Author Archives: Hannah

Lamar Gore, 21CSC Champion of the Year Award – 2017

Lamar GoreLamar Gore is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2017.

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.


Q&A with Lamar Gore

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation and preservation?

Since childhood, I’ve had an interest/fear in the natural world, which sounds odd. There was the desire to discover, but fear to touch.  I had some key areas that sparked me including an uncle who was a fisherman and a 7th grade science teacher who introduced me to fly fishing.  A trip he took our class to, in which we stayed in cabins for a week in Stokes State Forest was the trip that lit the torch for me.  As a Freshman in college, I stumbled onto the USFWS with a program called the Career Awareness Institute, based in Tennessee, and it was this program that launched me into the fisheries program as a Cooperative education program student.  The opportunities and challenges were rewarding along the way, and I wouldn’t change a bit of it.

What advice would you offer to resource management agency units and nonprofits interested in partnering with 21CSC programs?

I look at this partnership as an opportunity to give back to our target communities. You can engage youth in conservation careers and teach important work skills to those youth.  It’s difficult to understand the full value of this type of programming until you realize even one of those youth sinking their teeth into a career in the conservation field and becoming a leader.

What should one expect when partnering with a 21CSC program?

Expectations range from a member network that can recruit and manage the administrative function of interns assigned to your site. The ability to recruit in target communities, and vetted candidates.

Where can those interested in working with the 21CSC turn for resources?

There is a lot of knowledge and experience in partners who have worked with Corps Network member organizations, so talking with us can shed a great deal of light on the benefits, however, you can also visit the networks webpage to fill in the gaps.

What advice do you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in preservation and land/water management?

I would first say that as you enter the program, empty your cup and let your supervisors and mentors refill it. They will prepare you for a road to success.  Second, make your first, middle, and last impression count with those you work with and for.  Those impressions can and often do follow you around.  Be sure to network with the agencies you work for and do not be afraid to try things outside your comfort zone, as it’s in those places that you will be sure to grow and learn.

What drives you to support the 21CSC and youth engagement on public lands?

For me being a part of youth engagement on public lands is about land stewardship. The conservation world has been fighting a losing battle for years, because we have not put enough emphasis on both youth and community engagement on and off public lands, making a connection between each.  The ambassadors developed by engaging people on and off public lands are invaluable to the youth, the community, and the public agency.

What do you see as the future of Service and Conservation Corps? 

I expect to see service and partnerships increasing, but the work of communicating through our youth will be of the utmost importance. Youth communicating with you and community communicating with community are often more effective than “Joe Blow conservation” communicating with youth or community.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, but I believe we need a stronger impact.

Joni Packard, 21CSC Champion of the Year – 2017

JoniPackardPhoto

Joni Packard is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2017. 

Joni Packard
U.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.


Q&A with Joni Packard

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation and preservation?

I’ve had a long time interest in conservation and preservation issues since I was a junior high school student, back in the early 1970s.  Along with the environmental issues and activism that were a key part of that era, we had a family cabin in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State that was instrumental in creating my love for the outdoors.  Rachel Carson was one of my early heroes, not so much for her book “Silent Spring” but more for her book “A Sense of Wonder,” which found the beauty in nature and the “little things” as well as introducing one to the broader connections between living systems.  In the mid-1970s, I was selected as a Youth Conservation Corps enrollee, right after the program was permanently authorized.  YCC “started the spark” where I saw and realized I could turn my love for the natural world and connecting people to it, into a potential career in natural resources.  Conservation and caring for this planet – and caring for people — has been a calling ever since!

What advice would you offer to resource management agency units and nonprofits interested in partnering with 21CSC programs?

The advice I would offer is look at these programs as a way to introduce young people to not only an agency’s and non-profit’s missions, but also as way to introduce young people to the skills, strengths, and leadership potential they have in themselves.  These young folks – no matter what generation – are incredibly capable, passionate and caring – look at them not only as a way to help get needed work done, but as new stewards working shoulder to shoulder with us all right now.  Create an array of experiences that will not only introduce them to conservation projects but also the stories, the connections, and a land and community ethic that will inspire their own future stewardship, no matter what career opportunities (public or private sector) they might pursue.

What should one expect when partnering with a 21CSC program?

