2017 Corpsmember of the Year Candidates

We were so impressed with all of the Corpsmember of the Year applications we received this year that we wanted to highlight everyone! We will announce the 5 winners in early December. 

Corpsmember stories are arranged in alphabetical order by Corps name. 

 


American Conservation Experience

Michael Hayduk

Although Michael Hayduk had no conservation experience prior to joining American Conservation Experience (ACE), he voluntarily served as an unofficial Assistant Crew Leader since his very first day with the Corps. Now in his third AmeriCorps term, Mike officially serves as an Assistant Crew Leader.

Mike played a critical role in the success of a restoration project at Marina Dunes. Neither Michael nor his crew leader had any experience with dunes restoration, but they managed to design and execute the project ahead of schedule. Later, Mike was a huge asset to a roving BLM crew that, over the course of four months, completed several physically challenging projects in the backcountry. Mike always helped lift his crewmates’ spirits, especially when it was needed the most. Mike is seen as someone who always goes above and beyond. His crewmates describe him as friendly and relatable; he possesses a natural leadership instinct, making him an effective motivator.

Outside of regular hours, Mike is always the first to volunteer to help with camp chores and community service activities. In September of last year, he partnered with a local organization to lead ten members of the community in a beach cleanup on Lake Tahoe. It is a testament to Mike’s leadership ability that all the participants rated their overall volunteering experience as a “10” on a 1-10 scale, and all of them answered “Yes,” they would volunteer again.  Mike inspires an ethos of stewardship in everybody he encounters

Mike credits his Aunt Pattie G. as his inspiration to become a Corpsmember. He explains, “She has proved to be resourceful, and a master craftsperson. I intend on passing her energy and skills to future generations.”

In the future, Michael hopes to continue his education and enhance his medical skills to serve as a backcountry first responder.

 


Arizona Conservation Corps

Marissa Aguilar

As an AmeriCorps member with Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC), Marissa Aguilar has grown immensely. This year marks her third consecutive season with the program.

After graduating from high school, Marissa took a job with a cleaning company. Feeling unsatisfied in this position, she came to AZCC in 2015, looking for “change, adventure and a chance to make a difference.” When she started at the Corps, Marissa was shy and more comfortable on the sidelines. She needed a fresh start in life to recognize her potential and value. As time went on and she developed more skills, Marissa found her voice and gained confidence. She progressed to her current position as an Assistant Crew Leader.  

Among her peers, Marissa has received high praise for her hard work and willingness to help others. Her supervisors say she is one of the most consistent and dedicated Corpsmembers they have ever seen. She is an empathetic and self-reflective leader, able to command respect from others. With every project she undertakes, Marissa asks a lot of questions, taking pride in doing her work well and being able to communicate its value to others. As one staff person said, “[Marissa] is by all accounts one of the most successful members to go through AZCC…Her accomplishments as a Corpsmember cannot be quantified on paper but rather qualified in the intangible presence of her company.”

Marissa has expertise in First Aid, chainsaw operation, rock work and erosion control. Her time with AZCC has opened her to a world of possibilities. Her goals for the future include attending college, serving in the Peace Corps, and potentially joining the Air Force. Whatever her decision may be, Marissa is dedicated to continuing her education and exploring new opportunities.

 


California Conservation Corps

Vanessa Calderon-Rodriguez

Vanessa Calderon-Rodriguez spent most of her life in Mexico. In the summer of 2015, shortly after moving to the United States, she joined the California Conservation Corps (CCC) during the tumultuous fire season. Vanessa hit the ground running, quickly learning protocols and mastering the skills needed to succeed in the Corps.

At the end of the fire season, after completing several emergency spikes, Vanessa settled into a regular routine with the CCC. She did not know much English when she joined the program, but, through conversations with her peers, she quickly developed her language skills. In just four months, including two spent providing emergency fire camp support, Vanessa completed her high school requirements.  

