Category Archives: 21CSC Champion of the Year

Q and A with Lonnie Pilkington: 2018 Champion of the Year

Lonnie Pilkington is the Natural Resource Manager at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Lonnie is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2018. This Award recognizes individuals from agencies and organizations that partner with 21CSC programs to help engage the next generation of conservation and community leaders in service, education and training.

The 2018 Champions of the Year will be recognized at the annual Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting, happening February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. This event is part of The Corps Network National Conference.

  • Learn more about Lonnie – Click here.
  • Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award – Click here.

  1. Tell us about your current role.

    As the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GLCA) and Rainbow Bridge National Monument (RABR) Natural Resources Program Manager, my focus areas are:          invasive non-native plant control, ecological restoration, wildlife surveys, and endangered species monitoring. I am very fortunate to work for a park and a supervisor that encourage me to connect youth to their National Parks through conservation and education activities.


  2. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation/land and water management?

    From an early age I developed a strong connection with the great outdoors. This connection was enhanced in the early 1990s while working at the YMCA of the Rockies in Northern Colorado. During this time, I spent weekends recreating in Rocky Mountain National Park and began to develop a strong interest in the local flora and a love for public lands.

    In 1999, I was hired into my first position (i.e. Laborer) with the National Park Service (NPS) at Rocky Mountain National Park. In 2000, I began working for the Science and Resource Stewardship Division, where I was introduced to disturbed lands restoration. In the early 2000s I served as a Prescribed Burn Crew Technician for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which sparked an interest in conserving rare species. In the mid-2000s, Colorado State University (CSU) provided me with an opportunity to strengthen my understanding of the environment through conducting habitat restoration research. Through these experiences, I developed a strong interest in habitat conservation efforts and public lands management, which provided a path to where I am today. Along the way, I have been fortunate to work with a number of great supervisors, mentors, and co-workers and for that I am thankful.


  3. Tell us about how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.

    Early in my NPS career, I was fortunate to work alongside youth from Larimer County Conservation Corps, Rocky Mountain Conservancy Conservation Corps, and Colorado Mountain Club Shining Mountains Group.  These partnerships enabled us to             collectively complete critical conservation projects, and personally sparked an interest within me to engage youth and adults in conservation efforts. In 2010, I began working at GLCA and RABR and was encouraged to connect youth to their National Parks through resource stewardship, citizen science, and education. I am fortunate to work at a location where numerous federal and non-federal organizations are interested in partnering to engage youth in conservation work on public lands. Over the past several years multiple Service and Conservation Corps have learned about and contributed to: invasive non-native plant control efforts along the Colorado, San Juan, and Escalante Rivers; native plant restoration efforts along hiking trails at RABR; citizen science based acoustic bat monitoring and bird survey efforts along the Colorado and San Juan Rivers; and aquatic invasive species education and containment.


  4. 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.)?

    I encourage land managers to develop and foster partnerships with multiple local, regional, and national organizations that engage youth in conservation efforts.  I also recommend reaching out to your national and regional youth and volunteer program managers. These support staff will assist you in locating 21CSC programs, provide information on federal and non-federal fund sources, and assist with partnership and program development. I encourage land managers to provide Service and Conservation Corps a well-rounded experience that includes service, training, education, and outdoor recreation.


  5. What are the most beneficial aspects of partnering with a 21CSC Program?

    Partnering with 21CSC programs provide numerous benefits and enables partners to collectively connect youth to their public lands through engagement in resource stewardship, citizen science, outdoor recreation, and career development opportunities. These experiences can and will change lives and are integral in cultivating the next generation of NPS Ambassadors.


  6. What advice would you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?

    I encourage youth to find a discipline they are passionate about and chase their dreams.  Serving in a 21CSC organization is a great way to obtain a wide variety of experiences, acquire valuable training, develop skills, contribute to public lands conservation efforts, and meet the players in your field of interest.  I encourage youth to develop the qualities (i.e. self-starter, team player, strong work ethic) and skills (i.e. communication [oral and written], leadership, education) that catch the eye of managers and potential employers. I urge youth to apply for numerous positions at a variety of locations to ensure they have options. I recommend actively working with your supervisor to seek out training and career advancement opportunities. I advise finding a mentor and working together to develop and carry out a path to permanent employment. Thank you to all the great Service and Conservation Corps that have played an integral role in restoring and protecting our national treasures!

