An Interview with Reginald "Flip" Hagood, The Corps Network 2018 Legacy Achievement Honoree

Flip Hagood with Liz Putnam, Founder of the Student Conservation Association (SCA)

Reginald "Flip" Hagood, formerly of the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service, is the 2018 Corps Legacy Achievement Award Winner. We interviewed Flip 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 personal background.

I'm a local kid here to Washington, DC. I grew up and went to public schools here, and still live fairly close to the same neighborhood where I grew up. My old high school, Eastern High, is two blocks away.
I also went to university here: Howard and American University for undergrad. For graduate school I went to NOVA Southeastern while I was stationed for the Park Service in Georgia.

I've lived in other states and traveled a lot in the last 50 years, having worked in Georgia and Arizona and in the beltway area in Maryland, Virginia, and DC, but right now we're living on Capitol Hill near Lincoln Park. Most of my life has been spent here in the Mid-Atlantic region. I have a small family here in the DC metropolitan area. I'm married and I have one son and two grandchildren. 


Tell us about your career with the National Park Service and how you transitioned to the Student Conservation Association (SCA).

Career with the National Park Service (NPS)
I joined the National Park Service after serving three years in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam era. I spent a little bit of time in Vietnam and served the country. Upon my return, I learned about a program that transitioned returning veterans to public service careers. I passed the exam and got hired with the National Park Service as a law enforcement officer.

I was familiar with national parks. Growing up, I knew many of the parks within the National Capital Region (Anacostia Park, Rock Creek, etc.). As a Boy Scout, I went to Prince William Forest Park for my first overnight camping trip. As I grew older, my interest in the outdoors expanded when I went to Shenandoah as a high school student.

My interest in the Park Service came about by playing in parks and learning about the outdoors as a child. I credit my grandfather with a lot of that; every summer, up until I was 14, I spent with him in the Carolinas. That was outdoor time for me, doing everything one can do in the outdoors as a young person and exploring with him and learning about the land. Many ethics and lessons came from spending time with family in rural South Carolina during those 90-day summer breaks from school.

I have always had a love for outdoor work, and that certainly inspired me when I decided to look for a career. Even with the National Park Service, it always had what I call a “green side” to it, or what I think later translated into an environmental and conservation career for me.

I spent the first 15 - 20 years of my career in what they call law enforcement and protection work in the National Park Service. At the same time, however, I was developed as a training officer for the Park Service and was eventually assigned to be an instructor for law enforcement employees. That position sent me to Georgia for six years at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center where I taught in the academy, including instructing national park rangers. In Georgia, I continued my education and did a little adjunct teaching at a couple community colleges and colleges in the Southeast. I worked with younger people, primarily college age and high school age, both as a formal instructor and as a volunteer.

In the latter part of my National Park Service career – a career that ultimately covered 30 years – I moved to the administrative part of the house. I eventually was in charge of both formal and informal training and professional development for the National Park Service. I served 20,000 employees as a key proponent of training and education. Within the Department of the Interior, I served 70,000 employees, looking at the human resource needs, educational needs, and training needs of all the employees. Working with youth in these agencies helped build a bridge for when I moved over to the conservation side of my career with SCA.


Career with the Student Conservation Association (SCA)
I became familiar with the Student Conservation Association working at the National Park Service because of the partner relationship that existed. That relationship – based on educating and training youth – was in my purview. My position at the Park Service gave me the opportunity to learn about a lot of youth organizations, like scouting groups, Corps, and other programs. I had staff assigned to help train park rangers and interpreters how to educate young people; this certainly fortified my understanding of working with young people and educating them in the outdoors.

After my career with the Park Service, I had an opportunity to retire early at 51 years of age with 30 years of federal service. I took that and went out to the non-profit sector. The opportunity to become director of SCA’s Conservation Career Development program came about. I worked to help them diversify their student base of participants.

The transition for me was an easy one because I was very familiar with SCA; I knew staff there. This new opportunity afforded me a chance to take my learning in the federal service and apply that to the non-profit area. I've counseled many others in public service careers to do the same. I let them know many of the skills, knowledge, and abilities they acquired in public service are applicable to the independent and non-profit sector.

