Actions You Can Take to Help Protect AmeriCorps

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

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

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

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


 

 

An An Interview with Thomas Hark, a 2017 Corps Legacy Achievement Awardee

Thomas Hark, formerly of Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, is a 2017 Corps Legacy Achivement Award Winner. We interviewed Thomas to learn more about him and his experience in the Corps movement. Click here to read his bio. 
 


Tell us a little bit about your background, where you come from.

I grew up in Minnesota and in my junior year of college took a summer job with the federal YCC program in Young Harris Georgia.  I had offers at 19 national parks but was oddly drawn to this small, indiscrete, operation in northern Georgia.  It changed the course of my life.

 

How did you become involved in Service and Conservation Corps? What were you doing before?

I thought I would return the next year to the federal YCC program and direct a camp of my own.  However, that year President Reagan froze federal funds and all but eliminated the YCC program.  I was shocked. 

An idea kept rolling around in my head and soon turned into a graduate thesis:  What are the necessary and critical elements to creating a public-private YCC program. I believed it was possible and was determined to prove it.

I graduated from college and took a job directing the Minnesota YCC summer program and when I learned that Minnesota would be hosting a national meeting on how to start a YCC I immediately and enthusiastically signed up. 

My application was rejected as I was an under employed college graduate with no professional experience to my name.  Yes, I had enthusiasm and passion but truly nothing else.  However, the night before the conference I got a call.  Organizers needed someone to pick guests up at airport and drive them 40 miles to the Wilder Conference center.  I jumped!

I was able to meet everyone who had anything do with YCCs at the time…legendary Robert Burkhart from the SFCC, Joanna Lennon from East May YCC and many others.

I also met an individual from Vermont, Peter Comart, who was there because a piece of legislation just passed with a one dollar appropriation and he wanted to learn how to put one of these programs together. Suffice it to say I overwhelmed him with passion and enthusiasm.

It was a match made in heaven.  I didn’t need much being hungry for a job and he did not have much to offer, outside an opportunity.  However, I had ideas and a plan, untested, and perhaps a little crazy.  They were game and promised all their support.  A few months later I was in Vermont.

One dollar.  No desk.  No phone. While I was wildly excited as it felt like the opportunity of a lifetime, the state agency apparently did not know I was even coming, as of course a one dollar appropriation was not much of a mandate.

I landed in May 10th and had my first 5 Enrollees working by mid-June.  I thought I would say a few years and then go home to Minnesota. 

However, what happened was significant growth every year, an outlet for endless creativity and experimentation, and an enormous amount of fun…25 years later I realized I was not going anywhere.  I loved Vermont.  VYCC was my vocation.  While I didn’t make much of a paycheck, I absolutely loved my work.  I literally pinched myself some nights after working 12+ hours, as I left work, thinking how it was possible to be so happy!

That one dollar was eventually, over thirty years leveraged to more than 50,000,000 dollars, more than 6000 alumni, and a 400 acre campus and to die for training center.

However, what was so cool was to have work that mattered and where every day I could see the positive life-changing impacts on the lives of others be they enrollees, staff, or others in the community, similar to my initial YCC experience in Georgia.

Part of the driving force was to emulate my hero, Liz Cornish, the camp director that hired me against her better judgment, supported me, challenged me, and in the process changed my life. I never forgot and I always have tried to live up to her example.

 

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

Liz Cornish, the Camp Director in Young Harris YCC.  She was an incredibly talented Outward Bound Instructor who knew how to build teams by bringing the best out of each person.  She pushed me to my absolute limits and in the process created in me a hunger to help do the same for others.

 

Describe some of your most memorable experiences working in youth development.

The Mission of VYCC was for each member of the organization to fully embrace, adopt, and live by the idea of taking personal responsibility for all of their actions, what they say and what they do….

A young women was fired.  She was having an “exclusive” relationship which was prohibited as the goal was for each crew of incredibly diverse individuals in the short month long residential experience, to truly get to know each other and build a strong community.  Something not possible if two people spent all their time together and in so doing were not part of the community.

She could not have disagreed more with this rule.  However, she knew going in what was expected, she had had chances, and now VYCC was following through. She was sent home.

Several months afterwards I received a letter saying she still strongly disagreed with the rule…and she was angry…however, not because of this rule.  She went on to explain that upon her return this idea of personal responsibility that was woven into every aspect of VYCC life had just stuck with her, she couldn’t shake it.  And thus her whole life had changed.  Everyone in her life seemed different as no one seemed to take responsibility for anything.  It was incredibly disturbing.  She could never go back to being like them as VYCC had changed her.

