21 CSC Champions of the Year – 2017

It is our great pleasure to announce the 21CSC Champions of the Year for 2017

Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award

Read about the 2017 Finalists

National Distinction Awardees

Merlene Mazyck
merlene-mazyckU.S. Forest Service (USFS) – National Office

As the Volunteers and Service National Program Manager for the U.S. Forest Service, Merlene Mazyck provides strategic leadership and policy guidance for a program that annually engages more than 100,000 volunteers and service members on America’s 175 national forests and grasslands. Through her advocacy, leadership, and innovation, Mazyck provides support within USFS to implement the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC). She advocated for and acquired millions of dollars for youth and veteran programs in the Forest Service. Since 2014, USFS investments of $61.3 million leveraged partner contributions of $51.4 million to engage 30,000 youth and veterans in protecting, restoring, and enhancing Forest lands. As a key member of the 21CSC Working Group – comprised of staff from several federal resource management agencies – Mazyck has played a role in developing and executing federal policy surrounding the 21CSC. Significantly, she manages the vetting process to ensure that organizations interested in joining the 21CSC comply with the initiative’s principles.

George McDonald
gmcdonald_3National Park Service (NPS) – National Office

George McDonald has served as National Youth Programs Manager for the National Park Service since 2008. In this role, McDonald has led successful efforts to launch numerous programs designed to enhance and increase the number of underserved, minority and disadvantaged youth participating in park activities and engaging in employment and educational opportunities in parks. Significantly, he helped launch NPS’s Youth Intern Program in 2009 to provide youth and young adults an intellectually challenging experience and exposure to a range of NPS job opportunities. McDonald has partnered with numerous 21CSC organizations, helping develop such programs as Greening Youth Foundation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Internship, the Latino Heritage Internship Program, and the Mosaics in Science Intern Program with Environment for the Americas and Greening Youth Foundation. McDonald has not only championed the 21CSC within NPS, but has taken time to write congressional responses and inform leaders across the Department of the Interior about the value of this initiative.


 Regional Champions of the Year

Calvert Curley
dr-calvert-curleyBureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) – Natural Resources Department, Navajo Regional Office

Dr. Calvert Curley is a Natural Resource Manager for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Navajo Regional office. He has also worked as a Natural Resource Manager for BIA Navajo Ft. Defiance Agency and as an Air Toxics Department Manager for the Navajo Nation EPA. He is Navajo (Dine) from Ganado, AZ. Dr. Curley has worked with 21CSC youth programs in his former capacity with the BIA Ft. Defiance Agency, as well as in his current capacity. He was one of the first BIA Managers to partner with Southwest Conservation Corps to field Ancestral Lands crews on the Navajo Nation. Ancestral Lands is a SCC program that specifically engages Native American youth in meaningful conservation projects on Tribal lands. Thanks to Dr. Curley’s support, the Ancestral Lands Navajo Program has grown and thrived, demonstrating to other BIA offices that partnerships with Corps can be an effective way to complete agency work while also empowering local youth. Dr. Curley has become a national leader for the engagement of Native youth in 21CSC programs.

 Lamar Gore
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) – John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

As the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge Manager, Lamar Gore strives to work with partners, the community, and schools to meet both refuge and community goals in Philadelphia, PA. He began his career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as a biological technician at the Montpelier Office of Fishery Assistance, later working with several National Wildlife Refuges, other USFWS programs, and the Northeast Regional Office. At John Heinz, Gore helped develop environmental education programs at three local schools. Additionally, working with Audubon Pennsylvania and the Student Conservation Association (SCA), Gore has developed relationships with the public to create green space (habitat, gardens, learning spaces, etc.) in Philadelphia neighborhoods. He has also worked in partnership with the Clean Air Council, the city and others to improve multi-use trail connections from John Heinz to the community. Gore is an advocate for SCA programs, and has attained support to get more youth involved in local projects. He has a vision to make seamless connections between John Heinz and the surrounding community. The result of Gore’s work has generated new funding to create a youth community restoration program, putting youth to work on conservation projects during the school year.

Joni Packard
Joni PackardU.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Northern Region

Joni Packard has been with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for 25 years, working in numerous capacities in Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana. She now serves as the Regional Volunteer, Youth and 21CSC Program Coordinator for the Northern Region, covering Montana, northern Idaho, and North and South Dakota. Packard has been involved with Corps since she served as a Youth Conservation Corps member in the 1970s. In her current role, she has partnered with numerous 21CSC organizations, helping lead efforts to engage more veterans and diverse youth in conservation projects. Packard has championed and sought additional Forest Service funding for Corps and other 21CSC partner engagement efforts, increasing additional funding to Northern Region field units from $150,000 in FY12 to almost $1 million in FY16. Packard is considered a leader by her peers in other regions and as a trendsetter for creative ways to engage youth on public lands.

Carter Smith
Executive staff photo DRP 2008,Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

As the Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Carter Smith oversees 3,100 professionals across 11 divisions. In this role, he has been a significant proponent of the Texas Children in Nature initiative, created in 2010 to combat the disconnect between children and the natural world. Smith helped form public-private partnerships uniting natural resource agencies with the non-profit, health, education and business communities. Thanks to Smith and TPWD, the initiative is today comprised of nearly 400 partner organizations across the state that annually help 4 million kids get outside to play, learn and grow in nature. Additionally, Smith has developed a longstanding partnership with the Texas Conservation Corps at American YouthWorks to connect youth with conservation work on TPWD lands. Under his tenure, a dedicated year-round trail crew was created to engage Corpsmembers in full-time trail building and maintenance in parks across the state. Smith has also leveraged private funding to involve additional crews in wildfire recovery and restoration work.