When partnering with a 21CSC program, there’s always going to be some bumps along the way and some unexpected issues.  Create timelines that allow flexibility if you can, have back-up plans when staffing issues happen, budgets are late, projects change or get done early, or emergencies (such as fire or floods) occur.  Cost effectiveness and being value added is important for everyone – think about how to partner creatively to leverage resources. Talk about and develop shared outcomes. Stay engaged with each other.  Be willing to experiment with new programming and partners (and/or new combinations of partners) to stay contemporary.  Realize sometimes a partnership may not be a fit in some scenarios yet it doesn’t mean that a great partnership can’t still occur in others – it’s ok to adjust.  Be thinking how to stay be ahead of the game in terms of demographic, cultural, and technological shifts.  Be creative.  Value traditions and new ideas – there will be different “cultures” within organizations (both public and private sectors) to work with.  Understand each other’s processes, mission and goals.  And…share a few laughs, some homemade cookies and get out on the ground together – see, value and acknowledge the great work everyone – 21CSC partners, crews, interns, and agency staff — are doing!

Where can those interested in working with the 21CSC turn for resources?

People can turn to The Corps Network and its’ website; visit directly with The Corps Network’s member organizations; and visit with agencies (such as Regional Volunteer and Service contacts) working with 21CSC partners.

What advice do you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in preservation and land/water management?

The advice I offer is think about what most interests you, what you really love and would like to do, then visit with as many resource professionals as you can to learn about the potential career opportunities that might be out there, and what different jobs entail.  “Taste test” different types of jobs, through either 21CSC service programs, volunteering and/or paid positions.  You might think you would really love to be a wildlife biologist yet when you are actually doing data collection, it’s not quite a fit –but you then find you do love the larger context of resource management issues that tie into wildlife conservation issues.  If a job in the federal, state or tribal government is of interest, check out what kinds of qualifications are needed to apply for those types of positions – check out the academic requirements as well as the experience requirements.  That way, when you are still in school, you can take any additional courses or get the credit hours necessary to ensure you meet the qualifications.  Stay engaged by networking through student and professional associations.  Stay connected with resource people you may have met, who can also keep an ear out for potential job openings.  Let people know what you are looking for.  Ask for help regarding resumes and applications (Even though a good system, USAJOBS can be confusing!).  Realize that you likely won’t find the “perfect” job the first time you apply – and don’t give up – keep applying/looking for jobs and concurrently keep building your resume with relevant jobs/experiences (even temporary jobs or volunteer work) that show your interest – and show your staying power.  If a federal position is where a young person wants to go, I encourage folks to apply for any job they can that they qualify for – even if it’s not the “dream job” – yet.  Getting that first foot in the door – and really, for any organization – is the hardest.  Once you are “in,” even if it’s not the “dream” job you want, work hard, work well with others, and keep adding to your skill sets and resume – that will help get you to the “next” step in your career. And do be sure to stay at least a little while… it’s a huge investment by an organization (whether public or private sector) to bring someone on, so be that “someone” that an organization or supervisor can give a glowing recommendation about, when you are ready to look for that “next job.”

What drives you to support the 21CSC and youth engagement on public lands?

What drives me is that I believe in the future, that it is good, and that each generation is what makes up that good.  Engaging youth on public lands is not only about creating future public land stewards, it’s also about creating connections – to themselves, to each other, to deeper understandings about different cultures, values, perspectives communities, and our natural systems – that will help create a better world for all.  The pride that comes from a job well done, the self-esteem that happens when you can see how strong and capable you are, the camaraderie and friendships that can last a lifetime, the sense of stewardship and caring and being able to pass that along so that your kids will be able to enjoy public lands just as much as you have been able to do – all this and more is, for me, what youth engagement on public lands and waters is about.


What do you see as the future of Service and Conservation Corps?