That's an overview of my Park Service and SCA story, but what I'll add to that is that I started to work very early on. My first formal job was at 14 years of age, when I no longer went to Carolina in the summer. I had a job every summer. I had my first government job at 15 in a new program started in the Washington area where they hired local youth. I was a laborer in that job, working at the Pentagon. I worked while I was at Howard University at the government printing office, working on a night shift, running machines and binding books that were then sent out to governmental folks. So, my government and public service career started quite early in my life. That allowed me to retire with 30 years of service when I was still in my early 50s; all that time accrued. I got a real jump start on the federal career and federal retirement.


Who are some of your heroes? What did they do to inspire you?

I have two people that I lean towards as heroes: Frederick Douglass and Thurgood Marshall. I’m inspired by Douglass for his life well-spent in championing the cause of freedom for slaves. Many people know who he is and the work he did, but it’s interesting to learn more about him personally, in terms of how he was self-educated and later acquired formal learning. He transitioned himself from someone who toiled as a youth on a farm, to become a respected leader in the abolition movement. Douglass has always been a champion of mine. I have numerous photos that I have collected of him. As an early park employee, I worked at the Douglass home in Southeast DC. It was one of the places where I often had protection and security responsibilities. There was a caretaker who worked at the building that I got to know well. I'd stop by to check on her in terms of her personal safety, but it also gave me real exposure to the house, the property, and the man. She shared many stories about him and I learned insights about the work Douglass accomplished. I also learned about how he spent part of his life in New England. When I met my wife in Southeast Massachusetts, we spent time in New Bedford, MA, where Douglass lived at one point. I could broaden my understanding and get a different look at him at that point of his life.

I’m inspired by Thurgood Marshall because I'm a child of the sixties and grew up during the Civil Rights Movement. I recognized the need for change, having spent many a summer in the South and dealing with bias and Jim Crow laws; dual water fountains and those kinds of experiences. One of the real icons in law at the time was Marshall, later to be Justice Marshall, the first African American on the Supreme Court. He has a special place in my heart and is a hero because of the personal fortitude he showed and the impact he had on our society.

I view both men as having very impactful lives. The work they did helped change this country.

Given your experience, what is the primary piece of wisdom you would give to a young person currently enrolled in a Corps? What is the primary piece of advice you would give to staff at Corps?

For both Corpsmembers and Corps staff, I have very similar advice. Focusing first on the Corpsmembers: simply listen and learn. When I say listen and learn, I mean it in a very broad sense. Open yourself up to new experiences, challenge yourself, and do things that you might enjoy, as well as things you might not enjoy. Try to expand your boundaries.

By listening, I mean listening in every way. Listen to advice and counsel. On the counterbalance, I encourage Corpsmembers to question. I think a lot more is learned through the answer of a question than it is by just having information told to you. When you can learn and find answers through your own inquiries, I think the assimilation of information occurs in a much better way. To young Corpsmembers out there, I’ll say what I always used to say to SCA participants: you don’t have to be as verbal, but turn on your ears. You have two of them, but one mouth. Embrace that 2:1 ratio. Make a query and listen to the answer.

I apply the same advice to staff, because as educators, trainers, leaders, and supervisors, staff really need to listen to the youth in every way. One must hear them, validate them, take in their messages, be respectful of them. Even though the relationship is somewhat parental in terms of the age and experience dynamic, open yourself to also be a receiver of information and the relationship will be much stronger. The fact they know they've got someone they can go to who's willing to listen provides a safe place and an opportunity for you to be impactful. Taking the time to understand their music, dance, culture, heritage goes a long way.

Listening is important, but the questioning role also applies to staff. Through what I call the one-on-one's and the one-on-group, one should posit questions that hopefully motivate and inspire others to seek out learning. Positing questions can be a platform for learning, for the growth of the Corpsmember as well as the growth of the staff member.


You’ve worked to try and break down barriers and increase diversity and equity in the conservation movement. In short, what do you believe is the primary reason for the lack of diversity in conservation? What are steps we can take to address this disparity? 

I've spent a lot of time in this work over the last 50+ years. That includes my own personal experiences of not being allowed to participate, whether that was not being able to swim or get a drink of water because of someone's perception of me primarily based on color. Exclusion to me is a negative that I won't accept.

It's always been a motivator for me personally to, at any chance, try to open opportunities across the board and break down barriers that might keep someone separate because of their race, ethnicity, gender, age, any factor. I’ve tried to break down those barriers and create more equity, diversity, and inclusivity in the green movement. This isn’t easy because exclusivity is a part of this movement and part of its history.

