Corpsmember Profile: Breonnie King - Montgomery County Conservation Corps


 

Before finding her place at Montgomery County Conservation Corps (MCCC), twenty-one-year-old Breonnie King bounced between jobs in the food industry, retail, and health and wellness. As Bre describes it, she was “all over the place.” Without any prior experience in the environmental world, MCCC would have a huge impact on her.

Through MCCC’s GED program, Bre had a new outlook on life. In this program, youth and young adults can earn their GED while exploring green careers and learning conservation-related job skills. What attracted Bre the most to working in the environment was the idea she could create change and have a positive impact. As a participant in MCCC, Bre’s main goal was to earn her GED; she never expected to fall in love with the outdoors. As a child, Bre did not enjoy nature.

“Playing in the dirt and with bugs wasn’t my thing,” she said.

Because of her work, Bre views herself as an advocate for the outdoors and states her work (invasive species removal) at Dumbarton Oaks has opened her eyes to the impact a couple people can make overtime. However, as an African American woman, Bre has also experienced the role privilege can play in the outdoors.

“When I was younger, a lot of people kind of set out what I should be doing. ‘You can sing and you can dance and you can play sports,’” said Bre. “That’s where a lot of people put African Americans: in a box of what we care about and what is important to us. If it’s not in the music, or entertainment, or sports industry, we don’t have visibility.”

When Bre realized, the conservation field lacked people of color, it resonated with her. She is happy and proud to provide visibility for not only women, but African Americans. She recounts, “I love seeing the looks on people’s face when I’m on the job, it’s rewarding and empowering to see women who are certified in the field.”

Overtime, Bre’s love for the outdoors grew more and more; she enlisted family and friends to get outdoors more. As a Crew leader with MCCC she has enjoyed the opportunity to inspire young adults around her. Prior to her service, she never knew she could join environmental or conservation organizations, but she now has the confidence to put herself out there and pursue a career in this field. She believes MCCC has given her the know-how to tackle challenges effectively and efficiently.

“I can work in an industry where leaps and bounds can be made.”

During her time at the Corps, Bre enjoyed doing and seeing something new each day. From working on solar panels, to working with invasive plant removal, Bre woke up each day not knowing what would transpire.

Bre also received many certifications that she uses daily. She explains, “A biker was hit by a car right in front of me. Because of MCCC, I had the certification to know what to do in that situation. I could potentially save someone’s life.”

Currently, Bre has applications pending with the Student Conservation Association, programs listed on the Service Year Exchange, and AmeriCorps. There are so many things she wants to do. She states, “I just want to serve.”

With so many things on her plate, Bre also wants to attend to school to study International Relations. When asked about her dream job she states, “I don’t even know if there is a title for it. I love speaking, getting people involved, and doing a lot of outreach to people about green jobs and letting them know these things are out here. I don’t have a specific dream job. I like to do so much. I’m kind of a jack of all trades. That’s the beauty of this industry, you don’t have to stick to one field.”

She advises young people who are interested in this work to, “stick with it, don’t be afraid to try something new.” 

The Corps Network Responds to August 12 Events in Charlottesville

On March 25, 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a crowd of 25,000 marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in support of voting rights for African-Americans.

At the end of the march, King delivered what has since become known as the "How Long, Not Long" speech. Defiant at times, his remarks referenced the violence that beset the Civil Rights movement. He encouraged those gathered to keep up the struggle; the movement could not be dissuaded after coming so far.

How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.

How long? Not long, you shall reap what you sow.

How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia demonstrate that the struggle continues and reinforces that we cannot shy away from discussing the difficult issues that underlie this unfortunate incident, as well as so many other acts of racially-motivated violence.

The Corps Network recently introduced the “Moving Forward Initiative,” which focuses on addressing institutional and systemic racism as it relates to our Corps and the conservation workforce. Institutional racism was the focus of our recent workshop with The People’s Institute: an organization that teaches “what racism is, where it comes from, how it functions, why it persists and how it can be undone.”  What happened in Charlottesville shows us why understanding these concepts is so critical.