After serving as a “blue hat” on an outdoor crew for her first six months in the Corps, Vanessa supergraded to a “specialist” position with the energy crew. She quickly learned the ins and outs of energy auditing, earning the respect of her peers. She was ultimately elected by her fellow Corpsmembers to serve as the representative for this crew on the Fresno Center’s Corpsmember Advisory Board.

Vanessa has a nearly perfect attendance record and has displayed unwavering dedication to learning and personal growth. “As an individual, Vanessa is a team player that leads by example, being able to take orders from her supervisor and clearly communicate those to the rest of her crew.”

Vanessa currently serves as a tool specialist with the energy crew, participating in energy audits and retrofits of K-12 schools throughout the Central Valley. She hopes to supergrade to a “red hat” position and return to outdoor work, with the goal of one day participating in the CCC Backcountry program and Australia Exchange program. Later, Vanessa plans to put her AmeriCorps Education Awards towards pursuing a degree in psychology.

 


Citizens Conservation Corps

Dorell Boyd

Dorell Boyd is a recent CCC alumni, who served on a total of four projects from 2014-2016. He first served as a Corpsmember in a vegetation removal project that helped reclaim an overgrown section of the Manassas Battlefield Park. Next, during the summers of 2015 and 2016, he participated in additional projects with the National Park Service as a member of Hands-On Preservation Experience (HOPE) Crews at Prince William Forest Park. Dorell learned how to repair windows according to historic preservation standards and gained experience in stone masonry through repairing and reassembling chimneys and other stonework throughout the park. Due to his broad experience, Dorell was able to become a part of a third HOPE Crew project at Vintage, Inc. in Winchester, VA. Here, he worked on repairing and reglazing windows from Shenandoah National Park’s Big Meadow cabins.

Dorell’s work performance and professional demeanor earned him a promotion to Supervisor in Training. He has been recognized by Howard University and has represented CCC on various occasions. The evolution of his craftsmanship has gained him the respect of his peers and supervisors alike. As a result of his diligent work with the CCC and the National Park Service, Dorell was hired full time at Prince William Forest Park as a federal employee in the maintenance department!

“Being a part of the Citizens Conservation Corps HOPE Crew projects affected me in a positive way. It opened my eyes to teaming building and learning new things.” said Dorell. “Just knowing I had helped fix or rebuild a historical site is a great feeling; I can come back in the future and look how much hard work the crew and I put in to it.”

 


Civicorps

Broderick Frazier

As a youth, Broderick’s home life and education were anything but stable. Moving back and forth between the homes of various relatives in Fresno and Oakland, he would often enter a new school mid-term or have to leave before completing his classes. As a result, he had insufficient credits to get his diploma before his 18th birthday. Joining Civicorps offered Broderick the chance to earn his diploma and gain the eligibility to work with companies that previously wouldn’t consider him.

During his time in the Corps, Broderick has built an outstanding reputation. He stands out among his peers, having won multiple “Hardest Hitter” awards and the “Crewmember of the Month” award four times. Because of his reliability and professionalism, Civicorps selected Broderick for the highly coveted Recycling Internship.

Broderick firmly believes that nothing should be taken for granted and, with hard work and consistency, anything is possible. His personal dedication to learning and self-improvement led to his graduating with honors.

Broderick’s peers describe him as a “true leader” who is “highly respected”. He also exhibits these admirable qualities in his home life; Broderick joined the Corps in order to provide stability for his family. As he says “I’m focused on working hard, saving money, and being the best dad and fiancé I can be. My family is everything to me because I know they are there for me no matter what.”

Broderick is saving his two AmeriCorps education awards for a time when he feels his family is more financially stable and he can completely dedicate himself to furthering his education. He has his sights set on enrolling in a Mechanical Engineering program at Merritt College.

