Corpsmember Success Story: Joshua Edwards

Before attending the Green City Force graduation on June 29, 2012, 21-year-old Josh Edwards had not participated in a graduation ceremony since the 8th grade. For Josh, completing the Green City Force program was not just an accomplishment – it was a new beginning. As Josh said:

“[After] graduation, I got home that night and I just looked at the awards. You get an acceptance award and you get a completion award and I had them both in my hand and it felt so special knowing that I started something, I got into something on my own, and I finished it on my own…It was empowering.”

 Josh grew up in public housing in Brooklyn. His high school career is not something he is particularly proud of; he says he fell in with the wrong crowd and struggled to do well in his classes. He ended up needing to go to school for an extra year to complete all his credits. Josh says he felt lost and started to accept that he might spend his life working dead end jobs. Then his mother received an email about Green City Force – a Brooklyn based organization that trains and educates disconnected young New Yorkers (ages 18 to 24) for careers in the green industry. Josh was so intrigued by the opportunity to join Green City Force that he went all the way to Harlem to attend an information session about the program.

 As Josh says, getting into the program was not easy, but just the application process alone was a very good experience.

 “There are tryouts, an interview. It’s like you’re getting a real job,” said Josh. “You’re treated like an adult, you’re treated like a professional. And that’s just the entry point.”

 Josh says he was completely blown away by his first few weeks with Green City Force. He had never learned about green industries before and was amazed to hear facts and figures about water usage and ways to reduce utility bills in public housing buildings like the one where he lives.

 Josh continues to work for Green City Force on a part-time basis. He now does maintenance work at Planter’s Grove: an 8,000 square foot park – constructed by 2011 Green City Force Corpsmembers – located in New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA) Lillian Wald Houses in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Josh is now looking forward to starting college in January 2013. He hopes to study accounting and perhaps one day combine accounting skills with his passion for the environment.

 “I maybe want to become an accountant for a green business or something like that. That way I’d be doing two things that I love at the same time,” said Josh.

 Josh says Green City Force helped him build his confidence back and helped him understand that he is just as entitled to opportunities as anyone else. He says that before his Green City Force experience, he never knew his own potential.

“I’m already 21 and I already kind of lost three years since I was 18,” said Josh. “But I’m going to get back. This is a fresh start and I want to take everything that I can.”

On April 1, 2013, Josh began serving a second AmeriCorps term with Green City Force as a Junior Team Leader.

Corpsmember Success Story: Christopher Morgan

(Chris - left - working with his Crew Leader, Kenta Darley-Usmar)

Chris Morgan loves learning about sustainability and how to be eco-friendly. He only wishes someone had taught him about the environment when he was younger.

“I just started learning about going green. I want to inform everybody; my little sisters and my family and my friends and everybody else that there are ways to lower carbon emissions and reduce the climate change in the world with little things,” said Chris. “It all starts with one person.”

Chris’s recent interest in the environment can be attributed to Green City Force; a Brooklyn-based Youth Corps program that engages disadvantaged New York City youth in service and conservation projects and helps prepare them for work and college. Chris might not have known much about the environment before joining Green City Force, but – more significantly – he also did not know what he wanted to do with his life.

Chris grew up in public housing in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. He graduated from high school and started taking college classes, but he had to drop out for financial reasons. Chris ended up working at McDonald’s and held a series of other unsatisfying jobs. Then, as someone living in a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) property, Chris received an email about Green City Force. The Corps’ offer of a stipend, metro card, and the chance to learn valuable job skills seemed like a great opportunity. Chris went through the application process and ended up being one of 40 young adults selected for the Corps out of the hundreds who applied.

Chris still has a few months left before the end of the 6-month-long Green City Force program, yet he already has his eyes set on going back to college. He knows he wants to study somewhere in New York so he can be close to his two children (a 5-year-old daughter and a 5-month-old baby) and he knows he wants to pursue an education that could further prepare him for a green job.

