their McLeod tools to clear brush for a fencing project.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Knowledge about trail maintenance and how to use trail tools are required.  They are also learning how to erect wire t-post fences.


AmeriCorps Member with Stewards Individual Placement Program and The Corps Network Education Awards Program helps engage the public at Gulf Islands National Seashore:  

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Gulf Islands National Seashore

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    As the Outreach Coordinator for the Turtle T.H.i.S. Program, Natalia often plans and hosts events like the Hispanic Festival booth. Held at Fort Walton Beach, this event allowed Natalia to interact with many families and local youth who shared their excitement about park programs. Seventeen attendees signed up to volunteer with the park in the future. Participation in events like this provide education and engagement to the local community and help bring support and awareness to the historical, environmental, and ecological elements of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Natalia has gained experience in public speaking, community engagement, volunteer recruitment and management, youth education, and a variety of ecological and zoological data collection and protection activities.



AmeriCorps Member with Stewards Individual Placement Program and The Corps Network Education Awards Program assists the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Pittsburgh, PA

  • How does this AmeriCorps Member #GetThingsDone? 
    OSMRE AmeriCorps Member Cassandra Forte serves out of the OSMRE Appalachian Regional Office in Pittsburgh, PA. Cassandra focuses much of her effort on water quality testing and outreach initiatives for the office. Cassandra and fellow OSMRE employees have also researched streams at a state park to determine which would be an adequate location for a spring hydrology course. She worked closely with a hydrogeologist to teach approximately 100 7th-grade-students about acid mine drainage. She also spoke to a freshman biology class about OSMRE, AmeriCorps and what she does in her role.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    A recent site visit to a partner organization allowed Cassandra to assist OSMRE staff in providing requested technical assistance for water quality issues the organization is having in some of their ponds. Cassandra assisted while simultaneously learning about their pollinator program, which she will use in her own project as she works to create a pollinator initiative for abandoned and active mine lands. 


AmeriCorps Members with American Conservation Experience help maintain and improve a community farm:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Flagstaff Family Farm

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    The Flagstaff Family Farm was started in December 2015 to bring the community local produce and eggs. Over 100 ACE members have cycled through since 2016. Corpsmembers have helped build and shape 2,800 linear feet of garden bed and walkway. Additionally, over the course of three months, more than 30 Corpsmembers helped complete three Hoop-Houses. ACE also planted a dozen apple trees and created earthworks to reduce erosion.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Construction, Planting, Irrigation, Mulching



AmeriCorps members with EarthCorps help build a rain garden to improve stormwater infrastructure:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Everett, Washington

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    They are building a rain garden

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    EarthCorps crew members #GetThingsDone by building green stormwater infrastructure. Rain gardens like this one can hold a lot of water, helping to reduce the risk of flooding in heavy storms. They also help filter toxic runoff, which is critical in protecting wildlife. To build the garden, Corpsmembers dug out the garden basin and added layers of special soils and native plants that will absorb and clean runoff water.


AmeriCorps members with EarthCorps help control invasive plants and maintain healthy marshes:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Port Susan Bay, Washington

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    They are engaged in invasive plant control as part of salt marsh restoration.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    EarthCorps crews worked to control invasive plants, such as spartina, as part of a larger effort to restore salt marsh area in the Stillaguamish River Delta. They learned about invasive plant control, dike removal, native plants, bird habitats, and working in tidal areas.


AmeriCorps members with EarthCorps help bring awareness to local water quality and water management issues:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving?
    Brightwater Education Center, Snohomish County, Washington

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Corpsmembers building a demonstration rain garden at the Brightwater Education Center in Snohomish County, Washington. By constructing a rain garden, Corpsmembers gained experience building green stormwater infrastructure, and helped raise awareness and address water quality issues in the surrounding areas.



AmeriCorps members with EarthCorps help control invasive plants in North Cascades National Park:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Stehekin, North Cascades National Park, Washington

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    EarthCorps crews work hard to manually control invasive and exotic plants and restore our National Parks.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Manual exotic plant control, native seed collection, apple orchard removal, opportunity to learn about National Park Service.