To remedy that, and allow people to experience what I think are the values of spending time outdoors and experiencing nature, we can meet people where they are. It’s all very relative.  I'm working on the steering committee of a group called the “Green Leadership Trust,” which is trying to increase diversity among the board members and professional staff within not-for-profit and green organizations. I am working with them and other conservation and environmental justice organizations to strengthen their leadership by having more brown, yellow, red, and black people at the table; more women; and more young people.

I think one reason a lack of diversity exists in the conservation sector is its heritage and history. It also has to do with opportunity. A lot of times, getting to the outdoors is part of an economic issue, or because someone is excluded. Opportunity and exclusion are the primary reasons for the lack of diversity that we face in conservation, environment, and recreation.

We see a lot of this being institutionalized and present today. I certainly see change within my life and I applaud every step that has been taken. I also see our losses occurring today when decisions are made to stop the protection of cultural heritage sites and natural resources. I think we have to continue to work very diligently to address this disparity, this lack of opportunity, lack of inclusion, and lack of the ability to be a voice at the table.

When we talk about biology and the concept of diversity, its value to the planet is so overwhelming. Without diversity, there would be nothing. I believe the same analogy aligns with human beings: the more diverse we are the stronger we are.

In the future, what developments would you like to see happen in the Corps movement?

Growth. I know many of the recipients of this award in the past have said the same thing, but we're not there yet. There needs to be many, many more gateways to the outdoors through conservation Corps, as well as service Corps and educational Corps.

The more learning opportunities like these, the better, but we need to be on guard and know our budgetary facts. We hear about budget constraints on education and youth and public lands; that should alert all of us who are part of Corps. We need to be focused on that so we don't lose what we have gained. At the same time, we need to seek the investment to grow more in every dimension and open ourselves up to new opportunities.

I was in this movement long enough to remember a time when the number of women who participated in Corps was miniscule. In my lifetime, I've seen that change. I know we're not there yet. Among other diversity issues, the gender imbalance needs to change. One of the things that was a great moment in my life at SCA was when the percentage of women participants versus males changed. There was a flipping of the script. It used to be male-dominated and finally there was a 51:49 year, I recall. To me, that was momentous. I can remember the first all-women crew and the first crew for LGBTQ youth. Broadening up the platform, broadening up the gateways, expanding the number of Corps... they don't need to be government-sponsored, they could be corporately-sponsored, they can be foundation-sponsored. Those in leadership need to be entrepreneurial and creative so that we build towards this future of expanded Corps opportunities. I think that's the one development I would like to see happen: continued growth so that more young people can be impacted by serving in a Corps.


What do you hope your legacy will be?

Well, that's a tough one, because you don't quite know. I guess my wish would be that every young person that I have touched, if there's any seed I planted in them, I hope they would do the same for others.

I hope through their learning and experiences in the conservation movement, their public service, their working on the land and working to aid others, I hope that that inspires them to be servants throughout their lives. I hope they take on a philosophy of learning and apply that in service to others.

If I have any legacy at all, I would hope that I would have some motivational impact such that others would pick up the mantel and be champions for younger people in their field, even if they don’t work in the conservation arena. It doesn’t matter what kind of work you’re, doctor, public servant, laborer, educator, any job in technology…there are ways to impact the next generation. Hopefully they become inspired to be the next champions so we're always growing a larger cadre of those to follow us than those that came before us.

Next Generation of Aquatic Restoration Leaders: Michael Muckle

By Luke Frazza,
Trout Headwaters, Inc. 


Mike Muckle, director of the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg (NJYCP), a program of the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development, is passionate about aquatic restoration. That’s why, after attending The Corps Network 2014 National Conference and learning about Waders in the Water (WitW), the brand new aquatic restoration training built for The Corps Network, Mike volunteered his Corps to pilot the program. Since then, aquatic restoration has become the biggest focus of the NJYCP. Twenty-six Corpsmembers have earned their WitW certification and worked on multiple stream and wetland restoration projects.

Recently, Mike, now a representative to both The Corps Network’s Board of Directors and the Corps Council, took some time to explain where his enthusiasm for restoration came from and how it’s influenced NJYCP and its Corpsmembers.