Q and A with Kelly Pearson: 2018 Champion of the Year

Kelly Pearson is the District Wilderness Technician and Volunteer Coordinator at Shawnee National Forest. Kelly is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2018. This Award recognizes individuals from agencies and organizations that partner with 21CSC programs to help engage the next generation of conservation and community leaders in service, education and training.

The 2018 Champions of the Year will be recognized at the annual Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting, happening February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. This event is part of The Corps Network National Conference.

  • Learn more about Kelly – Click here.
  • Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award – Click here.

  1. Tell us about your current role.

    I am the District Wilderness Technician and Youth, Hosted and Volunteer Coordinator for the Hidden Springs/Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District of the Shawnee National Forest.  I manage seven Congressionally-designated wilderness areas to ensure the Forest is following the mandate of the 1964 Wilderness Act and the 1990 Illinois Wilderness Act to protect the character of each space.

    As the Youth, Hosted and Volunteer Coordinator, I am responsible for recruiting volunteers for service projects, developing short and long-term service projects, and developing and nurturing partnerships. In 2017, 604 volunteers contributed 12,457 hours of service towards wilderness stewardship, conservation education, wildlife habitat management, customer service and archeology.


  2. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation/land and water management?

    As a student in high school, my first “real” job was an enrollee in the Youth Conservation Corps for the Shawnee National Forest, stationed in the exact ranger station where I currently work.  My experiences that summer solidified my passion for natural resource management and land stewardship.  Most importantly, it taught me the values of teamwork, self-confidence, and a good work ethic.  I continued for the next few summers in the Youth Conservation Corps as a Crew Leader, eventually transitioning to the Young Adult Conservation Corps.  These positions were important in forming my leadership skills and helping to connect others to the natural world. After a 10 year period away from the Forest Service, I was recruited for a seasonal position. Now, 26 years later, I feel very fortunate to have a job that I am so passionate about.


  3. Tell us about how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.

    The volunteer program on the Shawnee NF, also known as the Shawnee Volunteer Corps, is built on the foundation of teamwork, leadership, stewardship, partnership and education. This foundation is a solid match for the different Corps that we have hosted. The Shawnee Volunteer Corps provides experiential service where, no matter if you are providing four hours or four months of service, you are guaranteed to learn something about yourself, the local natural and cultural history, and feel great at the end of the day. Since 2005, we have hosted St. Louis AmeriCorps Emergency Response Teams; AmeriCorps NCCC teams, who are immersed in the wilderness for a week; AmeriCorps VISTA participants; and VetsWork participants from Mt. Adams Institute.


  4. 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.)?

    Through my experiences working with different Corps, I have found that it is always important to make sure you are ready before you begin hosting teams.  Do you have the projects, the leadership, the tools, etc.  With that said, you must also remain flexible. The Corpsmembers arrive with all levels of skills and abilities and backgrounds.  Keeping your expectations real is important, but what is most important is that everyone on the team feels valued and can connect with the project.  I like to focus on the outcomes more than the outputs.


  5. What are the most beneficial aspects of partnering with a 21CSC Program?

    For the Shawnee NF, partnering with 21CSC organizations is integral to increasing capacity. Many hands make light work, as they say. In addition, it is our chance as an agency to connect with potential future leaders in the conservation community.


  6. What advice would you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?

    I highly recommend a four-year degree as a great starting point. In addition, volunteering is very important to potential employers. Being willing to spend your own personal time doing conservation service, or any service, says a lot about a person.

Q and A with Ben Baldwin: 2018 Champion of the Year

Ben Baldwin is the Youth and Volunteer Programs Manager for the National Park Service Intermountain Region. Ben is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2018. This Award recognizes individuals from agencies and organizations that partner with 21CSC programs to help engage the next generation of conservation and community leaders in service, education and training.

The 2018 Champions of the Year will be recognized at the annual Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting, happening February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. This event is part of The Corps Network National Conference.

  • Learn more about Ben– Click here.
  • Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award – Click here.

 


  1. Tell us about your current role.

    I am the NPS Intermountain Region (IMR) Youth and Volunteer Programs Manager.  In this role I support the 85+ parks across this eight state region. My job is never the same each day; it includes providing policy interpretation, assisting with reporting, advocating for park issues, highlighting successful programs and projects, maintaining relationships and managing fund sources. It is a very rewarding and challenging job.  The IMR has a strong and active youth culture which provides a great foundation for the work that we do.