 


Conservation Corps of Long Beach

Jaquoy Holmes

Jaquoy Holmes grew up in a single-parent household. Before joining Conservation Corps of Long Beach (CCLB), Jaquoy – having been kicked out of high school – worked part-time at a warehouse to assist his mother and brother financially. However, Jaquoy knew that, in the long run, it would serve him well to finish high school. With the help of his aunt, Jaquoy applied to Conservation Corps of Long Beach and its school, CCLB-Gateway Cities Charter School (CCLB-GCCS).

Jaquoy took full advantage of all the opportunities the Corps presented. He excelled in school, winning multiple Outstanding Citizenship Awards and Outstanding Academic Achievement Awards. He was also selected to serve as a teacher assistant and as a School and Corps Student Ambassador, representing CCLB at events. Additionally, Jaquoy gave the student speech at the CCLB-GCCS 2016 graduation. The Glenn County Superintendent was so impressed with Jaquoy’s graduation speech that he invited him to be the keynote speaker at the county’s Back to School event. Jaquoy received a standing ovation at this event, so impressing the County Office of Education that he was offered a two-year full scholarship to Minot University in North Dakota. Jaquoy is the first student in CCLB-GCCS history to go directly to a four-year university.  

Not only is Jaquoy successful academically, he is creative as well. Jaquoy is a phenomenal artist. He writes and performs original poetry and has presented original art pieces at community events. Among his peers, Jaquoy is recognized as a positive role model and mediator; he projects an aura of calm. This is, in part, a result of the positive reinforcement he experienced at the Corps. Jaquoy states, “The Conservation Corps of Long Beach and Gateway Cities Charter School showed me there are people out there that truly care about their students. Every person I have met at the Corps has taught me something new.”

Jaquoy is currently in his freshman year of college, hoping to major in business and marketing while also improving his artistic skills.

 


Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps

Jennifer Silva

Becoming a teen mom was a wakeup call for Jennifer Silva. With another person to support, she found a job at a nearby carwash. When it became difficult to juggle school and work, she dropped out so she could work more hours. Then Jennifer found Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps (LCC); through the Corps, she was able to work fulltime, earn her high school diploma and, most importantly, attain the stability she never had before. Because of these opportunities, Jennifer is the first person in her family to attend college.

As a Corpsmember, Jennifer has made a positive impact on her peers and the community. Her hard work has paid off immensely: she has received numerous awards, including a Citizenship Award, a Student of the Month award and a Student of the Trimester award. She has earned a variety of professional certifications including in forklift operation and First Aid. She has completed two AmeriCorps awards and is working on her third. Additionally, Jennifer was chosen to attend the YouthBuild Conference of Young Leaders (COYL) in Washington, DC. Whether it’s volunteering at community block parties or handing out clothes to families in need, her presence as a positive force is recognized.

Jennifer is a source of guidance for fellow teen moms and is a strong promoter of postsecondary education. She encourages her peers to stay in school and take advantage of all the Corps experience has to offer. Jennifer considers her service with LCC “priceless” as it allowed her to buy her own car, become independent and gain self-confidence; something that, as a non-native native English speaker, she had previously lacked in professional settings.

Currently, Jennifer is finishing her final term as a Corpsmember, taking courses at Fresno University, and planting trees at elementary schools as an intern at Tree Fresno. Her new sense of confidence and independence has led Jennifer on a path to pursuing a medical degree with hopes of becoming an OB/GYN.

 


Greencorps Chicago

Michael Hendricks

Since joining Greecorps Chicago in March, Michael Hendricks has earned numerous certifications, taking advantage of every opportunity the program presented. He completed the HAZWOPER 40hr certification, is an Illinois licensed pesticide applicator, is certified in First Aid & CPR, and has passed Greencorps assesments in chainsaw operation & maintenance, chipper operation, and invasive species identification.

Among his peers, Michael is described as someone with contagious optimism who genuinely cares for others. He is always building team spirit and makes sure no one is left behind. Though Michael had little outdoor experience, he challenged himself and participated in Greencorps Chicago’s first project with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). He spent a total of 15 nights camping out, playing a vital role in building the Corps’ new relationship with USFS.