I see the future of Service and Conservation Corps as a way to help connect our young people to not only their public land heritage and employment opportunities, but also as a way to help them create a more positive future.  Service, any kind of service, is a way for people to give back, to find out about themselves, about other people, about connections to communities and the larger world.  When we experience and work with other people, we get to know them as just regular folks, with similar dreams, hopes, fears and desires.  It doesn’t matter if you are an urban youth working with a youth from a rural area or a Reservation, if you are black, white, or brown, male or female, young or old, straight or gay, from different religious, cultural, ethnic or racial backgrounds, “conservative” or “liberal”… when we can begin to work together on simple things like trail building, cooking dinner together after a hard day’s work, helping a crew member hoist a heavy pack, or making sure everyone’s ok on a long slog in to a remote backcountry work site, the “differences” can melt away and folks become friends, perspectives can change, and people realize they really can work together to make a difference.  Through Service and Conservation Corps and Agency partners, there is the practical part of gaining work skills, getting work done on the ground, and understanding agency missions and conservation work.  There is also the opportunity to become a “new bridge,” by helping create much needed connections and kinder understandings between us all.

The Partnership for the 21CSC Announces 21CSC Champions of the Year for 2017

Media Contact
Hannah Traverse
The Corps Network
1275 K Street, NW – Suite 1050
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202.737.6272
Email: htraverse@corpsnetwork.org

The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Announces 2017 Winners of 21CSC Champion Award

Award recognizes leaders within agencies and organizations with which 21CSC organizations partner

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, January 12, 2017, The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) announced the 2017 winners of the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award. Recipients include both National and Regional honorees. Awardees will be recognized on February 14th during the annual meeting of the Partnership for the 21CSC. This meeting is part of The Corps Network 2017 National Conference.

The 21CSC is a bold national effort to put thousands of America’s young people and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing the great outdoors. At the heart of the 21CSC are over 200 nonprofit and government-operated Corps that, through partnerships with resource management agencies and conservation organizations, annually engage roughly 25,000 young people and veterans in maintenance and improvement projects on public lands and waters.

The existence of the 21CSC depends on partnerships between Corps and project partners that are committed to engaging youth in the conservation and preservation of America’s natural and historic treasures. The 21CSC Champion of the Year Award recognizes individuals from these partner organizations – including nonprofits and resource management agencies – who have gone above and beyond to engage Corps and help train the next generation of conservation and preservation professionals. Champions are selected through a nomination process.

This is the third year the Partnership for the 21CSC will present the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award. Led by The Corps Network and Conservation Legacy, the Partnership for the 21CSC is an advisory group of key federal, state, local and non-profit leaders that supports the development and implementation of the 21CSC to reach its goal of being a preeminent strategy for addressing America’s most pressing conservation needs.

“The 21CSC is based on agreements between Corps and project partners, but the real backbone of the 21CSC are the relationships developed between the young people enrolled in Corps and the public lands on which they serve,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, CEO of The Corps Network and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21CSC. “We in the Corps community are incredibly grateful to the many project partners who understand the importance of giving America’s young people the opportunity to serve their country and build meaningful connections with the natural world. Thanks to the efforts of extraordinary people like those we honor with this award, today’s Corpsmembers are developing the skills to become tomorrow’s conservation and preservation experts.”

“Thank you Merlene, George, Calvert, Lamar, Joni and Carter – and to all of the 21CSC Champion of the Year finalists – for believing in the 21CSC,” said Harry Bruell, CEO and President of Conservation Legacy and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21CSC. “Corps depend on your dedication to thinking creatively and finding new and different ways to engage 21CSC programs to build our rural and urban economies and strengthen America’s unique and vital natural assets.   We sincerely appreciate all that you do to make new 21CSC projects possible and provide opportunities for all Americans to serve their country.”

The 2017 winners of the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award are:

*National Distinction Awardees

Merlene Mazyck
U.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
National 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
Bureau 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
U.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
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.

 


About the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC)
The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) is a bold national effort to put thousands of young people and veterans to work protecting, restoring, and enhancing America’s great outdoors.

The 21CSC is based on public-private partnerships between federal resource management agencies and the private sector. The goal of these partnerships is to increase civilian national service positions on public lands and encourage the use of Corps to meet the maintenance needs of land and water management agencies at no additional cost to taxpayers.

 

About Conservation Legacy
Conservation Legacy is a national organization dedicated to supporting locally based conservation service programs. We operate and support programs that provide service and work opportunities for a diverse group of individuals to complete important conservation and community projects for the public benefit. Founded in 1998 to continue the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, Conservation Legacy programs include: Southwest Conservation CorpsGreat Appalachian Valley Conservation CorpsSoutheast Conservation CorpsArizona Conservation CorpsPreserve America Youth Summit and BRIDGE Network.