  2. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation/land and water management?

    I grew up as a ranch kid in Southern Utah.  Most of my childhood was spend recreating and working on public lands and I developed my love of rangelands, red rocks and wide-open spaces. This pragmatic personal relationship with land management grew into undergraduate and graduate degrees that provided the technical content and context for conservation.


  3. Tell us about how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.

    In my position I had the great opportunity to work with Harry Bruell, former CEO of Conservation Legacy (a Co-Chair organization of the Partnership for the 21CSC).  Harry provided me with a great introduction to the inner workings of Corps, what is possible, and the opportunities for the future.  Under Harry’s mentorship, I focused on Corps as an important piece of the youth culture in IMR.  I continue to invest in the NPS IMR relationships with all of the Corps in our region and consider them a critical part of our workforce and how we do our work in the future.


  4. 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.)

    The best advice I can give is to communicate.  The 21CSC programs are our partners with service-wide master agreements.  This allows a different relationship than with contractors or other partners. More importantly they share common goals and objectives to engage and employ youth and conserve public lands.  They are part of our workforce and provide an adaptive, creative, and flexible way to achieve our important work.


  5. What are the most beneficial aspects of partnering with a 21CSC Program?

    21CSC is an effective, creative, flexible and important partner.  They provide us new tools and programs to focus on the conservation mission.  They get work done on the ground, provide youth with great opportunities, and respond quickly to changing challenges.  Because of the large amount of Corps that are geographically distributed, there are many options and tools available. Corps provide local solutions built on local relationships, technical knowledge and passion for conservation.


  6. What advice would you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?

    Connect your passion to proactive management of your career.  Often NPS and other federal jobs are the focus for careers in conservation.  If conservation of public lands is your goal, widen your perspective of what positions and organizations can help you achieve that goal. Align what is best for you and best for conservation; personal sacrifice is not the key to a successful career. Taking care of yourself allows you to take care of conservation. Alignment of helping people and public lands will provide fuel for your passion and lead to a much more productive and enjoyable career.

 

Q and A with Betsy Wooster: 2018 Champion of the Year – National Distinction Awardee

Betsy Wooster recently retired from her position as Youth Program Lead at the Bureau of Land Management. Betsy is a 21CSC Champion of the Year – National Distinction Awardee for 2018. This Award recognizes individuals from agencies and organizations that partner with 21CSC programs to help engage the next generation of conservation and community leaders in service, education and training.

The 2018 Champions of the Year will be recognized at the annual Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting, happening February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. This event is part of The Corps Network National Conference.

  • Learn more about Betsy – Click here.
  • Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award – Click here.


  1. Tell us about your current role.

    Until I retired at the end of December 2017, I was the Youth Program Lead for the Bureau of Land Management. BLM has a strong education team at the national level, so most of my efforts focused on facilitating partnerships with Service and Conservation Corps and other youth-serving organizations. These partnerships not only provide jobs and job training opportunities for young people and Veterans, they also help the BLM accomplish important management objectives across a wide range of resource programs. The BLM has always been a decentralized organization, so I was responsible for managing only a few national agreements. I worked closely with BLM’s grants policy team to develop clear policy and consistent approaches that, I hope, strengthened partnerships with Corps across the bureau.


  2. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation/land and water management?

    My path to conservation/land and water management was definitely circuitous. I spent most of my career working for non-profit organizations, including the National Geographic Society and National Wildlife Federation. I developed educational materials for kids and teachers on a wide range of topics, gradually narrowing my focus to environmental topics. That’s what I was doing at BLM when our division was designated to take the lead on a more comprehensive Youth Program – one that involved not only educating youth about natural and cultural resources and engaging them in outdoor activities, but also providing pathways to careers. While BLM’s Human Capital Management Program had numerous programs designed to create those pathways, we knew that partnerships with Corps would enable us to engage so many more young people. We recognized that strengthening partnerships with Corps would, in a sense, “bridge the gap” in our programs, creating a continuum of experiences from classroom to career.


  3. Tell us about how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.

    Most of my engagement with Service and Conservation Corps occurred in Washington, so I was somewhat removed from the actual on-the-ground work that occurs across the 245 million acres that BLM manages. But I talked and met regularly with Corps representatives from around the country, and with BLM employees in state and field offices, about how we could work together more effectively to accomplish mutual goals.