Members of the Southeast Conservation Corps Veterans Fire Corps help conduct prescribed burns and maintain healthy habitats in Mississippi:

  • Where are the members serving?
    De Soto National Forest in Mississippi

  • How do they #GetThingsDone? 
    These are members of the Southeast Conservation Corps Veterans Fire Corps Crew 936. The SECC VFC members are working in the Gulf Coast of MS to assist with Pitcher Plant Bog restoration, fire fuel reduction and prescribed burns to contribute to a healthy forest and mitigate uncontrolled wildfires.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    The SECC Veterans Fire Corps program (in partnership with The Corps Network and The Nature Conservancy) provides training and on-the-job experience for post-911 era veterans interested in entering careers and gaining experience in natural resource management. The program engages participants in a cohort environment in which eight members work together to train and complete natural resource management projects, specifically related to fuels reduction and fire fuels management. Participants also gain experience in trail work, invasive species removal, GIS, and other appropriate conservation stewardship work.



AmeriCorps members with Washington Conservation Corps help with cleanup and recovery on U.S. Virgin Islands following 2017 hurricanes:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    U.S. Virgin Islands

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    They are assisting communities affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated the regions in Fall 2017.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    When serving on a disaster response assignment, WCC AmeriCorps members utilize their chainsaw skills to remove hazard trees from homeowners’ yards and local structures. They also take on tough tasks like debris removal and installing roof tarps. They also help manage the outpouring of volunteers and donations in local regions.



AmeriCorps members with Washington Conservation Corps help organize volunteer projects:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Skagit County, Washington

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    Individual Placement AmeriCorps members Erin and Keelin recently led a volunteer planting party for their service placement, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group. The group of volunteers installed over 300 trees at the site!

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Leading volunteer events means Erin and Keelin recruit volunteers, arrange tools and logistics, and provide on-site guidance to make sure everyone has a safe, fun and productive time! Planting native trees will help  convert the site from a field into a forested area.


AmeriCorps Members with Great Basin Institute-Nevada Conservation Corps help support the comeback of the endangered Condor:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    The interns, Kylie Smith and Nathan Pinckard, as well the project partner Joseph Brandt, are in this image. Joseph Brandt is teaching Kylie Smith how to draw blood from the leg of the Condor while Nathan Pinckard is holding the Condor. The blood sample is used to check for lead levels of the condors.

    In the second photo, Nathan is releasing a juvenile Condor into the wild.


AmeriCorps member with Great Basin Institute-Nevada Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Education Awards Program helps collect data and conduct research to assist with habitat restoration:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Henderson, NV (Common Gardens project located in the Mojave Desert)

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    The United States Geological Survey, is looking at what methods work to bring back native perennials but also looking at herbicide application as a way to control the spread of Bromus sp. and Schismus sp. Interns mainly assist with collecting data, assessing the landscape before and after restoration has been implemented and aiding in research for various extensions of the project.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Sarah assists the USGS in the Common Gardens project located in the Mojave Desert in hopes to restore the area that was impacted by the fire while learning novel ways to conduct research. 


AmeriCorps Members with Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Opportunity Youth Service Initiative help improve Vermont’s park infrastructure:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving?
    Corpsmembers Maddi Shropshire (left) and Tori Best (right) from our 2017 Americorps 2 Crew show some crewmate love in front of a woodshed they constructed on Mt. Mansfield.

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone?
    In one week, this crew replaced 60 feet of box steps that access a stone hut; helped build this woodshed (with Vermont Forest Parks and Recreation staff and contractors), and built a raised roof for the shed with a weather shield.

  • What skills are they learning/using?
    Through this project, Corpsmembers developed their construction skills, learned important lessons about working with partner organizations, and worked on their communication skills as they coordinated their efforts.



An AmeriCorps member with Kupu helps restore the most threatened ecosystem in Hawai‘i:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Ethan Souza is serving at Hawaiʻi Forest Industry Association -Kaʻūpūlehu Dryland Forest

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Ethan is working to restore the native dryland forest, which is the most threatened ecosystem in Hawaiʻi. Over 90% of it has been lost due to development, invasive species, and fire.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Identifying native and invasive plant species, collecting plant propagation materials, raising native plants, removing invasive plants, hosting and educating school groups, and collecting and analyzing data



AmeriCorps members with Civicorps help keep the Bay Area shoreline healthy for marine creatures:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Alameda Shoreline, California

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    These members are participating in shoreline beautification. Crewmembers collect litter and debris in low tide, helping wildlife avoid toxic items like cigarette butts and plastic. 