 

About The Corps Network
Established in 1985, The Corps Network is the national association of service and conservation Corps. Our 130+ member Corps annually provide over 25,000 youth and veteran Corpsmembers the opportunity to serve our country through work-based conservation, resource management, lands access, recreation, and disaster response projects on public lands and in rural and urban communities. Through their service, Corpsmembers obtain in-demand skills and advance their education on the path to careers.

The Corps Network supports Corps by advocating on their behalf, providing access to funding and project opportunities, and by offering expertise in Corps operations and programming. To learn more about The Corps Network, please visit www.corpsnetwork.org

 

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.

 

21CSC Alum Introduces President Obama at 2016 National Christmas Tree Lighting

Dylan Carrejo, an AmeriCorps alum from Texas Conservation Corps, introduces President Obama at the 2016 National Christmas Tree Lighting

Dylan Carrejo, an AmeriCorps alum from Texas Conservation Corps, introduces President Obama at the 2016 National Christmas Tree Lighting

Dylan Carrejo and David Vacianna – both AmeriCorps alumni of 21st Century Conservation Service Corps programs – were the special guests of Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at President Obama’s final National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on December 1st. Carrejo served with Texas Conservation Corps at American YouthWorks, while Vacianna served with Northwest Youth Corps in Oregon.

Carrejo also had the honor of introducing President Obama’s speech at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Read this blog from The Corps Network on Huffingtonpost.com to learn more about the event and the significance of the inclusion of Corps in one of the final public events of the Obama administration. 

The lighting ceremony was aired on the Hallmark Channel on Monday, Dec. 5th. Highlights of the event can be seen here.


Published 12/5/16

Who’s Introducing the President at the National Christmas Tree Lighting?

Later today, Americans can tune in to watch the Obama family’s eighth and final National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. The annual ceremony, which took place last week on The Ellipse – a National Park Service property just south of the White House, is a tradition stretching back 94 years to President Calvin Coolidge.

As in past years, viewers can expect the president to conclude the evening with a speech about the meaning of the holiday season. But who will introduce his speech?

Read more 

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Dylan Carrejo of Texas Conservation Corps and David Vacianna of Northwest Youth Corps. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in the background.

National Christmas Tree Lighting 2016. From right to left: Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell; David Vacianna, a 21CSC alumni from Northwest Youth Corps; Dylan Carrejo; Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service; Parc Smith, CEO of American YouthWorks.

National Christmas Tree Lighting 2016. From right to left: Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell; David Vacianna, a 21CSC alumni from Northwest Youth Corps; Dylan Carrejo; Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service; Parc Smith, CEO of American YouthWorks.

Honoring Veterans: Verna Gonzales

verna-gonzales

Every year, many returning veterans continue their service to our country by participating in 21CSC programs. Several 21CSC member organizations operate programs specifically designed to engage former military service members in public lands stewardship. Throughout November, we will feature stories about some of these programs and the extraordinary people who serve in them. 

From Mt. Adams Institute – 

I was born and raised in Texas, but was recently living in Denver, Colorado.  I was enlisted in the Army from 2009-2013 as a Civil Affairs Specialist (commonly mistaken for Public Affairs). Prior to the Army I put myself through my undergraduate degree with a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2008 and post Army, I forced myself to somehow complete my Masters of Science in the Administration of Security and Justice.  The Criminal Justice field was unfortunately not my cup of tea and so I am now falling back on my love of Anthropology.

I was not looking for a change in career when I stumbled upon the Craigslist ad for the VetsWork AmeriCorps program through the Mt. Adams Institute, but it was so enticing in fact, that I applied the next day. I had lost a sense of service to the country I love so much (that I had experienced while in the Army), that jobs I took on after the Army, were just that.  They were jobs.  My goal is to start a career in a field that I love and provide a service to my community.

Taking that step in drastically changing my career path felt risky. I’ve done archaeological field work in the past, but it mostly involved curation. I am currently assigned to Joseph, OR at the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.  I am in the middle of nowhere and it is beautiful; a little piece of the U.S. untouched by traffic lights, major crime, and major retail stores.