“I’m taking everything that I’ve learned and I want to progress with this, I don’t want to look back,” said Chris. “So I feel like if I’m in [Green City Force] now and I’m learning about these things – there are opportunities and there are going to be 7 million jobs in the green economy, why not take advantage of that?”

Chris says that if a green job presents itself before he goes back to school, he may take that opportunity over college. Whatever his future holds, however, he is determined to succeed.

“Instead of struggling at McDonald’s or at Papa John’s delivering pizza – I don’t want to do anything like that. I want a career, maybe start my own business in the green field,” said Chris. “I know a lot of people from Brooklyn don’t have a lot of opportunities and I just want to take advantage and really embrace what [Green City Force] is letting me do.”

Chris currently serves as a Green City Force Junior Team Leader.

Improved Opportunities for Corps Created by New Surface Transportation Legislation

On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law P.L. 112-141, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). Funding surface transportation programs at over $105 billion for fiscal years (FY) 2013 and 2014, MAP-21 is the first long-term highway authorization enacted since 2005.  MAP-21 takes effect on October 1, 2012.

MAP-21 establishes a new program to provide for a variety of alternative transportation projects that were previously eligible activities under separately funded programs. This program is funded at a level equal to two percent of the total of all MAP-21 authorized Federal-aid highway and highway research funds, with the amount for each State set aside from the State’s formula apportionments. Eligible activities include:

• Transportation alternatives (new definition incorporates many transportation enhancement activities and several new activities)

• Recreational trails program (program remains unchanged)

• Safe routes to schools program

• Planning, designing, or constructing roadways within the right-of way of former Interstate routes or other divided highways.

Unless a State opts out, it must use a specified portion of its TA funds for recreational trails projects.

Thanks to hard work by The Corps Network and several of our members, the new law includes several provisions that are beneficial to Corps, if not putting them at a big advantage. Essentially, MAP-21 provides exceptions to certain requirements regarding pay rates and contracting requirements for projects using contracts and cooperative agreements with qualified youth service or conservation corps.  The new law includes language that:

• Defines youth service and conservation corps

• Encourages states and regional transportation planning agencies to enter into contracts or cooperative agreements with qualified youth service and conservation corps under the National Scenic Byways Program, Recreational Trails Program, Transportation Alternatives Program, Bicycle Transportation and Pedestrian Walkways, and the Safe Routes to School Program

• Sets that any project carried out by a qualified youth service or conservation corps will be subject to the living allowance or rate of pay that is established by the Secretary.  Any project that is carried out within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway will be subject to this special rate of pay as opposed to the prevailing minimum wage rate.  The legislation also exempts contracts and cooperative agreements with youth service and conservation corps from Federal-aid highway program contracting requirements, which allows a State or regional transportation planning agency to sole-source contracts and cooperative agreements to qualified youth service and conservation corps for working undertaken for byway, recreational trail, TA, bicycle and pedestrian, or SRTS projects.

For more information on MAP-21 please visit the Federal Highway Administration MAP-21 summary on the Use of Youth Service and Conservation Corps. 

Wendy Spencer Confirmed as CEO of Corporation for National and Community Service

Yesterday, wrapping up a round of nominations before the Easter recess, the Senate confirmed Wendy Spencer as Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Originally nominated last fall, Spencer was confirmed along with several new members of the CNCS Board of Directors. The Corps Network and its 151 members are delighted with the confirmation of Ms. Spencer. Her extensive history and experience in the world of service are just what is needed at this time.