Michael is an asset both to Greencorps and to his community. He has put in more volunteer hours than any other Corpmember and has nearly doubled the required number of service hours. Earlier this year, Michael approached NeighborSpace, a local nonprofit public land trust, and inquired about becoming a “garden leader” in his own neighborhood. When he learned there was a garden down the street from his home that needed help, he went above and beyond, ordering new tools, borrowing a friend’s truck to pick them up, and recruiting a team of friends and neighbors to help in the garden.

Michael’s initiative to get involved has paid off immensely: Greencorps asked him to participate in the organization’s planning summit this past summer, and – because of his natural public speaking abilities –he was also invited to participate in the Chicago Service Year Alliance’s Youth Leadership Team.

Michael is continuing his service in the Corps and advocating for more employment and service opportunities for youth in Chicago. He says that Greencorps has opened his eyes to the outdoors and to job opportunities he had never previously considered. He plans to potentially join a Corps in another part of the country, continue to hone his skills, and eventually pursue a career in resource management. 

 


Heart of Oregon Corps

Gabe Isle

Gabe Isle is probably one of the most decorated individuals to go through Heart of Oregon Corps. He successfully completed multiple Heart of Oregon Corps programs, including the Youth Conservation Corps, one of the organization’s most physically demanding programs. During his time with the YCC, Gabe always managed to keep everyone’s spirits up, even during some of the most arduous projects. He discovered his love of the outdoors and a desire to pursue natural resources management as a career.

One of Gabe’s greatest accomplishments with the Corps was serving as a peer-leader for a crew of four during Camp LEAD. Gabe is a very compassionate, generous and positive young man who leaves a mark wherever he goes. At Camp LEAD, he worked with a fellow camper and helped teach him how to properly use tools. He also helped this camper identify his strengths and weaknesses so that he could utilize his strengths and build on the weaknesses. Gabe is also a leader in the community, serving as a mentor for middle school students through a youth ministry organization.

Although Gabe has learning disabilities, he does not let this hinder his drive to succeed. This determination helped him earn credits through Heart of Oregon Corps towards his modified high school diploma. After graduation, Gabe’s love for conservation work inspired him to reapply to YCC. He was also invited to attend Camp LEAD again as a returning youth leader so he could hone his mentoring skills and use his own experience to help other youth with disabilities learn to manage and overcome their challenges. 

Currently Gabe is working hard towards enrolling in college to study Automotive Repair and Natural Resources. He also wants to enroll in the Heart of Oregon AmeriCorps program in order to work on more complex conservation projects. On his experience in the Corps, Gabe explains, “It has changed me to become more aware of what all is out there, especially in the wilderness and what all can be done out there, and my true love for it. I developed more of a responsible attitude.”

 


Mile High Youth Corps

Amanda Mathias

Amanda had a scholarship to attend business school after college, but she wasn’t sure this was the right path for her. She states, “I attended a good high school and went on to a good college. My liberal arts education provided me with a textbook understanding of prejudice, discrimination, and biases. However, I was extremely out of touch with the level of privilege I had experienced in my life”.

This self-awakening led Amanda to embark on a 2,200-mile trek on the Appalachian Trail. During this time of reflection, she grew stronger mentally and physically, but most of all gained a sense of empowerment. Armed with a new self-awareness, Amanda knew she wanted to help others and work for an organization where she could have a direct, positive impact on the community in which she lived. She began applying to AmeriCorps positions and ended up at Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) in Denver, CO.

Joining in early 2016, Amanda had been promoted to Assistant Crew Leader by June. She was also elected to the Corps’ Leadership Council and named Corps Member of the Month for her diligent service as a member of the Energy and Water crew. Staff comment that Amanda is the most active member of the Leadership Council they’ve seen in years: she’s implemented service projects and seminars, as well as an “encouragement project” through which Corpsmembers boost each other’s self-esteem through thoughtful and inspiring notes.