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    They are learning about the Bay Area’s ecosystems, drainage, and the impact of storm runoff. Additionally, they are learning about team work, communication, and the various steps of project planning.


AmeriCorps member with Northwest Youth Corps engages in resource management and community outreach in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Northwest Youth Corps selected Mathew Zhun to serve with the Army Corps of Engineers for a 675-hour term in October of 2017. Mathew was providing natural resource management and community outreach assistance with the Recreation Operations section of the Willamette Valley Project for the Army Corps of Engineers. WVP is a large water resource project responsible for operating 13 dams and managing natural resources and recreation in the lakes and surrounding lands at nearly 30,000 acres in the Willamette, McKenzie, and Santiam watersheds.

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Mathew served with the Cottage Grove, Oregon Recreation Operations Section providing education, outreach, and public safety programming specifically in schools. Additionally, Mathew spent half of his time monitoring and improving trails and mitigating exotic vegetation. This included direction of volunteer crews and navigating to monuments for boundary surveys.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    While Mathew stepped into the internship with extensive field based skills he expanded his knowledge and confidence public speaking and educating  various audiences.  The curriculum he was conveying focused on water safety, field ecology, and Leave No Trace principals. The Army Corps of Engineers is a partner of the “Every Kid in the Park” Program which was created for fourth graders and their families to discover wildlife, resources, and history for free. 


Photos of the Month: December 2017

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 December 2017.


California Conservation Corps 


Earth Conservation Corps 


Earth Conservation Corps 


Heart of Oregon Corps 


LA Conservation Corps 


Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - Colorado 


Mile High Youth Corps 


Montana Conservation Corps 


New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg


Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa


Great Basin Institute 


Montgomery County Conservation Corps 


Southwest Conservation Corps 


Washington Conservation Corps 


Rocky Mountain Conservancy

2018 Legacy Achievement Award Winner: Reginald "Flip" Hagood - Student Conservation Association (SCA)

The Corps Network’s Corps Legacy Achievement Award recognizes leaders with approximately 20 or more years of contribution to the Corps movement, who have served in a senior leadership position (CEO, Executive Director, Board Member, Vice President) for a Corps or multiple corps, and who have made a significant contribution to the movement (e.g. founded a Corps, brought a Corps to scale, served for approximately 15+ years as Executive Director/CEO of a Corps, served a key role as a national board member, made a significant national contribution through developing a nationwide project, etc.). Learn more.

Reginald “Flip” Hagood has many years of service under his belt. From serving his country as a Marine in Vietnam, to being a champion of the outdoors and youth programs as Senior Vice President of The Student Conservation Association (SCA), Flip goes above and beyond in serving his community.

As a young man, Flip left military service to start a law enforcement career with the National Park Service (NPS) Park Police. He later served as a Park Ranger, then moved into designing and delivering training. In 1994, after serving over 25 years with the park service, Flip retired as the Chief of the Employee Development Division.

Before leaving the park service, Flip began serving with SCA as a council and board member. His retirement from NPS was designed so that he could transition to a position as Deputy Program Director of SCA's Conservation Career Development Program (CCDP). Flip soon became Program Director, then Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives, and eventually had a long run in several program and partnership arenas as SCA’s Senior Vice President.

During his service with SCA, Flip not only led the organization’s commitment to diversify the conservation movement, but served as an industry leader as well, having served on the boards of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and the Institute of Conservation Leadership. He has also been a member of The Wilderness Society’s Governing Council since 2001 (where he chaired the Diversity Committee).

During his time at SCA, Flip impacted and supported thousands of high school students, college interns and staff seeking to serve the environment. He was at the forefront of developing urban-based programs for youth and young adults interested in conservation careers. Flip was essential in the creation of SCA’s Washington DC Urban Community program. This was a pioneer program focused on engaging local DC youth in conservation service. The program has grown from its inception almost 40 years ago to more than 15 urban centers that reach almost 1,000 youth each year.

Flip’s influence and impact has extended far beyond SCA into all aspects of the environmental movement, including nonprofits, government service and even the corporate world. He is a respected advisor in the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within the conservation workforce. Since his retirement three years ago, he is still mentoring many students and professionals, guiding their careers and amplifying their impact. His voice has been highly influential in helping organizations like NOLS and The Wilderness Society better understand their obligation to be more inclusive as they deliver their missions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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