Week one of the program was amazing.  Our orientation into the program consisted of housing all the VetsWork AmeriCorps Interns into one bunk house filled with awkward laughter-filled introductions, motivational talks, necessary paperwork, and outdoor activities. Best of all the first week allowed us to grow a network that will probably last a lifetime.  I got to meet men and women with similar backgrounds and the greatest motivational and supporting team ever (no coaxing for me to tell you that, it’s the big hardy truth).

A summer thunderstorm rolls into Hell's Canyon

A summer thunderstorm rolls into Hell’s Canyon

Two and half months into the program and the home sickness kicked in. I started to experience what my sponsor called “Dog Withdrawals” (due to the fact I had to leave my dogs back home to be taken care of by a loved one in Colorado).  Working miles away from home and temporarily departing from those you love has made me realize something I wish to pass on to future VetsWork AmeriCorps Interns: Do not foist yourself into feeling that you abandoned those you love. Think of this as an opportunity for advancement.  An advancement that is going to put you and those you love in a better position in life whether it be financially or just simply having the satisfaction that you are doing something you can make a difference in.  I am blessed to have friends, family, and loved ones back me up on this decision 100%.

The number one most treasured thing about the internship is being able to get a first-hand glimpse at the work involved in this Archeology position with the Forest Service.  I can pick and choose the sides I like and the sides I do not like, and am able to make a clearer decision on the next steps I’ll be taking.  Today I will be taking steps to help my strength and stamina for next week’s back-country trip (I’m just going on a 2 hour hike after work). Next month I will be taking tons of GIS classes to help grow my knowledge base in the technology needed for this position.  Next year I hope to enroll at Adams State University for their Master’s program in Cultural Resource Management.

Taking a break as we cross one of the beautiful rivers in the Wallowa Mountains.

Taking a break as we cross one of the beautiful rivers in the Wallowa Mountains.

My supervisor, Tony, has been an awesome mentor and I cannot thank him enough for putting up with all my questions.  Which reminds me, for those future VetsWork AmeriCorps Interns: Ask as many questions as you can possibly think of! I’m getting quite comfortable with mapping, the pace and compass method, using GPS technology, and my overall map reading skills have definitely seen some improvement. On the personal side, I was able to receive guests this summer which helped boost my mood ten-fold.  Seeing familiar faces and introducing them to a little slice of heaven was definitely needed!

In the future, I hope to utilize the training that my sponsor, coworkers, and mentors have bestowed on me and push forward in a career in Cultural Resource Management (CRM) or Archaeology. The potential of doing what I love, learning and getting out in the field is turning out to be a dream career possibility.

Mormon Flat Cabin from the early 1900s.

Mormon Flat Cabin from the early 1900s.

Learning how to restore windows in historic structures.

Learning how to restore windows in historic structures.

Honoring Veterans 2016: Laurel Poff

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Every year, many returning veterans continue their service to our country by participating in 21CSC programs. Several 21CSC member organizations operate programs specifically designed to engage former military service members in public lands stewardship. Throughout November, we will feature stories about some of these programs and the extraordinary people who serve in them. 

From Mt. Adams Institute – 

My family looked at me like I was crazy when I informed them last winter that I applied to a position in a rural southern Missouri town that neither my husband nor I had never been, in the middle of a forest, where we knew no one, for a significant cut in pay, in a job that I had limited formal experience in.   Why would you want to do that?  The ever-present question of confused looks on people’s faces when I explained that I was committing to a year of service with AmeriCorps, where I would be giving up a formal paycheck and benefits and relying on a “living allowance” of less-than-minimum-wage pay instead. As someone who served in the U.S. Air Force, I understood the value of service.

We had been living comfortably in Champaign, Illinois, plugged-in to the University of Illinois and only a 2-hour commute from bustling Chicago.  Good job, great benefits, nice apartment, surrounded by intellectual, affluent people, and we agonized over it.  Clock your 40-hour-weeks in a confined, dark, dingy building, in a space shared with other people and restricted by closed walls, performing the same routine task day-in-and-out, with little room for upward movement or cross training.  Go home exhausted.  Repeat the next day.  This is the cycle that my husband and I sluggishly found ourselves sinking into.  This was not the life that either of us had envisioned, nor dreamed of.  That is when I stumbled upon VetsWork, an AmeriCorps program of the Mt. Adams Institute.   Direct access to the outdoors, ability to learn and grow in a new skill set, public service, opportunity for continued federal employment, returning to my wilder roots of growing up in the outdoors of Alaska, almost everything about this program seemed attractive to me.  And so I applied.