Amanda demonstrated her dedication and perseverance in a project that she initiated with the Littleton Housing Authority (LHA). She pursued a lead and independently contacted management of the LHA. Her persistence eventually resulted in a two-week project serving 83 units. Her organization and attention to detail was evident throughout the project, as she provided clearly formatted schedules and extra promotional materials for all the MHYC teams in the field. Currently, Amanda is continuing her service with MHYC and plans to attend graduate school seeking a Masters in Non-Profit Management with a focus on Sustainability.

 


PowerCorps PHL

Kalef Jones

During his time with PowerCorps PHL, Kalef Jones rose from general member, to Assistant Crew Leader, to Associate Crew Leader, to eventually becoming the first Corps alumni to be hired as a full-time crew leader on staff. Kalef has earned a great deal of recognition for his service and leadership: as an Assistant Crew Leader, he won PowerCorps’ Organic Leadership award and won the Outstanding Youth Partner award from his sending agency, The Youth Violence Reduction Program. As an Associate Crew Leader, he completed the Corps’ first ever internship with the Mayor’s Office at City Hall, and served as a featured speaker in a My Brother’s Keeper lecture series. 

As Kalef says, before he joined PowerCorps he was, what some might consider, a “waste of talent.” He had faced adversity in his life: his mother passed away from heart disease and his sister moved to the west coast, leaving him with little support or motivation. To make money and help his family, Kalef began selling narcotics. This eventually resulted in a felony conviction. His outlook on life was grim, but joining the Corps gave Kalef structure, a support system and something positive to work for. Kalef explains, “…when I joined PCPHL, almost instantly after Pre-Service Orientation I began to feel optimistic, then I started to feel appreciated, but above all else I felt loved. Ultimately, PowerCorps PHL gave me something to believe in and proved to me that I still had value and that I was a priority.”

Kalef’s humility and conscientiousness has inspired Corpsmembers and staff. Although he has experienced setbacks in life, his level of maturity has enabled him to acknowledge his vulnerabilities and work through his issues. Kalef takes his leadership role seriously. One colleague noted, “I felt like he was a colleague before he was a colleague, even though I was his supervisor, it felt like we were professional colleagues both learning from each other.”

Currently, Kalef is continuing his service as a Crew Leader for PCPHL, managing a crew that works in the aesthetic maintenance of Green Stormwater Infrastructure. In the future, Kalef plans to use his Segal AmeriCorps Education award to attend college and obtain a degree in nonprofit management. He later hopes to venture into politics. As Kalef says, “Anyone can speak on all the things that are wrong in our communities but it takes a certain individual to seek a positon where they can change the way things are and make things better for the youth to flourish and thrive.”

 


Rocky Mountain Youth Corps – Colorado

Robert Humig

Robert Humig experienced a tumultuous childhood. He and his twin sister were adopted from Romania, but this first adoption did not work out, leaving Robert with hearing and memory loss. After being sent back to Romania, they were adopted a second time by a family in Kansas. Soon afterwards, however, Robert was sent to live at a home for boys in Texas. Due to his hearing impairment and lack of access to steady, quality education, Robert had not graduated high school by the time he aged out of the home at 18. Fortunately, a family from church took him in, allowing him to attend a regular school and graduate in 2014. This stability allowed Robert to move out on his own, enroll in community college, start a lawn service business, and take a position with the YMCA. At a young age, he learned to take care of himself and use the resources around him.

Still relatively new to the U.S., Robert wanted to see more of the country. A mentor’s suggestion led him to Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC – CO) in 2015. He first served on a trail crew, returning for the summer of 2016 to serve on a chainsaw crew. Although chainsaw work didn’t come naturally to Robert, he kept practicing and improving, developing the skills needed to succeed in forestry.

Despite the many challenges Robert has faced, he is an irrepressibly positive force, always eager to learn. He is a constant source of motivation for his fellow Corpsmembers. Robert’s self-determination is key to his success within the Corps. He utilized his fluency in American Sign Language to translate for another deaf member on his crew and taught other crew members to sign as well.