Nineteen years ago, when Mike was the new program coordinator for NJYCP, he attended an Urban Waterways Restoration workshop designed for youth Service and Conservation Corps. The event was presented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (now The Corps Network). Mike says that’s when he got the bug for environmental restoration work. After the workshop, Mike brought his interest in restoration back to NJYCP and he and his staff sought out those types of projects. It wasn’t long before NJYCP was partnering on nearby U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service projects

Over time, Mike realized the value of restoration work. However, upon being promoted to Director of NJYCP, he understood they would require additional resources in order to build their capacity to perform such projects.

“While we’ve done restoration work since I’ve been here,” Mike observed, “until recently we were never able to bring resources or funding back to our program.” Mike credits that change to the WitW third-party certification.

“Since our Corpsmembers have completed the WitW training, I’ve been able to secure funding for our program in return for project work our Corps was doing.”

Register your Corpsmembers here for the next WitW training.

Mike has discovered a trusted project partner in New Jersey Audubon’s (NJA) Stewardship Project Director John Parke. NJYCP now routinely partners with the NJA and others to restore local habitats and improve water quality on streams. As part of the growing Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI), NJA recently brought in NJYCP Corpsmembers to help plant 1,900 native trees and scrubs at five different riparian restoration projects near NJYCP. The projects were all funded by both the William Penn Foundation and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. During this work together, John Parke told Mike “there’s never been a shortage of project work, only a shortage of trained workers. This training and certification has addressed that issue, allowing us to provide qualified, competent, and informed candidates to work on these important ecological projects.”

After working on his first stream restoration project, 18-year-old NJYCP Corpsmembers/WitW graduate Zach Oefelein said: "It definitely gives me a good sense of pride. There aren't enough people focused on things like this. A lot of our world is focused on what you can get out of nature and not what you can put back into it."

Mike happily shares that, with all the training and project work his Corpsmembers have done, “they now realize a career in ecological restoration is attainable, and that this important work to save our planet, is virtually all around them - in every community.”

Register for Waders in the Water here

Hurricane Maria Recovery: Firsthand Account of Relief Efforts in Puerto Rico from Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa AmeriCorps Member Landon Acre-Kendall

In response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, several member organizations of The Corps Network have sent crews to Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Coordination of most of these deployments has been through the AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team (A-DRT) program

Corpsmembers from across the country have assisted with a range of activities, including clearing debris, coordinating volunteers and donations, conducting damage assessments, and helping muck, gut and tarp homes. Below, read the firsthand account of Landon Acre-Kendall, an AmeriCorps member from Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa (CCMI) who deployed to Puerto Rico in November.

By Landon Acre-Kendall, CCMI AmeriCorps Member

When our AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team had our first day in the field, it truly became clear that Maria held nothing back on the island. The landscape was a ruin of decimated vegetation. The trees were plucked out of the ground like weeds. There was endless debris and trash piled above my head on sidewalks and scattered about open areas. People were living in destroyed homes without roofs, power, and water. It was an eye-opening experience and it motivated us to work that much harder, every day, for those less fortunate then us in Puerto Rico. 

To me, one of the most enlightening and heartwarming aspects of my deployment was working with all the new people we met in Puerto Rico and getting to know our own teams so well. The members and supervisors from Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) were great. Elliot always surprised us with his own blend of strange and unexpected humor and, at the same time, was a very professional and knowledgeable Incident Commander. The people from other teams and organizations, such as California Conservation Corps (CCC), Team Rubicon, and Samaritan's Purse, all made lasting impressions on us as well. However, the friendships and teams created within CCMI will be everlasting. We all grew to know each other very quickly and, within weeks, it felt as though I'd known these people my entire life. 

Another part of my trip that I will always remember will be my interactions with the local people of Puerto Rico. Though there was a language barrier, I could always read the voices and faces of the people around me. I would see elderly couples laugh, smile, and say thanks to me and my team and it was always a touching moment. I saw a younger couple with a baby and children have sighs of relief and cries of joy and laughter as they watched a tree come falling down from a very hazardous situation on top of their house. Though I couldn't fully understand their words, I thought as though I could feel what they were saying. 