    I will admit that I had something of a learning curve when I first became involved in partnership development with the Corps. When the Federal Advisory Committee on the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps was created, I was designated as the BLM representative on the 21CSC working group, an interagency team that worked with the committee. That experience helped me understand and appreciate the contributions that the Corps make to young people, their communities, and their federal partners.


  4. 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.)?

    See the relationship as a true partnership. I think sometimes agency staff look at 21CSC programs as a way to accomplish work inexpensively, and there have certainly been studies demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of working with Corps. Others see these partnerships almost as if the agencies are doing the 21CSC programs a favor by letting them pursue their mission on our lands. They see working with Corps as something nice to do if they have the time, but sometimes consider it too much trouble. The Corps do have a valuable mission that benefits society and our public lands. Agencies can and should play a vital role in that mission.

    I would encourage agency employees to look at the work they need to accomplish and consider ways in which young people and Veterans engaged through Corps can participate in that work. Corps crews and their experienced leaders bring a great deal of expertise to a wide range of projects. In addition, agency employees who work directly with the Corps should look at how they can serve as mentors to program participants.

    Whether or not Corpsmembers decide to pursue careers in natural resource management, agency staff can help ensure Corps participants develop an understanding and appreciation for the work they are doing and the mission of the agency.


  5. What are the most beneficial aspects of partnering with a 21CSC Program?

    Crews and interns accomplish important work efficiently and cost-effectively. Crew leaders provide participants with skills needed to get the job done, freeing agency staff to pursue other priorities. Working together, 21CSC programs and agencies are nurturing the “next generation” of conservation stewards. These programs help agencies strengthen community connections and build rural economies by training young people and Veterans for local jobs.


  6. What advice would you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?

    Let your interests be known to your crew leaders and to agency staff you come in contact with. Seek out mentors. Be open to opportunities that allow you to build your résumé and gain a breadth of experience. While the non-competitive hiring status and direct hire authority are valuable benefits of service in 21CSC programs, federal jobs are not always going to be available. There are many ways to pursue your passion!

Q and A with Jen Murphy: 2018 Champion of the Year – National Distinction Awardee

Jen Murphy is the Operations Manager for the Disaster Services Unit at the Corporation for National and Community Service. Jen is a 21CSC Champion of the Year – National Distinction Awardee for 2018. This Award recognizes individuals from agencies and organizations that partner with 21CSC programs to help engage the next generation of conservation and community leaders in service, education and training.

The 2018 Champions of the Year will be recognized at the annual Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting, happening February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. This event is part of The Corps Network National Conference.

  • Learn more about Jen – Click here.
  • Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award – Click here.

  1. Tell us about your current role.

    Currently, I coordinate the small but mighty Disaster Services Unit (DSU) at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency responsible for AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs. The DSU coordinates CNCS’s engagement in disaster-related activities and ensures that AmeriCorps and Senior Corps efforts in this field are appropriate, consistent, effective, and coordinated.

    I direct national service disaster response operations, coordinating with FEMA and state and local emergency management officials, as well as other national and local partners. This includes managing the AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team (A-DRT) program both in times of disaster as well as blue skies. In addition, I support the DSU’s partnerships, facilitate disaster response trainings, and support CNCS grantees in all things disaster-related. [To learn more about what the DSU does and how you can get more engaged in disaster, visit us here.]

    Right now, CNCS is still actively responding to communities impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria across Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since August 2017, nearly 4,000 AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members have responded to the hurricanes; more than 1,300 of those members were A-DRTs, and many of them came from 21CSC organizations. My role is to continue to provide coordination, support, and resources to our partners, programs, and most importantly – the impacted communities.


  2. Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get started in national service?

    My national service journey began right out of college and is still going strong. I served two terms as an AmeriCorps NCCC member out of the former Capital Region campus in Washington, DC. It was during my time in AmeriCorps that Hurricane Katrina hit, changing the course of my service experience and giving me the base for my future career in disaster services.

    In my two years in AmeriCorps, I put blue tarps on roofs in Florida, supported American Red Cross operations in Louisiana, and coordinated assessments and cleanup work in Mississippi. These defining experiences married my interests in project and event management with my passion for service, eventually leading me to my role at the DSU.

    Soon after my time as an AmeriCorps member, I started what would become my public service career at CNCS, planning training conferences and supporting the execution of the 2007 National Conference on Volunteering and Service in Philadelphia. After a year in DC, I realized that my heart was still with the communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina, so I found my way back to Mississippi with AmeriCorps NCCC.