Ms. Spencer served on President George W. Bush’s Council on Service and Civic Participation and was appointed by three governors to lead Volunteer Florida, the Governor's Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service since 2003. Volunteer Florida is the official statewide coordinating agency for volunteers and donations in times of disasters. During Florida's record-breaking 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, Volunteer Florida coordinated more than 252,000 volunteers, as well as donated items totaling more than $85 million in value, which was the largest mobilization of volunteers in the history of U.S. natural disasters at that time. Ms. Spencer has worked across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to mobilize citizens to address problems facing their communities, and she is uniquely qualified to lead the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Many members of The Corps Network, as well as the organization itself, rely on programs administered by the Corporation, and Ms. Spencer’s proven leadership will help ensure that these programs continue to serve the thousands of people across the country for years to come. Additionally, in these trying economic times, it is important to have someone at the helm who can advocate passionately about the true importance of these programs, not only to the people who serve in them, but to those being served. With funding for the Corporation squarely on the table for cuts, and more and more Americans applying for Corporation programs to serve, having a CEO who can make the case for the importance of service is required, and Wendy Spencer is just that person.

Infographic and Data Visualization Fun with Mile High Youth Corps

Mile High Youth Corps recently launched an excellent monthly infographic series, titled "Mile High Youth Corps by the Numbers." The infographics are designed by Kate Prestine, an Americorps VISTA working for Mile High Youth Corps. They've been posting the infographics to Pinterest but have also been providing some additional context for these data visualizations in blog posts. We will post links to the blog posts that exist so far below the graphics. Enjoy!







The Corps Network Joins the Outdoor Alliance for Kids



The Corps Network is pleased to announce that we have joined the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. Here's some more information about OAK:

The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with the common interest in expanding the number and quality of opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors.

Shared Values
The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the well-being of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. While childhood is the best time for instilling and fully benefiting from a connection to nature, in today’s world children are increasingly moving away from an understanding of the natural world. Although families have the leading role in connecting children with the outdoors, local, state and national decision-makers have a critical role to play to ensure that children, youth and families have the access, opportunities, skills and encouragement to connect with the great outdoors.

To reconnect with nature OAK believes that every child should have the opportunity and encouragement to play outside, touch soil, feel rain, watch leaves fall, sleep under the stars, count waves, eat food fresh from the garden, roll down a hill, catch a fish and enjoy the satisfaction of climbing to the top of a hill or a tree. Such simple acts create a pathway to longer hikes, an appreciation for wildlife, a desire to care for special places, healthier bodies, deeper family relationships and wiser people, which in turn OAK believes offers hope for a better world.

OAK's Membership
View OAK's Membership

** For more information, contact jackie.ostfeld [at]; 202-548-6584 or visit our website:

21st Century Conservation Service Corps Federal Advisory Committee Has 2nd Formal Meeting


Last week, members of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Federal Advisory Committee (FACA) met formally for the 2nd time in San Francisco. On the first day of the meeting, committee members visited the San Francisco Conservation Corps as well as several worksites sites of the California Conservation Corps and Conservation Corps North Bay.

FACA members had the opportunity to interact with Corpsmembers from each Corps (CCC, CCNB, and SFCC) as well as CiviCorps in Oakland and the Student Conservation Association. According to Mary Ellen Ardouny, Vice President of External Affairs for The Corps Network, “All of the FACA members agreed that hearing directly from the Corpsmembers about their life experiences and the opportunities that the Corps had provided them, was the most powerful part of the trip. It really drove home the need for a 21 CSC and focused us, with renewed enthusiasm and determination, on producing a quality report for the Secretary.” The FACA has been charged with providing the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior with a set of recommendations for establishing at 21st Century Conservation Service Corps by July 1, 2012 — a very quick turnaround considering that the Committee met for the first time in February.

With this pressing deadline in mind, the second and third days of the meeting were focused on establishing a framework for, and the parameters under which a 21st Century CSC would ideally be implemented. The next formal meeting of the FACA is scheduled for May in Denver, Colorado. Between formal meetings Committee members will make progress on their work via regular phone calls.

USS Rafael Peralta Named for Former California Conservation Corpsmember


Sgt. Rafael Peralta in Marine uniform (left) -- Rafael as a San Diego crew leader (right)

From the California Conservation Corps

The Secretary of the Navy has announced that one of its next five ships will be named in honor of Marine Staff Sgt. Rafael Peralta.  The ship will be a guided-missile destroyer.

