Mary Ellen's Blog: TCN on the Map

Less than two weeks ago, I sat in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just off the West Wing of the White House, listening to the stories of four inspiring young adults from member programs of The Corps Network. There was Ray Santos, a Youth Opportunity AmeriCorps Crew Leader from American YouthWorks (AYW) in Texas, who uses his own experience as a formerly court-involved AYW Corpsmember to lead formerly-incarcerated and at-risk Corpsmembers. There was Kenesha Jackson, a young mother who, with the help of Greater Miami Service Corps, reimagined her future and enrolled in college. We heard from Aisha Dorn, a Civic Works alumna who used knowledge she gained during her term of service to start her own brownfield remediation company in Baltimore, MD. And there was Katherine Martinez, a young woman who experienced a boost in self-confidence and became a strong leader while developing tangible job skills through Curlew Job Corps’ welding program.

These four young adults were The Corps Network’s representatives at a White House Community Leaders Briefing on the topic of Corps and the role national service can play in creating opportunities for diverse young people. I applaud Ray, Kenesha, Aisha and Katherine for their willingness and courage to share their stories of service and transformation, especially in front of top officials from the White House, the EPA, and the Departments of Labor, Energy, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development.  They were an excellent representation of the thousands of extraordinary young people enrolled in the 100+ programs of The Corps Network. There are many Corpsmembers all across the country who, like the four individuals who spoke at the White House, are transforming their communities while also transforming their own lives.

Those of us in the Corps community have heard similar personal stories to those that were shared at the White House. We know from firsthand experience how service in a Corps can help a young person get on the right track, plan for the future and develop into a successful, community-conscious adult. What was exciting about this month was that through the White House briefing, as well as through The Corps Network’s Annual Day of Service, the transformative power of Corps was shared with people outside of the Corps world who previously might not have ever heard of The Corps Network or Service and Conservation Corps.

At the White House briefing, The Corps Network was introduced to important Obama administration officials, like Hallie Schneir, Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls; and Roy L. Austin, Jr., Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity. At The Day of Service, The Corps Network gained recognition in the nation’s capital through high-visibility service projects at four DC-area National Park Service sites. I am proud to say that in our second year of hosting the Day of Service we were able to attract nearly double the volunteers, double the sponsors, and double the number of participating Corps.

The Corps Network is on the map. I feel confident that now, more than any other time during my tenure with The Corps Network, Corps are seen by a wide range of people as a tested and trusted model for improving our communities, protecting the environment, and creating opportunities for diverse young people. We’re in a good place to maintain this trend and expand awareness. I know that Corps will only continue to impress as they go about their daily business of making the world a better place.