    There I served as the Assistant Program Director of the Gulf Recovery Team, a new satellite NCCC office tasked with managing the program’s long-term Katrina response and recovery work. For a year-and-a-half, I had the opportunity to coordinate all the AmeriCorps NCCC service projects and special events in the Gulf Coast, including those for media, large scale volunteer efforts, and all-corps convenings.

    In 2009, we closed the Gulf office and opened the new Southern Region NCCC campus in Vicksburg, MS, expanding our service area across the Southeastern part of the country. I loved not only continuing to work with long-term disaster recovery partners, but meeting the incredible organizations doing great work in their communities. Being part of the process of establishing a new campus where I was able to interact with AmeriCorps members daily and watch them grow throughout their service year was an extraordinary experience.

    In 2013, my then fiancé (and also national service lifer — #AmeriMarriage) and I moved to Washington, D.C. to start our next chapter. The timing couldn’t have been better as the DSU had an open position and I was able to return to the disaster work I developed a passion for in the Gulf Coast while expanding it across all streams of service. In March, I will mark five years with the DSU and I feel so fortunate for the path of experiences that brought me here.


  3. Tell us about the A-DRT program and how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.

    The A-DRT program is made up of AmeriCorps grantees and AmeriCorps NCCC that have a heightened focus and commitment to disaster response and recovery work. The A-DRTs are undoubtedly the most experienced national service programs in disaster response, recognized in both the federal and VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) worlds as an invaluable resource during critical times of disaster.

    Through CNCS’s partnership with FEMA, we can deploy A-DRTs through Mission Assignments from FEMA. This allows for structured and supported deployments to disaster areas. A-DRTs are requested to support a variety of functions of disaster response, including: Volunteer and Donations Management (Volunteer Reception Center management, donations distribution, field leadership, etc), Individual Assistance (mucking/gutting homes, sheltering, feeding, emergency roof tarping, etc), Public Assistance (debris removal, flood fighting, etc), Community Outreach (call center support, client intake, etc), and Capacity Building (Long Term Recovery Group support, surge capacity, etc). For more information, please visit us here.


  4. Why are Conservation Corps tapped for involvement in AmeriCorps disaster response efforts? What skills do they bring?

    Of the 17 A-DRT programs, all but four are Conservation Corps. This speaks to the capabilities that Conservation Corps bring to this type of work. The crew-based model, the standard program trainings, development of both hard and soft skills, and most importantly, the flexibility and adaptability that members bring make them a great match for disaster response work.

    Recently, we have also implemented an Incident Command System (ICS) structure in our A-DRT operations. ICS is a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response that adapts to the unique needs of each disaster response. This allows for smoother and more adaptable operations in each disaster, while strengthening our partnership with emergency management partners who also use ICS. Since many cCorps train and use ICS in their own program, this has made the transition to using it on disaster response even smoother. And, of course, those awesome chainsaw skills help a lot too!


  5. What advice would you offer to alumni of 21CSC and/or AmeriCorps programs who are interested in continuing their service to country and community?

    AmeriCorps members should look at their term of service as a launching pad to a lifetime of service. The opportunity to spend an entire year (or more) focused on service is something that most members, this alum included, probably take for granted. When you’re in the midst of it, it can be difficult to appreciate the rare opportunity to be surrounded with like-minded people, living in unique situations, and doing good work daily that directly helps others.

    I mean, when else in your life will you get to live on a ship in Puerto Rico or a tent in the backcountry? Some days will be long, many will be difficult. But all of those days will be building the foundation of how you can continue serving beyond your AmeriCorps term. You will learn about what motivates you, how you best communicate, how to live on a budget. And if your next job has nothing to do with service, that’s definitely okay! Find other ways in your life to continue that service, whether that is volunteering on the weekends or supporting an effort virtually. Service means something different to everyone, so find out what it means to you and what works in your life.

    I am fortunate to have a job that so directly serves communities in times of need. However, as a parent of two young children, finding time to regularly volunteer is challenging, if not impossible. For me right now, service means teaching my children about the importance of doing good things, being kind, and helping others. Whether that is by helping a stranger jumpstart their car, or taking food to a sick friend, setting an example of kindness for my children is my new service.

    If you are interested in serving with disaster-related efforts, there are a number of ways to get involved. If you have the time to volunteer on the ground, find an organization to affiliate with (start here!). If you can’t travel, start a fundraiser or donations drive (only items that are needed!) to support relief efforts.