Rafael was a former California Conservation Corps crewleader at the San Diego Center in 1998-99. He was 25 when he was killed in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004, while covering an exploding grenade with his body, thus saving the lives of several fellow Marines. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

Rafael's supervisors while in the CCC in San Diego included Cynthia Aguayo, Brian Lussier and Jennifer Reed, all of whom were impressed by his dedication.   

 "He knew what he wanted and had a plan for his life," Cynthia said.  "He was very enthusiastic about everything he did and a great motivator for P.T."

Brian promoted him to crewleader and recognized his drive. "He tried really hard and always went above and beyond." Brian still remembers a 10-day spike with Rafael and crew in the Anza-Borrego desert, where the crew hiked three miles to work each day and removed tamarisk plants.

Jennifer said "of anybody there in San Diego, he made the greatest impression of being a role model for other corpsmembers. He was an outstanding young man, a leader," she said. "I recall him coming back to see us in his Marine uniform," Jennifer said. "He was so proud and looked so sharp."

Type of destroyer to be named after Rafael Peralta

Congressman Duncan Hunter has been a longtime advocate for Peralta's recognition and is still urging the Navy to award him the Medal of Honor. Hunter added an amendment to the defense budget to name the next available Navy ship after him.  Hunter also pressed for naming a ship after San Diegan John Finn.

San Diego C II Philip Lembke recalls Peralta's CCC days and was pleased to hear about the Navy honor.

"I've been following the Congressman's fight for this, and I'm overjoyed ... 'Rafa' was a determined, focused and committed young man, whose purpose was to achieve his goals, in order to make life better for him and his family."

An editorial in the Union-Tribune of San Diego noted with pride that three of the five new ships will be named after San Diegans.  It concluded:

"It's not yet known where the three ships will be based.  But if they ever find their way into San Diego Bay, go down and think about Peralta, Johnson and Finn.  What they did, they did for you."


Conservation Corps Boost Youth Leadership, Community Service and Outdoor Involvement, Study Shows


Editor's Note: this News Release was Originally Published by the Public Lands Service Coalition, of which The Corps Network is a member.

Contact: Destry Jarvis
Phone: 540.338.6970

WASHINGTON, D.C.–-Young people who participate in Conservation Corps exhibit improved leadership skills, community engagement and environmental stewardship according to a recent nationwide evaluation.

The study, conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University, assessed participants from 10 member Corps of the Public Lands Service Coalition against a random comparison group.

Using data collected during the 2011 program season, researchers found that after a season of service, Corps members displayed numerous developmental advantages. These include enhanced leadership and teamwork skills as well as a greater willingness to accept responsibility for personal actions.

Intensified engagement with the land was evinced by stronger interest in outdoor recreation. Ninety-five percent of Corps alumni indicate they plan to go backpacking within the next year, versus just 23% of the comparison group. Another 91% of Corps participants plan to purchase outdoor recreation gear within the next year, and to spend substantially more than their nonparticipant peers.

In addition, Corps participants’ interest in natural resource management careers increased during their service, while non-participants’ interest in such jobs actually declined during the same time period.

“This evaluation offers further proof that Conservation Corps provide important benefits to public lands and the public good, and we encourage our land management agencies to increase service opportunities for America’s Conservation Corps members,” said Mary Ellen Ardouny, Vice President of External Affairs for The Corps Network, formerly known as the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps.

The Public Lands Service Coalition represents 36 Conservation Corps whose 17,000 members complete crucial maintenance on America's public/tribal lands and waters.