Me and the crew from the Mark Twain in Colorado.

Me and the crew from the Mark Twain in Colorado.

As I started my work on the Mark Twain National Forest, the stark contrast between the old way of life and the new showed up in more ways than simply a new job and an attempt to have greater access to the outdoors.  This is much more of the life we were meant to live. Since I began service on the Mark Twain National Forest in March, it has been a whirlwind.  Over my term of service, I have had opportunity to supervise and lead four AmeriCorps Trail Crews, design and implement several interpretive school programs within the local community, spear-head wilderness solitude monitoring surveys on the Eleven Point River and in the Irish Wilderness, assist with a new pollinator garden for local butterflies, work with community volunteers and key leaders to partner with Forest Service visions, assist our district Archeologist, our district Surveyor, our Forester, our Fuels Specialist, our Community Service Representative, our Manpower Development Specialist, our Recreation Technician, our GIS Specialist, and most recently, serve on a 3-week detail as a Forest Service Casual Hire fighting wildfires in Colorado.

And now, I have been hired on as a full-time, permanent Forestry Technician on the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, the neighboring forest to the Mark Twain, just across the Missouri/Arkansas border.  While Doniphan and the Mark Twain National Forest will be missed, I am incredibly blessed and grateful to be given this opportunity on the Ozark National Forest, although I had no idea that the opportunities would come so soon.

Digging fire line in Meeker Creek, CO.

Digging fire line in Meeker Creek, CO.

In essence, this writing is a true testimony to the power of the VetsWork program and how success really is possible for Interns who are dedicated to the program and its goals.  Without the experience provided by the VetsWork Internship Program, I would not even qualify for the job I now hold today.

The Mt. Adams Institute VetsWork program absolutely is what members make of it.   While the program does not guarantee a career, or even a job, if you jump in and take every chance to learn, grow, and develop new skills and experiences, you will achieve your goals for joining the program.  Whether your intention is to secure a federal job or pursue higher education, VetsWork can get you there.  This is a program of possibility.

Honoring Veterans 2016: Robert McDonald

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Every year, many returning veterans continue their service to our country by participating in 21CSC programs. Several 21CSC member organizations operate programs specifically designed to engage former military service members in public lands stewardship. Throughout November, we will feature stories about some of these programs and the extraordinary people who serve in them. 

From Mt. Adams Institute – 

My name is Robert McDonald. I am currently working for the North Fork John Day Fire and Fuels department on the Umatilla National Forest. In 2005 I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and started the process of becoming an infantry machine gunner. Once I completed my basic training at MCRD San Diego I began training at SOI School of Infantry. I finished as a squad leader of Machine Gunners and looked forward to fleet. I was stationed at MCBH Kaneohe Bay with 1st battalion 3rd Marines on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. I went on to do two tours in Al Anbar province, Iraq.

In 2009 my enlistment was up and I decided I was ready for the next challenge. Unfortunately like many infantry guys my training and experiences in the Marines did not translate well into a civilian role. I began to look for a path or direction in life that would satisfy my desire of service, honor and duty. So I began to go to school and look for that direction. While enrolled I also worked full-time throughout my entire college degree. I eventually settled on a Bachelors of Science degree in Diplomacy and Military Studies, but in the end I could not justify leaving my wife to go be a foreign diplomat. I wanted a lifestyle that would both suit my needs, but also my wife’s. I began to fully thrust myself into work, but unfortunately I wasn’t doing anything that I had originally set out to do: Service, honor or duty. Instead I was working menial jobs with only menial tasks and compensation. I wanted to break free from this life and look for something else.