The Partnership for the 21CSC Announces 2018 Winners of 21CSC National Distinction and Champion of the Year Awards

Annual award recognizes professionals for their efforts to help develop the next generation of resource professionals, outdoor enthusiasts, and community leaders

Contact:
Hannah Traverse
The Corps Network
1275 K St NW – Suite 1050
Washington, DC 20005
202-737-6272
htraverse@corpsnetwork.og

 

January 11, 2018 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(WASHINGTON, DC) – The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) today announced the 2018 recipients of the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award and 21CSC Champion of the Year – National Distinction Award. Honorees will be recognized during the annual Partnership for the 21CSC meeting, taking place February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. This meeting is part of The Corps Network National Conference.

The 2018 Champion of the Year – National Distinction Awardees are Jen Murphy, Operations Manager, Disaster Services Unit, Corporation for National and Community Service; and Betsy Wooster, recently retired as National Youth Program Lead, Bureau of Land Management. The 2018 Champions of the Year are Ben Baldwin, Youth and Volunteer Programs Manager, Intermountain Region, National Park Service; Kelly Pearson, Wilderness Technician and Volunteer Coordinator, Shawnee National Forest, U.S. Forest Service; and Lonnie Pilkington, Natural Resource Manager, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, National Park Service.

In addition to recognizing the 21CSC Champions, the 2018 Partnership for the 21CSC meeting will feature a keynote address by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, and appearances by several other officials at the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture, including Dan Jiron, Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The 21CSC is a bold national effort to put thousands of America’s young adults and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing our communities and natural spaces. At the heart of the 21CSC are over 220 nonprofit and government-operated “Corps.” Corps are organizations that – through partnerships with resource management agencies, conservation organizations, and the Corporation for National and Community Service – annually engage roughly 25,000 young people and veterans in maintenance, improvement and disaster response projects in communities and on public lands and waters.

The existence of the 21CSC depends on partnerships between Corps and project partners that are committed to engaging young adults in the preservation of America’s natural, historic and community treasures. The 21CSC Champion of the Year Award recognizes individuals from these partner organizations – including nonprofits and government agencies – who have gone above and beyond to engage Corps and support the training of the next generation of conservation professionals, community leaders, and outdoor recreationists. Champions are selected through a nomination process.

This is the fourth year the Partnership for the 21CSC will present the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award and the third year for the Champion of the Year – National Distinction Award. The Champion of the Year Award recognizes regional leaders; the National Distinction Award recognizes leaders whose work has touched 21CSC organizations across the country.

Led by The Corps Network and Conservation Legacy, the Partnership for the 21CSC is an advisory group of key federal, state, local and nonprofit 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 and disaster response needs.

“The young adults and veterans serving in 21CSC organizations engage in critically important projects. They help keep our parks accessible; maintain vital habitats; protect communities from floods and wildfires, and answer the call when disaster strikes. None of this work would be possible without the support of partners like Jen, Betsy, Ben, Kelly and Lonnie,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21CSC. “Congratulations to all our honorees. We sincerely thank you for everything you do to help train our next generation of community and conservation leaders.”

“The 21CSC is defined by people – champions like you who innovate and work tirelessly to engage young Americans across the nation on projects that build our rural and urban economies and strengthen America’s unique and vital natural assets,” said Amy Sovocool, CO-CEO of Conservation Legacy and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21CSC. “Your dedication to supporting young people and veterans in partnership with 21CSC programs deserves this honor. Your efforts leave an indelible mark on our public lands and areas affected by disaster, and provide opportunities for 21CSC participants to gain critical skills for the future. Thank you for your commitment to 21CSC and to enhancing America’s great outdoors.”

###

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. Learn more at www.21CSC.org.

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. 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. Learn more at www.corpsnetwork.org

21CSC National Distinction Awardee: Betsy Wooster, Bureau of Land Management

Betsy Wooster
[Retired] National Youth Program Lead
Bureau of Land Management

The 21CSC Champion of the Year Award/National Distinction Award is presented on an annual basis to dedicated individuals from organizations and federal agencies that partner with 21CSC programs. The 2018 honorees will be recognized in Washington, DC during the annual meeting of the partnership for the 21CSC, part of The Corps Network 2018 National Conference.