She still didn’t like the rule but she was so thankful for the experience as this one idea around personal responsibility was empowering.  She was now in control.  She made decisions and good or bad, she owned them.  She felt like a whole new person. And she was.

 

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

Whatever you do, give it everything you have, or get out. It is your choice. It really is.

 

What is the primary piece of advice you would give to staff at Corps?

A poem by Marge Percy was recited by Robert Burkhart at the opening session of that conference in Minnesota on how to start a Corps.  The poem was entitled “To be of Use. A line in said “The work of the world is as common as mud…done well it is a Hopi vase that holds water and satisfies thirst for centuries…done poorly it becomes falls apart becoming dust…

Whatever you do.  Dot it with all your heart. Do it as well as you possibly can.  Take joy in it. Have passion. Have fun with it.  Take chances.  Don’t be afraid to fail. Embrace your successes and failures as just two sides of the same coin treating both the same.  Keep moving forward as hard as it can be at times.

This is what I have shared countless times.

 

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

What I told folks when I first came to Vermont was that I believed every young Vermonter who wanted to have this experience should.  This belief drove everything I did.

I now have expanded my view.  I believe every young adult in our Nation who wants to work hard, make a difference, and grow as a person should have this opportunity. 

When I left VYCC I took some time to think and reflect and my conclusion was that this is powerful important work.  More, we live in a time where it is absolutely crucial that we instill character, virtue, practical wisdom, and what I call bed rock American values in every young American.  As we do, we will change our Country.  We can again become that shining city on the hill.  A beacon again for all the world.

 

What do you hope your legacy will be?

I set out to test an idea.  That idea was to create a successful public-private venture that, based on quality outcomes, and a solid business model, would last the test of time, providing these incredible life changing experiences, called YCC, to generation after generation.  A model that would withstand whatever political winds happened to be blowing.  A model that would teach practical leadership skills so that every alumni would make a difference for their own family, place of work, community and state, and through this nation. 

Each of us has it in us to change the world, or at least our small corner of it. Let’s do that!

 

Photos of the Month: December 2016

Photos of the Month: November 2016

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

 


Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - CO 



Greencorps Chicago 



Civic Works 



Greening Youth Foundation 



Greening Youth Foundation 



Southwest Conservation Corps 



Washington Conservation Corps 



Washington Conservation Corps 



Operation Fresh Start 



California Conservation Corps 



Greater Miami Service Corps 



Montana Conservation Corps 



Citizens Conservation Corps 



Maine Conservation Corps


 

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Corps Network Proudly Supports Launch of Service Year Alliance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hurricane Matthew Response is first Project for Palmetto Conservation Corps Inaugural Crew

Launched this past August as an arm of the South Carolina-based Palmetto Conservation Foundation, Palmetto Conservation Corps is one of the newest members of The Corps Network. Right out of orientation, the Corps' inaugural crew headed out to assist the Hurricane Matthew response. Check out this local news report as well as photos and a press release from the Corps. Well done to the crew and thank you for your service! 


 


October 18, 2016
For Immediate Release

Contact:  Rachel Price
Palmetto Conservation Foundation
rprice@palmettoconservation.org
803-771-0870

 

Palmetto Conservation Corps Deploys For Disaster Relief in Horry and Marion Counties

For the next three weeks, the Palmetto Conservation Corps will work out of Conway, SC, to provide disaster relief in Horry and Marion counties following Hurricane Matthew and subsequent flooding.

Both counties experienced wind damage and flooding from the 12 to 18 inches of rain that fell during the hurricane. Severe flooding continued as the PeeDee, Little PeeDee, Lumber, and Waccamaw rivers crested about a week after the storm at heights not seen since the 1920s. Hundreds of homes, farms, public buildings, roads and bridges were damaged in the storm.

The Corps will work for up to three weeks in the two hard-hit counties to assist with immediate needs for disaster relief at no charge to the communities. The work will focus on debris removal and general clean up, and may also include house muck outs, house gutting, mold remediation, potable water distribution, recovery resource guide distribution, call assistance on crisis clean-up hotlines, and assessing damage at housing sites.

Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) launched the Corps in August as the only trail-based AmeriCorps service program for young adults in South Carolina. Most Corps training and service focuses on construction and maintenance of the Palmetto Trail, South Carolina’s premier hiking–bicycling trail that runs across the state from Awendaw in Charleston County to Walhalla in Oconee County.