My favorite part of being here was using our specialized skillset for an amazing cause. I will always remember one of the bigger trees we tackled (see image). One afternoon we were canvasing for a job and we stopped to talk to some locals. When we mentioned that we cut trees, one old man’s eyes lit up and he started talking about a giant tree blocking entrance to his entire house. He was talking about how, every day, he would be forced to climb through a massive tree's hazardous wreckage just to access his house. We followed him around a couple blocks to his house as he told us bits about his life. This man once lived in the mainland United States and was a horse jockey for several years. When we arrived at his house we immediately were excited by the challenge of this project. We slowly took apart the massive tree piece by piece. It was one of my favorite big jobs with a very grateful and kind man. I will never forget his face or his house. 

Puerto Rico was a great experience. I feel as though I've grown a lot as a person, but, more importantly this trip has inspired me to grow even more beyond this trip alone and never stop growing. I want to continue to inspire and help others for the rest of my life.

2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Senga Lukingama, Urban Corps of San Diego County

Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide. Learn more.

When Senga Lukingama showed up at Urban Corps of San Diego County (UCSD), he came with a story of war and almost unimaginable personal loss. What he found was a way to channel his work ethic and his determination to, as his father had urged, get an education. Senga has explored his interest in leadership, resulting in a seat on the Urban Corps’ Corpsmember Advisory Board. According to one of his supervisors, “Senga is always proactive towards his future goals and sets high expectations for himself and works diligently to complete every task.”

Finding his way to the Corps was not easy or at all likely. When he was 14, civil war forced Senga to flee his town in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the chaos of leaving, he was separated from his family. All alone, he walked what seemed like a never-ending road to find himself in a refugee camp. There, Senga looked tirelessly for his family, but never found them.

“I couldn’t stop blaming myself for not being able to go back and find my family. I was afraid and spent many days hungry,” said Senga. “I was very sad and did not know what the future would hold for me, or even if I had such a thing as a future.”

A new life in the United States began for Senga in January of 2016. He came alone and without much direction, but found housing with the help of a community organization.

“It was my first night at my new home that I realized I could finally accomplish my dreams and aspirations,” said Senga.

The next day, while walking the streets and getting to know his new hometown of San Diego, Senga ran into a sign promoting opportunities with UCSD. He signed up and started to work hard to earn money and skills, and studied long hours to complete his high school education. He found a community where he could belong, and where he could be of service to his peers and to his new community.

“In the Corps, we have a lot of kids who have similar backgrounds and stories and I don’t feel alone anymore. I have been able to overcome the pictures and horrible memories in my mind and be at peace,” said Senga. “I have learned many new skills and work experience that I had never thought I would ever reach. Helping my community has always been something that I have wanted to do and I am able to help my community as well as my peers. I can drive in the city and think back at good memories of how I helped with projects around my community.”

Senga’s supervisors salute him for setting high goals and for his dedication to the program. They also note his leadership among his peers; he was promoted to a Crew Leader position. 

“Senga serves as a great role model to our students and shares his story with many who are having a hard time,” said one supervisor.

Senga graduates from the Urban Corps’ Charter School this December. During his time in the Corps, he also obtained his driver's license and saved to buy his first car. He is currently enrolled at San Diego City College and hopes to eventually transfer to San Diego State University and pursue a degree in political science. His goal is to one day become a diplomat or politician. He hopes to return to his country to help to bring peace. He knows that the key to that future is through his education.

“I have learned about many new things that I hope to bring to my country, like the different opportunities that work can give you,” said Senga. “When you work hard and study, you begin to see the light at the end of the road and believe that the world has a lot more for you to see. I plan on meeting new people and sharing my story with others. I know I am not the only one with this story, but hopefully it can help others know they are not alone.”

2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Lance Tubinaghtewa, Arizona Conservation Corps - Ancestral Lands


Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide. Learn more.

It was clear from the beginning that Lance Tubinaghtewa was a rising star at the Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC), a program of Conservation Legacy. His focused work ethic and warm, effortless sense of humor helped develop a deep sense of community within his crew.

Lance started out as an AmeriCorps member at Grand Canyon National Park on a crew designed to engage members of the 11 Tribes traditionally associated with the Grand Canyon. There he got a broad look at the different divisions within the park service, working on everything from trail maintenance, to preserving cultural sites, to conducting butterfly population surveys.

Lance then spent two terms with Arizona Conservation Corps’ local program, serving in Tucson and Phoenix on a variety of trail construction and maintenance projects. He eventually worked his way up to an Assistant Crew Leader position, teaching new Corpsmembers about rockwork, trail maintenance and backcountry living. He was instrumental in helping the Corps pilot its Tribal programming in Phoenix in partnership with the Tonto National Forest.