Robert’s love for the outdoors is a plus for his work with the Corps. He states, “I was greatly affected by AmeriCorps because of what they stand for and believe in.  In Colorado, we learned to always respect wildlife and nature and that means a lot to me.”

Robert plans to continue pursuing his associates degree, eventually majoring in Forestry and Agriculture with hopes of one day working for a federal land management agency.

 


SCA – The Student Conservation Association

Brianne Hunt

Brianne Hunt stays busy. As a student at one of Alaska’s most rigorous residential boarding schools, she regularly volunteers and participates in student council, Yupik dancing, cheerleading and volleyball. During the summer, however, she wanted to do something that allowed her to be outdoors and help protect the environment. This led her to enroll in the Student Conservation Association (SCA).

Although Brianne Hunt was a Corpsmember for a relatively short amount of time, she and her crew accomplished many things for Denali National Park. This includes reclaiming 30 square feet of re-vegetation, building 150 feet of new trail to bypass a flooded social trail, and installing 20 drainages. As seen in this SCA video on Alaska high school crews, Brianne is a very reflective person. Working with SCA helped her realize humans have a bigger impact on nature than she once thought. She states, “I see the world differently. My eyes are open to how things can affect the objects around me outdoors.”

Brianne has been an integral part of SCA’s backcountry trail crews. In the summers of 2015 and 2016, Brianne completed two projects for two premier national parks: Kenai Fjords National Park and Denali National Park and Preserve. Both excursions lasted for weeks at a time. Brianne states, “I really love everything and anything about the outdoors. I believe that if we take care of our community and the environment we will have the privilege to keep them both in good shape for humans, plants, and animals.”

Brianne embodies a strong sense of civic duty. Once she finishes high school, she hopes to pursue a degree in criminal justice. Her goal is to go into law enforcement, perhaps as an Alaskan State Trooper or as a Wildlife Trooper. As she says, “I aspire to use my experience from being a member of the Student Conservation Association, and intertwine it with my future plans to help Alaska be more safe and follow the laws that are set forth”.

 


SEEDS

Leticia Rocha

Leticia Rocha is truly a success story. As a child, she did not experience a stable or safe household. She never knew her biological father and her mother, who was rarely around, often subjected Leticia and her younger brother to physical and emotional abuse. Leticia had to grow up quickly, taking on a parenting role for her brother. After years of abuse and abandonment, the siblings were placed in foster care and eventually adopted by their aunt and uncle. 

The following year, a counselor from Child and Family Services connected Leticia with SEEDS in Traverse City, MI. Although Leticia had a difficult childhood, she turned these difficulties into triumph. Over the past five years at SEEDS, Leticia has blossomed into a refined, intelligent young woman. Among her peers, Leticia is recognized as a positive role model and the embodiment of quiet confidence and strength. It comes as no surprise that fellow Corpsmembers often gravitate towards her; Leticia is very accepting and sees the value in every individual.

Leticia has attained many skills through her service, earning many certifications through participating in projects ranging from historic preservation to trail building. She’s had an outstanding attendance record, despite having a difficult commute involving a bike ride, a bus ride and a carpool. Though Leticia previously planned to attend cosmetology school, her experience at SEEDS has inspired her to pursue a career outdoors. She is set to become the first in her family to attend a postsecondary institution.

As of today, Leticia continues her service at SEEDS as an AmeriCorps VISTA. She is currently building a virtual alumni network, cataloging the work she has done with historic restoration crews, and helping with off-season administrative duties to help the Corps prepare for the next Youth Corps cohort.

As Leticia says, “SEEDS has given me a solid foundation and opened my eyes to my own possibilities, and I want to continue what I love to do.”

 


Sequoia Community Corps

Guillermo Blanco

Guillermo Blanco has been a huge asset to Sequoia Community Corps (SCC). However, prior to joining the Corps, Guillermo led a completely different lifestyle. He had been heavily involved in gang life since he was eleven years old. When he first attempted to join the Corps, he wasn’t quite ready to serve: he needed to work on being able to pass a drug test and dress appropriately for the workplace. With advice from Corps staff, Guillermo changed his lifestyle and officially joined the Corps in 2013 to obtain his diploma.