A teammate at work on a thinning project

A teammate at work on a thinning project

We decided it was time to leave Hawaii after almost ten years of calling it home and look for something that I could call a career that meets my standards as well as bringing balance to the home life. I have always enjoyed a lifestyle of being an outdoorsman. Growing up in Texas, I spent summers camping, fishing, and all around being a kid outside. In Hawaii I took up surfing, boating, paddling, swimming, hiking, camping and many more countless outdoor activities. So I knew one thing, I wanted to work outdoors not only because I enjoyed it so much, but also so I can give back to what I have always taken advantage of. Going back to my sense of service, honor and duty I felt the need to find something where I could actively assist the community. In my pursuit of a career I found the Forest Service and Wildland Firefighting. Finally something clicked.

While looking for positions and beginning to find out the process, I discovered a rare opportunity that would give me the training, exposure and opportunity to work with the forest service, while allowing me to give back to the community. I started talking to Mt. Adams Institute (MAI) about their VetsWork GreenCorps program, which helps prepare individuals for a career in wildland firefighting and wildfire landscape management. After about five minutes I decided this is the avenue that I needed to take. I signed up for AmeriCorps and applied to their VetsWork GreenCorps program. To be honest I didn’t know much about either AmeriCorps or VetsWork GreenCorps, but the more I investigated the more I realized that these programs are basically the modern day equivalency to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). I have always known about the CCC through campgrounds I visited as a child such as Devils Den in Arkansas. So I immediately had a sense of respect in being involved with such a program. I also felt that the focus on bringing military veterans into these programs and into the natural resource workforce was a brilliant idea. Who better to protect our natural resources and lands than those who have already been protecting our nation? I entered the twelve week program with a basic understanding of what we were about to do, but I had no idea where I would end up.

The results of a day-long burnout operation on the Rail Fire

The results of a day-long burnout operation on the Rail Fire

I started in April of 2016 at Trout Lake, Washington for the MAI orientation. This was the first time I met actual wildland firefighters working for the Forest Service out of the Umatilla National Forest. I was introduced to my immediate overhead, the crew boss, assistant and squad lead for the Umatilla Veterans Crew. These guys all had ties to the military through personal service, family or friends. They all had long and varying careers with the Forest Service everything from experience on hotshot crews to rappelling. I immediately knew we were all in the right hands.

After orientation we traveled to our new home at the Frazier bunkhouse and began our S212 training (chainsaw training) and quickly learned of the importance of a good sawyer not just on fuels reduction projects, but also in fire. We all became certified to run chainsaws, granted at varying degrees. We all ran chainsaws all day every day. Eventually all of the VetsWork GreenCorps members went to Fire School where we learned how to be good wildland firefighters. We came back to our crew ready to fight fire, but realistically we are a vegetation crew which means we thin and thin a lot. We spent the next several weeks thinning until finally we were given a fire assignment. This summer we spent 20 days on three different fire assignments and almost that much on prescribed fires in our region.

The 2016 VetsWork GreenCorps crew.

The 2016 VetsWork GreenCorps crew.

When I came out to Oregon I didn’t have a plan for my future or what Leslie, my wife, would be doing. While I was in the VetsWork GreenCorps program each crew member was offered positions to transition from AmeriCorps members to 1039 Temporary Seasonal Employees with the Forest. Almost everyone who was offered accepted the position. Nearly at the same time we were all offered to apply for an apprenticeship program through the Forest Service. Simultaneously my wife found a job working for the Umatilla Forest at the Headquarters office just half an hour away. She ended up getting the position and when I finished the VetsWork GreenCorps program I went home, got her and all of our stuff and moved to Eastern Oregon. When I returned I was told I would be given the opportunity to interview for the apprenticeship program. Almost six weeks later I found out that I was offered the position. I immediately accepted and now I am currently in the program. It is a three to five year career development program through the Forest Service that culminates into a permanent position as a GS5 on the North Fork John Day Ranger District.

My story is not a common one. The fact that I started the season as someone who never really had any interaction in natural resources, the Forest Service or this region of the United States to now having what basically equates to a permanent position is pretty rare. But to also have my wife find a position on the same forest with a very similar career path is astonishing. I feel truly blessed I found the MAI AmeriCorps VetsWork GreenCorps program that gave the opportunity for me and my family to pursue a career that truly fits us.