Betsy Wooster joined the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2001 after working as an education specialist for The National Geographic Society and National Wildlife Federation. Betsy took BLM’s youth program from it’s infancy to a fully developed program with consistent implementation across the agency. Under Betsy’s leadership, BLM partnered with more than 30 21CSC organizations to provide work and training opportunities for nearly 2,200 young people in 2016 alone.

Betsy identified ways to engage young people in addressing BLM resource priorities, creating innovative programs and materials to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of BLM youth programs. For example, she created a national network of BLM youth coordinators and supported them through the complex tasks associated with federal employment rules and creating successful partnerships. Additionally, she was instrumental in developing partnerships with organizations such as the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, which allowed the BLM to leverage $2 million in non-federal funds to support conservation projects engaging young adults. Thanks to Betsy’s coordination, BLM’s youth hiring program is well-established, employing nearly 4,500 young people each year.

One outcome of Betsy’s dedication is that BLM leadership is now more aware of some of the opportunities related to young adults programs and working with Corps. Youth and young adult programming has become part of the BLM’s institutional portfolio, transcending administrations and weathering budget challenges. Through student internships and partnerships with Corps and other diverse organizations, the BLM is now a leader in developing a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.

[Congratulations to Betsy on her retirement from the BLM at the end of 2017!]

“Thousands of young people working today in conservation and land stewardship unknowingly owe their careers to Betsy’s persistent, patient, thorough, gentle-but-you-know-she-means-it efforts in Washington, DC to spearhead and institutionalize youth program partnerships in the Bureau of Land Management.” – Janet Ady, BLM (Education, Interpretation, & Partnerships)

21CSC National Distinction Awardee 2018: Jen Murphy, Corporation for National and Community Service

Jen Murphy
Operations Manager, Disaster Services Unit
Corporation for National and Community Service

The 21CSC Champion of the Year Award/National Distinction Award is presented on an annual basis to dedicated individuals from organizations and federal agencies that partner with 21CSC programs. The 2018 honorees will be recognized in Washington, DC during the annual meeting of the partnership for the 21CSC, part of The Corps Network 2018 National Conference.

Jen Murphy is the Lead Disaster Services Specialist for the Disaster Services Unit (DSU) at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). When disaster strikes, Jen coordinates with FEMA, state emergency management, and other national and local partners to help place AmeriCorps members where they are needed most. Throughout all phases of the disaster response effort, Jen leads the DSU team in supporting state service commissions and national service programs.

Jen works closely with numerous 21CSC organizations through the AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team (A-DRT) program. Such organizations as Washington Conservation Corps, Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa, Texas Conservation Corps and Southwest Conservation Corps are all part of A-DRT, ready to send Corpsmembers to disaster-stricken communities to clear debris, muck and gut homes, and manage volunteers. Jen coordinates with a range of agencies and partners to identify appropriate disaster work for Corps, ensure on-site housing and food assistance for Corpsmembers, find local transportation, and support Corps staff in addressing safety and risk management concerns. She also handles all financial agreements and reimbursements to Corps.

Jen previously worked with AmeriCorps NCCC in Mississippi, where she managed projects and special events in the Gulf region after Hurricane Katrina, helped establish the new NCCC campus in Vicksburg, and supported multiple disaster response efforts across the south. Over the years, Jen has worked with numerous Corps to respond to disasters throughout the country. In the past year, Jen and her team have responded to at least four major disasters across seven states and multiple territories, with hundreds of responding Corpsmembers. Jen and her team met this challenge and performed with the highest level of professionalism and effectiveness.

“Jen is an amazing person who cares about our country in the times of great need.  She has realized the tremendous asset Corps serve and the abilities our members and staff have to make a difference to people impacted during these incredibly trying times.” – Rob Spath, Conservation Legacy/Stewards Individual Placement Program

21CSC Champion of the Year 2018: Ben Baldwin, National Park Service

Ben Baldwin
Youth & Volunteer Programs Manager
Intermountain Region, National Park Service

The 21CSC Champion of the Year Award/National Distinction Award is presented on an annual basis to dedicated individuals from organizations and federal agencies that partner with 21CSC programs. The 2018 honorees will be recognized in Washington, DC during the annual meeting of the partnership for the 21CSC, part of The Corps Network 2018 National Conference.