One of the most significant parts of this experience was how Lance helped a member with a difficult background come to feel welcome in the program. The member had been shot in the leg only a year before his Corps experience; Lance helped him really embrace the spirit of “heal the land, heal the man.” Lance, true to form, hesitates to take credit for that, but he helps instill confidence among his peers and encourages them to connect to conservation.

Most recently, Lance is spending his fourth and final AmeriCorps term as an intern with the Interpretation Department at Grand Canyon National Park at Desert View. He’s proven to be skilled at interacting with visitors, teaching the public about the Canyon’s rich history and his Hopi culture. A park ranger and supervisor said of him: “Lance has done a great job working for us all summer. He is a hard worker who sets a great example and really cares about doing a good job. He is extremely reliable and trustworthy. More importantly, I have come to see him as a quiet leader. Safety awareness is very important to us, and Lance has done a great job of reporting situations and working with us to correct them.”

Lance has walked the talk on safety. On one occasion, he was first on scene to a visitor who had been struck on the head by a falling rock and was seriously injured in a remote part of the park. Using skills he learned in the Corps, Lance assessed the patient, applied a compress to stop the bleeding, monitored his vitals, kept him calm, stopped bystanders from interfering, and ultimately attended to the patient for 40 minutes until the park’s EMS arrived. This was far and above the call of duty for an intern.

Lance himself says the influence of his AZCC experience has been profound.  “Even now, I still struggle to find the words to describe it,” he said. “Prior to my first crew, I was unsure about a number of things, but, during the first term, much self-discovery took place. This coincided with the most unique and humbling experiences of my life. These moments are engraved in my mind and cherished because I spent them with my closest friends. With my different seasons, I grew. Finding new connections to places my ancestors have called home for millennia.  Finding a deeper sense of self along with my worth and strengths.”

Lance says he has become more civically engaged as a result of his service and time at the Grand Canyon. Feeling that his native culture and heritage face significant threats, he has become attentive to and eloquent about issues around Tribal lands.

“I am not the first Hopi, so I’m not fluent in traditional knowledge, but my time here has shed light on cultural ideas and concepts, in effect bringing me closer to my identity as a Hopi man,” he said.

In his role at the Grand Canyon, Lance encounters thousands of tourists each day who are curious about the park and his Hopi heritage. He sees this as another opportunity for great change, service and fulfillment of his heritage. His plan is to use his AmeriCorps Education Awards to attend Glendale Community College toward a degree in archaeology and astronomy; two fields of study that piqued his interest when serving in the backcountry on his ancestral lands.

2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Holden Foley, Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast

Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide. Learn more.

Holden Foley has successfully led over 50 conservation and construction projects since, in 2015, he began as an AmeriCorps crewmember on the Apalachicola Nature Trail Pilot Project, the very first project of the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast (CCFC).

Within his first weeks, it became obvious that Holden was a hard worker. He has since moved up the ranks, recently joining the staff of the Corps as a Field Manager.

“He loves to work and is a problem solver. He combines his life experiences, his training, and an effective ‘tough love’ approach to lead his crews,” said Joe Taylor, Executive Director of the organization.  

For Holden, however, the path to the Corps was a complicated one.

“I had planned to join the Marine Corps and serve our country,” he said. “But in my last year of high school, I was hanging out with the wrong group of people and made a bad decision. That choice resulted in some time in jail. Officer’s school was no longer an option. During my probation, I was working in the construction field; building houses, decks, and doing odd jobs. I just finally got tired of working seven days a week and getting nowhere. I made good money. I just wanted something more. I wanted my life to have more meaning. So I joined the Corps and I am giving back all I can to my community.”

Holden has been with the Corps since its first day. He’s taken part in every training and earned many certifications. He is certified to teach First Aid/CPR, certified to apply herbicides for the State of Florida, and has completed the Waders in the Water aquatic restoration training by Trout Headwaters, Inc. He is also certified as a Volunteer Manager by Volunteer Florida and the Florida Association of Volunteer Resource Management. Additionally, Holden is a specialty trainer for FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Teams in areas of fire safety, disaster medical operations, and light search and rescue. He currently volunteers with the local Emergency Operations Center as the leader for their Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and will soon be certified as a FEMA CERT Program Trainer. His desire to learn and teach make him a valuable asset to CCFC and the community.

