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. Fish and Wildlife Service
National Wildlife Refuge System, Headquarters
Patrick Schulze is a Grants Management Specialist based out of the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service (FWS) headquarters outside Washington, DC. In this role, Patrick helps coordinate youth-related grants and agreements. He has worked directly or indirectly with numerous 21st Century Conservation Service Corps member organizations. His responsibilities include helping place interns and crews and ensuring refuges have the support to provide young adults a positive, career-building experience.
“Almost single-handedly, Patrick moved the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Natural Resource Conservation Careers Program from a concept on a piece of paper to competitively awarding national cooperative agreements to 21CSC partners across the country. Our participants now have a clearer and more direct pathway to careers in natural resources through federal civil service.”
– Chris Warner, Great Basin Institute
Continue reading for a Q&A with Patrick
Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get started in resource management?
I started at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) office in Arcata, CA. I was a student at Humboldt State University and that was my first federal job. I think I was about 30 at the time; I’m a veteran, which helped me in pursuing a federal job.
I started out as an administrative person and then became an IT person. Then I started working on cooperative agreements. At a field station, you’re kind of a jack of all trades.
I then moved to Portland to work out of the regional office there. For several years I was the grants specialist for Region 8, which covers California and Nevada. Next I made it out here to the headquarters office in Falls Church, VA on a detail. Kevin Kilcullen brought me into the National Wildlife Refuge System shortly before his retirement. He handed me my first two 21st Century Conservation Service Corps agreements to get into place. Since then I’ve predominantly worked in youth programs, but I support other programs at headquarters, as well. I coordinate with visitor services, the invasive species program, the fisheries program, the Directorate Fellows Program – any program that has an interest in bringing on interns.
We’re currently going through a reorganization in how we handle youth program grant awards. In the past, there was a patchwork of funding opportunities and award processing went through our eight regional offices. That’s all being consolidated and centralized under one funding opportunity. We’ll now have one office here at headquarters that’s responsible for processing all the youth awards. This will be a significant help to our partners who previously might have experienced differences in process from one region to another.
Tell us about how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.
I’m usually the point of contact for our larger partner organizations. As we expand with our new funding opportunity, I’ll have more contact with smaller partner organizations, too. My main interaction with these partners is to get interns placed. I’m typically the person partners contact for matters like ensuring we meet our start dates for our interns, which is very important to us. The students make a commitment to us and we’re making a commitment to them.
We currently have 10 primary partners covered under the national Funding Opportunity: American Conservation Experience; American Youthworks; California Conservation Corps; Conservation Legacy; The Corps Network; Great Basin Institute; Hispanic Access Foundation; Kupu; Northwest Youth Corps; and the Student Conservation Association.
Through The Corps Network, we also have the ability to work with dozens of other 21CSC organizations across the country.
Right now, youth programs are operating under a five-year funding opportunity that was posted in 2018. On December 16, 2019 we posted F20AS00026 to Grants.gov. This update to our FY18 national Funding Opportunity will allow us to bring in even more partner 21CSC organizations. With more partners, we’ll be able to provide potential interns with more options. With these changes, we’re starting to see some shifting around and some expansion in the number of interns we’re bringing on, too.
Tell us about some of the projects or responsibilities for interns.
They are essential to our work at FWS, especially in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Many of our visitor services people are interns. Young people also serve on invasive species crews, trail crews, develop digital media, build trust in communities by engaging in outreach and education, and work in the field as supporting our biologists.
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.)?
Right now, I would tell them that we are putting together our FY20 guidance that will cover the contracting process for how to bring on an intern. It will cover aspects of the Public Lands Corps Act so they know the requirements and their interns can get hiring certificates. It will provide contact information for the grants people that can help them get their interns placed. We’ll be working to better coordinate with the youth partner organizations, as well.
Our goal is to make things easier for that biologist or refuge manager who is interested in bringing on interns, but doesn’t know a lot about the process. We also want to get to the point where it’s easier for the partner organizations, too. They are sometimes unsure how to approach a refuge to start a partnership or project.
What are the benefits of bringing on an intern through one of the 21CSC member organizations? Why should people at resource management agencies consider partnering with a Corps?
From our perspective, bringing on interns benefits us not only because they fulfill an essential need (filling those roles in visitor services, trails, invasive species management, etc.), but it also allows us to develop and bring in potential employees. This is especially important considering the number of retirements coming up. These partnerships also allow us to expand our outreach; we can start reaching the populations we haven’t been reaching in the past. Through these partnerships, we are working towards meeting workforce and diversity goals. For me, the way I came into FWS was by being a veteran. For a lot of folks there needs to be some kind of pathway. Through these internships, young people can make those connections and get a job.\
What advice would you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?
I would encourage them to go out there, learn and work hard. If it looks like public services is the direction you want to go in, there could be a home for you in the Fish and Wildlife Service.