Guillermo credits his family as his source of inspiration to change his life. When his girlfriend became pregnant in 2012, he originally pushed her away, trying to avoid the responsibility. However, she never gave up on him and Guillermo realized he did not want to repeat the cycle he had experienced and force his son to grow up without a father. This pushed him to turn to the Corps to finish his high school diploma. Guillermo faced a setback when it was discovered that Fresno County had lost his school records and he would need to earn all his credits again, but he did not let this discourage him; he was determined to do right for himself and his family. 

Guillermo is extremely focused and works hard at any task given to him. Because of this drive, he has completed two AmeriCorps EAP terms and recorded over 50 hours of community service. His biggest accomplishments were two promotions into leadership positions with the Department of Recycling, and receiving the Sequoia Community Corps’ 2016 Corpsmember of the Year award. Guillermo leads by example, mentoring Corpsmembers who are struggling. As he says, “I have worked really hard, being a leader and showing my fellow Corpsmembers that it really is all up to us to make a change in our lives.”

Guillermo embodies all the values of SCC. His passion for serving the community resonates when he speaks and interacts with customers. Guillermo is a talented communicator, able to educate children one minute, then promote used oil programs to farmers and ranchers the next. He has even gone out of his way to connect community members to other programs if SCC is unable to meet their needs.

Guillermo is set to graduate in December 2016. Upon graduation, he plans to use his two AmeriCorps awards to enroll in College of the Sequoia’s to study medicine.

 


Southwest Conservation Corps

Christy Harrington

Crewleader Christy Harrington has been a positive and productive influence at the Southwest Conservation Corps in the Crew Leader Development Program (CLDP). She has successfully led a “long term crew” that spent 45 days in the backcountry working on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Under Christy’s leadership, highly technical work was completed ahead of schedule and beyond the expectations of the project partner. She did this admirably, having created one of the most cohesive crews of the year.

Christy’s enthusiasm has encouraged fellow members to become civically engaged and give back to their communities. She pushes her Corpsmembers to work hard and do their best, reminding them that the service they perform on public lands is important and has a lasting impact. She states, “I’ve gained confidence in my ability to be an effective leader: I spent the past six months in charge of six people’s physical and emotional well-being, taught them new and difficult skills, and guided them through the completion of complex conservation projects.”

Prior to joining the Corps, Christy was a graphic design artist for POLITICO in Washington, D.C. Although she had a great job with benefits, Christy was not being fulfilled. She states, “Soon after moving to D.C., I realized how much I missed being outdoors. It became apparent that being outside was more important to me than making money…The Corps has affected my life by giving me a connection to a place. I’ve moved around a lot over the past few years, and since joining SCC and immersing myself in the land, I finally feel like I have found a home.”

Christy hopes to continue her service with SCC as a Crew Leader and plans to use her AmeriCorps scholarship to further her education to become an EMT.

 


Urban Corps of San Diego County

Tania Sanchez

“Best of all, I found a family in the Urban Corps program. I learned that when you work in a team, everyone works better. I have also learned a lot about people in general. I see that we are all the same.”

Those words spoken by Tania Sanchez embody the true value of Corps. Born to a young mother in Mexico, Tania grew up with family members. She moved to California to attend high school and later enrolled in college, but she quit after one semester to focus on earning money. Desperately wanting to continue her education, Tania joined the Urban Corps of San Diego job training and high school education program in August 2015.

In the beginning, Tania was very shy and spoke little English. However, her winning disposition shown through in her attitude and work ethic. As time went on, Tania broke out of her comfort zone and tried new things. She excelled in school, mastered communication skills, and overcame her fear of public speaking. Tania became a leader on the Corpsmember Advisory Board and earned a position on the Recycling Marketing team. As a member of the Recycling team, she conducted educational Green Features campus tours for students, scout groups, and businesses. She continued to hone her marketing skills by participating in events with non-profits and conducting door-to-door canvassing. She even became the face of the program after her picture was placed on Urban Corps’ new e-waste collection truck.

