The 21CSC Champion of the Year Award is presented on an annual basis to dedicated individuals from organizations and federal agencies that partner with 21CSC programs. The 2020 honorees will be recognized in Washington, DC during the annual meeting of the Partnership for the 21CSC, part of The Corps Network 2020 National Conference. RSVP to attend the annual meeting by clicking here.
U.S. Forest Service
Pacific Southwest Region
Kathy Mick is the Regional Program Manager for Volunteers, Service, Conservation Education and Interpretative Services for the Pacific Southwest Region (California) of the U.S. Forest Service. In this role, Kathy works to connect, national, state, and local partner organizations with the 18 national forests in California. She is passionate about finding ways to engage veterans and young people in learning about the Forest Service through meaningful service opportunities. Kathy was instrumental in developing a strategic plan for volunteerism and service to increase the scope of regional partnerships with Corps. She also helped increase regional resources allocated to forests for youth program and leveraged resources to incentivize local units to work with Corps to help them meet critical performance metrics. With Kathy’s support forests in the region have worked with numerous 21CSC organizations, including California Conservation Corps, American Conservation Experience, Los Angeles Conservation Corps, Student Conservation Association, Urban Corps of San Diego, the Watershed Center, and others.
“Kathy has served over 17 years in the Pacific Southwest Region and has been a critical leader in the expansion of Service Corps partnerships and collaborations. During this time, she has served in numerous details on forests and with California state government that have informed her ability to work with an expanding network of 21CSC partners.”
– Merlene Mazyck, U.S. Forest Service
Continue reading for a Q&A with Kathy
Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation/land and water management?
I grew up outside of San Francisco. Most of my fondest memories, even as a small child, involve outdoor activities, exploring nature and playing outside until the streetlights came on. Growing up we spent a lot of time camping in National Forests, playing outside in the greenbelt behind our subdivision, and enjoying long days at the beach. My Dad use to load all the kids from our cul-de-sac into the back of the family station wagon and take us to run free at the beach. It was always a day of saltwater, sandcastles, and fun.
My experiences and love for the outdoors helped me to hone a course of study. I started my career with the US Forest Service in 1987 as a co-op student from a Northern California Junior College. That summer I learned about planting trees after timber harvest, and “release” of planted seedlings to encourage growth. This meant hoeing three-foot diameter circles around seedling trees in the 100-degree heat with a crew. It was fun and humbling. I worked for the Forest Service in the summer and continued my education to earn a BS at the University of Nevada, Reno. When I finished my education, I was converted into a permanent position.
Tell us about how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.
I have a huge passion for working with young people and veterans. I had some great mentors and have been driven to pay those experiences forward. About four years ago I was given the opportunity to change directions in my career and to work with volunteers, Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), veterans, and the service program. It’s been one of the most exciting times of my 32 year career.
The small team I work with is amazing and we have a huge sense of pride in the work we do – big and small. We have had the fortune of 21CSC which has provided emphasis with our Forest Service leadership and allowed us to grow our regional YCC program on the National Forests, and foster a partnership with Student Conservation Association to host a community of Vallejo crew where our regional office is housed. Working collaboratively with the National Park Service, we developed the Bay Area YCC youth summit, where some of our YCC crews and theirs come together at Point Reyes National Seashore to learn, work and share experiences over a two-day period. We have worked with Kupu in Hawaii and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit in developing the Blue Waters Exchange, where youth from Hawaii come to the mainland to learn about the Forest Service and, the following year, mainland youth from Lake Tahoe travel to Hawaii to learn about natural resources, culture and other opportunities.
The great work of the Public Lands Corps (PLC) Act has provided the impetus and focus to train the next generation of land stewards. We have been able to help nurture old relationships and create new ones through our Corps work, other PLC work and the Resource Assistant Program partnership with Mobilize Green, Greening Youth Foundation and American Conservation Experience. This important work of promoting the value of public service, collaboratively building skills, work ethic, and a life-long connection to public land stewardship and natural resources in young people and veterans is priceless.
What advice would you offer to other employees from land/water management agencies and nonprofits that are interested in partnering with 21CSC programs (What to expect, etc.)?
- Agencies – Invest in different partnerships with service and Corps crews. They each bring something different. It will be value-added to your capacity and your experiences.
- Partners – Reach out to the agencies. We need your expertise, your creativity and the variety of skills you can provide. Be patient with us as we work through sometimes difficult hurdles.
- Expect the unexpected – There is value from these partnerships and this work that dollars expended, miles maintained, or acres treated cannot measure. It can be life changing!
- Work collaboratively. We all want the same thing. Listen, share goals and objectives. Regular communication is key.
- Think creatively, seek solutions, have passion not only for the work, but for the relationships.
- Commit to the participants, create robust, immersive, challenging fun experiences. Focus on the future is our reward.
What are the most beneficial aspects of partnering with a 21CSC Program?
We are creating and celebrating the intrinsic value of natural resources and public land. From our natural resource past, there is deep tradition, value and beauty in the work of Conservation Corps that is still found on the landscape today.
Through 21CSC programs – where we invest in young people and veterans and embrace, collaboration, training, experiential development, outdoor ethics, and education – we are creating equitable access to experiences and opportunities and creating not only the next generation of land management professionals, but generations who will value the great outdoors.
What advice would you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?
It’s the common question – What do you want to do when you grow up? For many, it’s hard to know. What I can offer is this: do some research. Find out what is out there that might interest you. Think about what you enjoy and try and match that in some way to a career path.
Volunteer or offer to help; this willingness may lead to an unexpected opportunity. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If you are afraid, find someone that understands your perspective and can help mentor you. There are lots of people who would love to mentor someone who is searching for their passion and their career path.
There are many different agencies and organizations that offer summer work, internships and other opportunities. Not all of these opportunities require a college degree. There are opportunities for on-the-job training, apprenticeships and other means to gain experience. Education and skill building come in many forms.
It’s also important to know that not all careers in conservation or natural resource management require “getting dirty.” If you have a passion for preserving or conserving natural resources and public lands, there are many different career paths that will allow you to express your passion.
When you work, regardless the job, keep a work or skill journal. Writing a few words or sentences about the work you have performed, the skills and abilities you have developed or the accomplishments you have achieved will be invaluable when building your resume.
Lastly, have passion, enthusiasm, commitment and be flexible. Meet people and create a network of people whom you can reach out to answer questions or become a resume reference.