Notably, Holden has an instructor’s certification from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), which will help the Corps in its efforts to build affordable housing in the city. Affordable housing was a need identified by Holden and the Corps, who discovered that 14 of 17 early crewmembers qualified as homeless. Their early community assessment found that a safe place to call home could be a key factor in a crewmember’s success. Holden is currently finishing his Certified Building Contractor’s License and hopes his numerous credentials will expand the Corps’ ability to construct affordable housing for the community. He further hopes to use his AmeriCorps education award to work towards a degree in Architecture/Design that may contribute to the effort.

Holden chairs meetings of the CCFC Leadership Council with confidence and respects the members’ input. He addresses behavioral challenges by gathering information and determining appropriate corrective actions. He serves as a mentor for crew members who may be having a hard time in their personal lives, and makes time outside the Corps for recreational team-building activities with his crew. He also supports and participates in the Corps’ work with local alternative school students.

Reflecting on what he has learned in the Corps, Holden says, “I haven’t been the best person in the past, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But working with the Corps has shown me that none of that history matters. I am not defined by my past. No one has to put limits on what they can accomplish. I like the sense of accomplishment I feel when our crews complete important environmental work. I enjoy training my crewmembers and using my construction skills in our project work. I have been inspired to help others see the same opportunity and take control of their lives and change for the better.

2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Esperanzita Castillo, Greater Miami Service Corps

Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide. Learn more.

Esperanzita Castillo’s time at Greater Miami Service Corps (GMSC) has been busy.  She became an AmeriCorps member with the YouthBuild program at GMSC with her brother in 2016. Her goal was to earn her high school diploma and gain job skills.

Deborah Dorsett, the Corps’ Executive Director, remembers when Esperanzita arrived on campus:

“She was shy and concerned we would not accept her. She left school in the sixth grade and worked various jobs to support her household. Her mom is disabled and she and her brother have to provide for the family. She has far exceeded expectations programmatically and in our local community. She has developed tremendously in terms of finding her voice and having the confidence to speak publically and advocate for second-chance opportunities for young people. Esperanzita has not allowed her past to determine her future.”

Esperanzita has indeed been active as a youth voice in her Corps and in her community. She is a peer leader/team captain at the Corps and assists with the orientation of new members. She is the go-to member whenever someone needs assistance. For example, another member was having problems with their Spanish classes. Esperanzita agreed to tutor her every morning, which helped that member complete her high school requirements. She also assists her peers with the use of tools and equipment, and helps them understand the program’s policies and procedures.

Esperanzita puts in extra service hours at the Corps. Whenever there are weekend volunteer projects, she is there, including Global Youth Service Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Outside the Corps, Esperanzita is an animal rescue volunteer. She has assisted in rescuing numerous animals as well as caring for rescues until they are placed. She has taken this passion and developed a cadre of volunteers that help support the care and placement of rescue animals.

In addition to general Corps responsibilities, Esperanzita was instrumental in participating in a convening of youth from throughout the county to contribute to the development of the local workforce board’s strategic plan. She has also visited Congressional leaders to share her story and discuss the importance of continuing federal funding for GMSC and other workforce development programs for young adults. Additionally, Esperanzita has attended meetings of the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners to educate officials on the need for opportunities and resources for young people in the county. She was recognized in April 2017 by the Mayor of Miami-Dade County as part of the Mayor's Day of Service.

Esperanzita has also been active with Opportunity Youth United – a group of young adults from across the country who advocate on a national level for policies and programs to help young adults who face barriers to jobs and education.

On top of all of her other commitments, Esperanzita works 32 hours per week as a security guard to support her family.

Esperanzita recently completed the final requirements for her high school diploma and graduated in November with a specialty in Veterinary Assistance. She is close to completing the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) credential and has acquired her OSHA ten-hour certification and CPR/First Aid certification. Her story recently appeared in a video by America’s Promise: “A Security Guard, a Flyer, and a Second Chance.”

As for next steps, Esperanzita plans to soon enroll in Miami-Dade college. She is undecided whether to pursue a career in law enforcement or veterinary science, but hopes to have the opportunity to job shadow and intern to help make her decision.