After receiving his graduate degree in range management from Utah State University, Ben Baldwin worked at the university as the coordinator of an innovative internship program named Tehabi. Tehabi was meant to help connect university students to public land agencies through internships. His time working with interns and agencies helped Ben realize his passion for helping youth discover careers in public lands management. This led him to position with the National Park Service (NPS) as a Research Learning Specialist. In this role, he engaged youth in parks, helped create career pathways, developed citizen science projects and assisted NPS in connecting with the next generation of potential employees.

Ben currently serves as Youth and Volunteer Programs Manager for the NPS Intermountain Regional Office, which oversees parks in eight states stretching from Montana to Texas. In this role, Ben supports all youth programs in the region, including numerous Conservation Corps, the NPS Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), and various programs for volunteers and children. Ben works with Corps to build, enhance and improve programming for young adults.

Under Ben’s leadership, the Intermountain Region is currently working with over 40 organizations and leads the entire National Park Service for youth employment and engagement. They have created national models for tracking and reporting youth hires and projects, and set the tone for developing strong relationships between Corps and parks. The Intermountain Region is innovating in areas of safety, developing inclusive workplaces, and implementation of the Public Lands Corps (PLC) Hiring Authority.

Last year, the Intermountain Region recorded over 4,100 youth hires, of which 2,400 were from partner Corps. Ben’s goal for 2018: 5000 youth hires – the highest number recorded in the region and NPS to date.

Ben is constantly problem-solving with the Corps, always looking for ways to diversify funding, enhance the Corps experience, and gain the support and buy-in of other NPS staff. He is a true innovator who works to break down barriers and cut through bureaucracy to ensure young adults have every opportunity to succeed. He works to ensure the engagement of young people is always front and center in the priorities of the National Park Service at the national, regional, and park level.

“The NPS needs more people like Ben. He is an effective, dedicated leader who is fully committed to working with the Corps to develop the future generation of conservationists. He is a true innovator who works to break down barriers, cut through bureaucracy to ensure youth have every opportunity to succeed.” – Ron Hassel, Southwest Conservation Corps/Conservation Legacy

21CSC Champion of the Year 2018: Lonnie Pilkington, National Park Service

Lonnie Pilkington
Natural Resource Manager
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, National Park Service

The 21CSC Champion of the Year Award/National Distinction Award is presented on an annual basis to dedicated individuals from organizations and federal agencies that partner with 21CSC programs. The 2018 honorees will be recognized in Washington, DC during the annual meeting of the partnership for the 21CSC, part of The Corps Network 2018 National Conference.

Lonnie Pilkington was born and raised in Texas and graduated with a M.Sc. degree in range ecology from Colorado State University. He started his National Park Service (NPS) career at Rocky Mountain National Park in the exotic plant control and restoration program. In 2011, Lonnie accepted a permanent position with Glen Canyon National Recreation Area as the Natural Resources Program Manager. He works on a variety of projects, including exotic plant control, ecological restoration, wildlife surveys, and endangered species monitoring. Lonnie has facilitated numerous partnerships and programs to connect diverse young adults and veterans to the national parks.

Since 2012, his efforts have helped provide learning experiences and service opportunities to over 1,000 young people and veterans, including members of the Navajo Nation, Zuni and Hopi tribes. He has fostered partnerships with several 21CSC organizations, including Arizona Conservation Corps, Southwest Conservation Corps, Utah Conservation Corps, American Conservation Experience, and the Student Conservation Association. Through these partnerships, Lonnie has engaged Corpsmembers and other young adults in citizen science projects, wildlife surveys and monitoring, exotic plant control techniques, back country hiking and backpacking experiences, “Leave no Trace” training, cultural resource protection, river running and river safety training, geology, paleontology, and education about general conservation principles.

Lonnie has achieved these remarkable goals through developing innovative funding sources and partnerships. He has secured over $500,000 in funding for youth and young adults programs and developed over 20 partnerships with a wide variety of organizations, including local, state, federal, non-profit and university partners. Lonnie has put Glen Canyon and Rainbow Bridge National monument “on the map” for many organizations, and has rapidly become a regional leader in funding and supporting a diversity of young adult, veteran and volunteer groups. Many youth program leaders approach Lonnie every year for projects to support their organizations because of his ability to make things happen. Through all these endeavors, Lonnie has developed an excellent safety record and always emphasizes safety-first principles.

“Through his dedication and hard work, Lonnie has greatly enhanced resource programs and partnerships for Glen Canyon and is widely recognized as a leader in the field.” – John Spence, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area