In addition to trail work, a portion of Corps service is dedicated to disaster preparedness and response. Corps training for this disaster relief deployment has been in partnership with the St. Bernard Project, the South Carolina Commission on Community Service, South Carolina Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (SCVOAD), Waccamaw Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (Waccamaw VOAD), United Way of South Carolina, North Conway Baptist Church, and First Baptist Church of Conway.

Two members from Columbia's St. Bernard Project team will join the Corps during this deployment. First Baptist Church will provide housing, and Waccamaw VOAD will feed the crew lunch and dinner on workdays.

 





Photos of the Month: October 2016

NJYC-Phillipsburg Works with New Jersey Audubon to Improve Habitats, Water Quality


CONSERVATION PARTNERS HELP IMPROVE YOUR WATER QUALITY IN NORTHERN NEW JERSEY

Originally published on New Jersey Audubon website, 5/23/16, John Parke

 

Free native plants and labor were the words of the day last week as New Jersey Audubon (NJA), the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority/Wallkill River Watershed Management Group (SCMUA-WRWMG) and the NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg partnered up to work with private landowners in the Highlands region to restore habitat and improve water quality.

With funding associated with the Delaware River Watershed Initiative from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation the groups worked together and planted over 10,000 native plants along streams at farms in the region at no cost to the landowners. 

“The type of plant we are using is dark green bulrush,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of New Jersey Audubon.  “Not only is the dark green bulrush a native plant that helps prevent soil erosion when planted along the banks of a stream and provides important food and cover for wildlife, but dark green bulrush helps remove phosphorus on the order of 80% from water.”

Excess phosphorus is a major part of nutrient pollution, which according to the US EPA, is “one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems.”  Although, phosphorous is a natural and essential part of ecosystems, too much can pollute the water by leading algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle.  Excess algae can harm water quality by decreasing the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive.  Additionally significant increases of algae in our water can also impact human health, food resources, and thus impact a region’s economy.

“The restoration work day conducted by NJ Audubon, SCMUA-WRWMG, and the New Jersey Youth Corps successfully created a new chapter for the awesome conservation and stewardship story that continues to grow at farms like the Jorittsma Farm and Summer Solstice Farm in the Delaware River Watershed," said, Nathaniel Sajdak, Watershed Director with the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority /Wallkill River Watershed Management Group. “With NJ Audubon bringing in the NJ Youth Corps as an on-call labor force for the initiative and knowing that the students are trained in the Waders in the Water program and have experience in on-the ground conservation work, it gives us another tool in the toolbox to get the work done efficiently, cost effectively and move the initiative forward,” added Sajdak.

NJ Audubon has recently partnered with NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg and is providing the Corps with service learning projects in support of the Delaware Watershed Restoration Initiative. These are projects conducted in partnership with landowners and farmers in three sub-watersheds of the Highlands region: the Lower Musconetcong, Lopatcong and Upper Paulin’s Kill. These projects will help the overall watershed initiative, increasing the pace of project implementation in the field, and the projects will also provide Corps members with valuable employment skills.

“Working on farms in the Delaware River region has been challenging,” said NJ Youth Corps Member, Stacy Leisner (Age 21).  “But it means a lot to me, because I’m one of those people that love animals and the environment, and I want to do what I can to make those habitats and the water better. I don’t want to see our environment go down the drain.”

NJ Audubon and SCMUA-WRWMG are looking to engage more landowners for enrollment into the various federal conservation cost share programs for conducting conservation practices on their land, as well as distribute more free native plant materials. However to be eligible to receive free pant materials properties must be located in the following sub-watersheds of the Highlands region (the Lower Musconetcong, Lopatcong and the Upper Paulin's kill sub-watersheds) and must exhibit a degree of ecological impairment. For more information please contact NJA Stewardship Project Director, John Parke at john.parke@njaudubon.org or SCMUA-WRWMG Watershed Director Nathaniel Sajdak nsajdak@scmua.org.

What is a watershed?  A watershed is an area of land that catches rain and snow and drains or seeps into a marsh, stream, creek, river, lake or groundwater. Homes, farms, forests, wetlands, small towns, big cities and more can make up watersheds.  They come in all shapes and sizes and can vary from millions of acres to a few acres.

Photos by John Parke and Nathaniel Sajdak

 

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