 “I wanted to become a Corpsmember to change my life,” said Esperanzita. “I dropped out of school in the sixth grade and knew I would need a diploma to get a better job or attend college. GMSC means so much more to me than just helping me achieve my goals. The staff is like my family. They assist and encourage us to strive for our goals.  I have also gained a lot of exposure to the community. We participate in housing projects, landscaping, painting, community outreach and so much more. As a Corpsmember of the Year I would expand my outreach to other Corps around the country.”

2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Earl Bowman, Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps


Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide. Learn more.

*Earl Bowman is being recognized as the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Corpsmember of the Year. The 21CSC is a national initiative to increase the number of young adults and recent veterans serving on public lands. The 21CSC Corpsmember of the Year is a young adult who has served in a member Corps of the 21CSC and is a champion of the initiative’s vision of increasing the engagement of young adults in conservation, preservation, and outdoor recreation. 

Before becoming an AmeriCorps member with the Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps, Earl B. Bowman IV worked various jobs. He tried his hand at commercial printing, but quickly discovered the factory setting was not for him. Wanting to make a difference, he joined the Delaware Air National Guard and served a term in the Support Group squadron.

After completing his service, Earl drove for an ambulance company in his hometown. Although he enjoyed this work, he wanted more. Since the age of 13, Earl has served his community as a volunteer firefighter.  

Knowing his passion to serve, Earl’s mother advised him to join the Veterans Conservation Corps. Admittedly, he was apprehensive; he wasn’t sure he’d be a good fit. However, with continuous encouragement from his mother, Earl decided to give the Corps a try. After only one day in the field, Earl decided to commit to one term.

“My experience with the Delaware Veterans Conservation Corps has been transforming,” said Earl. “Not only did I get to spend 11 months with fellow veterans, but I gained a wealth of knowledge in environmental stewardship and trail maintenance.”

Earl quickly acclimated to the program, becoming the team’s chainsaw expert. He was always willing to help his peers with their skills, patiently explaining and helping them with technique. Earl took advantage of every training offered, eventually earning his wildland firefighting Red Card. About midway through the year, he was clearly becoming a leader.

When the program added new members in the spring and summer, Earl stepped up and became the Team Leader’s “right hand man.” The Team Leader would split the team into two and Earl would lead one group while the Team Leader worked with the other. Earl also supervised when the Team Leader was absent. Additionally, he became the team transportation supervisor and was responsible for the team’s truck. Earl was awarded the State Office on Volunteerism Member of the Year award and the Program Member of the Year award.

Earl led the way in educating the Corps’ summer members in environmental stewardship skills, including how to identify invasive plants and treat them, proper trail trimming techniques, and safe chainsaw operation. Towards the end of the program, Earl was offered employment with Delaware State Parks. However, given the commitment he made to the Corps, Earl waited until the end of the program to accept an offer. Now, as a Conservation Tech with the Delaware State Parks trail team, he continues to be an advocate for the Corps and is always looking to engage the current cohort in trail projects.

Despite taking on many roles, Earl continues to serve as a volunteer firefighter. He often works all week with Delaware State Parks, then serves all weekend with the fire company. For the future, Earl plans to use his AmeriCorps education award to finish the necessary trainings to become an EMT and continue serving his community on a part-time basis.

Earl Bowman truly lives the motto, “Service before Self.”  

Photos of the Month - September 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 September 2017.

meriCorps NCCC

AmeriCorps NCCC

Knox County CAC AmeriCorps

Canyon Country Youth Corps

Canyon Country Youth Corps


American Conservation Experience (ACE) with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for NPS 101st Birthday (taken August 25) - courtesy of DOI

American Conservation Experience (ACE) with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for NPS 101st Birthday (taken August 25) - courtesy of DOI

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and U.S. Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield - courtesy of DOI

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa and AmeriCorps NCCC with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in Houston

Chairman Steve Daines (R-MT) and Ranking Member Mazie Hirono of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks with John Leong, CEO of Kupu. Mr. Leong testified at a hearing on engaging the next, more diverse generation of park stewards and users.

Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast

Conservation Legacy

Conservation Legacy (AZCC)


Greater Valley Conservation Corps

Greening Youth Foundation

Limitless Vistas, Inc.

Montana Conservation Corps

Nevada Conservation Corps

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - NM

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps

Southwest Conservation Corps

Utah Conservation Corps

Utah Conservation Corps

Utah Conservation Corps