Tania is friendly and outgoing - a role model for other Corpsmembers for her accomplishments and her character. She takes her position on the Corpsmember Advisory Board very seriously, always negotiating with her peers and pushing for reasonable requests.  

Tania was recently selected to participate in Urban Corps’ elite Prop 39 Clean Energy Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program. She has taken full advantage of this program’s resources, attending MC3 construction classes and completing multiple certified trainings in a short period. She hopes to soon enroll in college and study marine biology. Tania is passionate about the ocean and wants to play a role in helping protect waters and beaches from pollution.

 


Utah Conservation Corps

James Wirth

James Wirth is currently in his fourth AmeriCorps terms with Utah Conservation Corps (UCC). During his first term, in 2013, he completed environmental stewardship projects across Utah, including at Zion National Park. Here, he participated in habitat restoration and trail maintenance projects. During his second, third and fourth terms, James has served with the Student Sustainability Corps, a UCC program at Utah State University (USU) designed to place students in AmeriCorps positions to assist the university in becoming more sustainable.

During his service, James was instrumental in creating the Campus Farmers Market at USU to help alleviate student hunger and unite the campus and community in support of local and sustainable agriculture. James was also responsible for creating the Food Recovery Network at USU, an initiative that, every day, collects roughly 100 to 130 pounds of food that would otherwise have been thrown away. This effort has so far resulted in the collection of over 15,000 pounds of food, which has helped feed more than 4,470 students through the Student Nutrition Access Center food pantry.  

James has successfully juggled four AmeriCorps terms while completing a bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Food Systems at USU. He plans to pursue another bachelor’s degree in Conservation and Restoration Ecology at USU next year. James is a model service-learning scholar employing the lessons learned in the classroom into the real-world programs that directly and immediately benefit the community. He works tirelessly to improve sustainability in food recovery and food production.

In the future, James plans to obtain a master’s degree in alternative agriculture initiatives at Colorado State University, and then pursue a Doctorate in Botany. With this, he plans to either work with developing local agriculture systems in cities or other countries.

 


Virginia Service and Conservation Corps

Shanique (Shay) Wilson

Though she had little outdoor experience, Shay Wilson did not let this hold her back when she joined the Virginia Service and Conservation Corps (VSCC). Within her first year, Shay completed Virginia State Parks’ Interpretive training as well as basic training for wildland firefighting and trail construction. Though an injury kept Shay from partaking in field work, she put her energy into other outlets, becoming VSCC’s unofficial Public Relations Officer. Throughout the summer she contributed blogs, photos and videos to Virginia State Park’s collections.

During her second term with VSCC, Shay put her extensive social media knowledge to use as an individual placement member at Breaks Interstate Park. She excelled in this new role, gaining 4,000 new likes for the park’s Facebook page in just four months and increasing its reach by over 1,000% within the first month. Shay has single-handedly taken VSCC to heights that weren’t imaginable. She is truly a champion of not sitting still and being silent. Even when she is not scheduled for regular service hours, she is always there to lend a helping hand.

Shay has become a go-to member for public speaking engagements about VSCC and its benefits. During her second term with VSCC, she was asked to lead a session for new member training, and she did such a fantastic job that she was requested again to help with trail training. She has a way of clearly explaining projects and expectations while putting people at ease and encouraging them to find their way to make a difference.

Shay won the confidence of her supervisors to the point she was asked to represent the Breaks Interstate Park alongside many community members to promote Southwest Virginia tourism. She has attended meetings, led guided hikes and programs, and mentored new AmeriCorps members at the park. Realizing what an asset Shay is, the Breaks worked together with the Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority to create a Social Media Coordinator position designed just for her.