Coalition Members

American YouthWorks • Backcountry Horsemen of America • Calif. Assn of Local Conservation Corps • California Conservation Corps • Campfire USA • Canyon Country Youth Corps • Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia • Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy, Inc • Coconino Rural Environment Corps • Colorado Youth Corps Association • Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa • EarthCorps • Greater Miami Service Corps • Groundwork USA • Los Angeles Conservation Corps • Montana Conservation Corps • National Congress of American Indians • National Parks Conservation Association • National Wildlife Federation • Nevada Conservation Corps • Northwest Youth Corps • Operation Fresh Start • Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (CO) • Sequoia Community Corps • Sierra Club • Southeast Alaska Guidance Association • Southwest Conservation Corps •Student Conservation Association • The Corps Network • The Wellness Coalition • The Wilderness Society • The Y • Utah Conservation Corps • Vermont Youth Conservation Corps •Veterans Green Jobs • Washington Conservation Corps

21st Century Conservation Service Corps Federal Advisory Committee Meets for 1st Time


On February 9th and 10th, leaders from federal land management agencies, The Corps Network, and other organizations that serve youth met over 2 days for the first official meeting of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Federal Advisory Committee (FACA).

The FACA has been tasked with creating guidelines and recommendations for how to scale up and implement a nationally recognized Corps that shares the scope and ideals of the historic Civilian Conservation Corps. As federal funding shrinks across the board, ideas and methods for addressing this mission will need to incorporate bottom-up ideas, as well as a strong foundation of public-private partnerships.

Harry Bruell, CEO of Southwest Conservation Corps, has been designated as chair of the Committee. He is joined on the FACA by several other Corps Directors who are serving as both primary committee members, and as alternates. They include

• Laura Herrin, The Student Conservation Association

• David Muraki, California Conservation Corps

• Jennifer Freeman, Colorado Youth Corps Association

• Jeff Parker, Northwest Youth Corps

• Len Price, Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa

• Parc Smith, American YouthWorks

• Scott Weaver, The Student Conservation Association

Mary Ellen Ardouny, Vice President for External Affairs at The Corps Network, is also a primary member of the Committee. A full list of Committee members can be found here.

On the first day of the meeting, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined the newly formed Committee to express his support and a sense of urgency for the Committee to complete its report and recommendations by July (the urgency is real, as the FACA has been authorized for a total of 2 years). Salazar noted that creating opportunities for youth has been one of his biggest priorities as Secretary and as part of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative and its public hearing sessions. He also provided a juicy morsel of gossip by suggesting that the President might designate a new National Park Service site focused on the Civilian Conservation Corps in the upcoming year. He did not elaborate in an greater detail, however, about this exciting prospect. 

Secretary Salazar's commitment was reinforced by two of Salazar's closest peers, who also attended the first day of the meeting and spoke: Harris Sherman, Under Secretary of Natural Resources & the Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and William Shafroth, Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

The first day of the FACA meeting also included introductions of each Committee Member and an in-depth explanation of ethical considerations for FACA members to understand as they move forward in their work.

The 2nd day of the FACA meeting quickly got down to the business of allowing Committee members to more throughly discuss their perspectives about what a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps "would look like" and begin to agree to some basic parameters and assumptions under which the FACA would begin its deliberations (e.g. the age range of Corpsmembers, the locations of demonstration projects, how experiences would be tied to careers, and so forth). Next, a discussion about "subcommittees" took place. The subcommittees of the FACA will explore 4 key topics in depth over the coming months, and will then present their recommendations to the full committee. Committee members and alternates were able to choose which committees on which they would like to serve. The subcommittees will grapple with these key topics:

1. A general framework for the 21st CSC, including its scope, size, and programmatic elements.

2. Certification processes that Corps must undertake to be considered for participation in the 21st CSC.

3. Funding and partnerships that will be essential for helping the 21st CSC take root.

4. Ensuring and facilitating career pathways for Corpsmembers through the 21st CSC.

The FACA Committee members recognized that this was one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- opportunity that Service and Conservation Corps have had to date to capture the public imagination, improve the lives of millions of young people, and promote environmental stewardship nationwide. As work gets underway, your help in promoting this effort and its value to Americans will be appreciated.

The next official FACA meeting will take place from March 27-29th in San Francisco, California.