Honoring Veterans 2016: Mary Dawn Kidd

 Every year, many returning veterans continue their service to our country by participating in 21CSC programs. Several 21CSC member organizations operate programs specifically designed to engage former military service members in public lands stewardship. Throughout November, we will feature stories about some of these programs and the extraordinary people who serve in them. 

From Conservation Legacy –
A Podcast Interview with Mary Dawn Kidd, Southwest Conservation Corps, Veterans Fire Corps 

Honoring Veterans 2016: Darrin Grant

darrin-grant

Every year, many returning veterans continue their service to our country by participating in 21CSC programs. Several 21CSC member organizations operate programs specifically designed to engage former military service members in public lands stewardship. Throughout November, we will feature stories about some of these programs and the extraordinary people who serve in them. 

From Mt. Adams Institute – “Fire Fever”

Darrin Grant joined the Army in 1994 as a Watercraft Engineer (88L). His three year enlistment turned into a 20 year career. Here are his thoughts on his VetsWork AmeriCorps internship in his position as a Natural Resources Management Intern on the Monongahela National Forest:

There is something that calls to the men and women who have served their country in the Armed Forces.  It quietly gnaws at them from somewhere down deep where they can never quite understand it. I think the military is the single biggest paradox in the world.  When you’re in most of the time you want out and when you finally get out for some inescapable reason you want back in; or at some level of the human psyche you think you do.

I think that for a lot of veterans like myself there will never be another real job.  I think that it’s important to note that I actually have a real job right now. What I mean is this; after being in charge of millions of dollars of equipment and squads or even platoons of personnel the prospect of a conventional 9-5 job does not sit well with most veterans.  Additionally, some lack skill sets and experience required for the career path they may want to cross over to.  For myself it was never a question of finding another career; it was finding something that I love doing again. There is a huge gap that appears when you transition out of the military and generally speaking the longer the enlistment time the more deployments and therefore the larger the gap.  Unfortunately most of the veterans I know are people in that gap.  The key is finding something to fill the gap that has similar experiences with the military and that you will enjoy.

Me and the crew taking a quick break.

Me and the crew taking a quick break.

As part of my VetsWork AmeriCorps internship that is operated by the Mt. Adams Institute, I was fortunate enough to become Red Card certified and sent out west with a wildland firefighting crew.  While in Wyoming our crew was able to help contain two different fires. When I got to my first fire everything just sort of clicked, like I was supposed to be doing this and nothing else.  Part of the reason I felt so at home is there are a lot of similarities between wildland firefighting and the military. Too many to mention, really.  However one is significant to me: in the beginning of the Incident Response Planning Guide (IRPG), which is like the wildland firefighter’s bible, on page V you will find the Army’s 11 Leadership Principals almost word for word.  I guess they figured since they have been around since 1948 they wouldn’t change them!

Being on a fire for 14 days pulling 16 hour shifts and sleeping in your tent is like this bizarre but mostly great combination of Basic Training, prison camp, and a resort in the Rockies.  In basic training you meet a bunch of guys you don’t know, eat MRE’s, tell a lot of bad jokes and fart whenever you want.  However by the end of it you all survived and bonded and it really developed you for the better as a person.  Alright, so obviously I’ve never been to a prison camp…however at times (mostly cold trailing) fire was a toilsome task. Sometimes it was just downright punishing due to the sun and the smoke or just the grade of the slope we were actually standing and working on. However in fire just like anything else there is down time and for all that hard work there is rest. The money is better than prison camp too.  Lastly, if you are lucky enough to land on a large fire as we did for our last 9 days out you will have a catering service, supply tent and hot showers; all the comforts of home. Not to mention we were looking at the snowcapped peaks of Yellowstone National Park!

Remember how no matter what happens in your life you will always remember your Basic Training? Wildland firefighting has that same effect.  No matter what, you will always remember the sound of the crackle and the smells…you will always remember your first fire.  To the members of the CAC-1 Crew out of West Virginia if you are reading this I hope you enjoyed the post and THANK YOU!  Especially to Bravo Squad and the crew Bosses who shared both nuggets of wisdom and tidbits of ridiculousness, not necessarily in that order.  So here’s to always having a “Pirate Tuesday” and may none of us ever have to grid three miles of desert sage again!

The CAC-1 crew out of West Virginia

The CAC-1 crew out of West Virginia