MENTOR, a national partner of The Corps Network, has published a guide, “Supporting Young People in the Wake of Violence and Trauma.” We suggest that Corps read and use this guide as we look for ways to talk to our Corpsmembers about recent events. We encourage all our Corps to have these conversations not only with your Corpsmembers, but also with your friends, family and partners. Know that we at The Corps Network are here to help.

When speaking to the US Conference of Mayors on August 11, 2017, President and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation La June Montgomery Tabron made this eloquent statement: “we do know that, when people come together, this work addressing structural racism, building equity in communities and shaping one’s humanity can be accomplished …We must succeed.”  

We will add to this by saying that this work by our Corps and The Corps Network must be done by joining with our partners and with our communities as we look to move forward.

As the Reverend Dr. King, Jr said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Moving Forward Initiative: The African American Experience in the Civilian Conservation Corps


Picture from Forest Army blog
 

In 1933, at the peak of the Great Depression, the overall unemployment rate in the United States was well over 20 percent. African Americans were hit hardest, experiencing an unemployment rate two to three times that of white Americans. 

In these desperate times, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): a federal work relief program that, from 1933 until 1942, put 3 million unemployed young men to work building and restoring America’s natural resource infrastructure. In exchange for their labor, corpsmen received $1-per-day, regular meals, housing, and access to education. Though the CCC disbanded when the US entered World War II, its model lives on in more than 130 modern Corps across the country, most of which are managed by nonprofits or units of state or local government. 

The CCC was created with progressive intentions. With persuasion from Oscar DePriest, an Illinois representative and the only black member of Congress, the legislation that established the CCC included language forbidding discriminatory practices based on “race, color, or creed.”

Throughout the years of the program, more than 200,000 African Americans and 80,000 Native Americans served in the program. However, their experience was, in many cases, markedly different from that of their white peers. Under the argument that “segregation is not discrimination,” the CCC failed at its promise of inclusivity.

The CCC existed during the era of Jim Crow segregation. Though CCC camps were, at least in the beginning, supposed to be integrated, this largely only happened in areas where the African American population was not large enough to warrant a separate camp. To reduce community outcry, many of the 150 African American CCC camps were built on remote federal lands, away from the public.

In 1934, Robert Fechner, Director of the CCC, ordered the Army to review national practices around African American enrollment. Contradicting the Army’s conclusion that the CCC should not enforce segregation, as this would exacerbate the problem of finding locations for black-only camps, Fechner issued an order in 1935 to make the “complete segregation of colored and white enrollees” the rule.When questioned about this action by the NAACP, Fechner wrote.

“I am satisfied that the negro enrollees themselves prefer to be in companies composed exclusively of their own race…This segregation is not discrimination and cannot be so construed. The negro companies are assigned to the same types of work, have identical equipment, are served the same food, and have the same quarters as white enrollees.”


Picture from Digital Public Library of America
 

To appease citizens concerned about the placement of all-black camps in their communities, only white supervisors were put in charge of such camps, leaving black corpsmen little opportunity for advancement. President Roosevelt suggested this practice be relaxed to allow a few token “colored foremen,” and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes was vehemently opposed to Fechner’s racist policies against having African Americans in leadership roles. However, pushback from communities and legislators, as well as Fechner’s beliefs and prevailing discriminatory practices meant that African American corpsmen generally did not have the same upward mobility as white corpsmen.

Meanwhile, Native Americans almost exclusively served on reservations in programs operated in collaboration with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Critical infrastructure improvements were needed on reservations, and tribal leaders in fact had quite a bit of say in which projects were completed. There is limited literature on corpsmen from other non-white racial and ethnic groups participating in the CCC, but many Hispanic and Latino men certainly participated, especially in the American Southwest.*

African American enrollment in the CCC was capped at 10 percent, reflecting the racial profile of the national population, but this ignored the fact that African Americans faced disproportionately worse economic situations than white applicants. Despite the CCC’s founding language barring discrimination, qualified African American applicants were frequently turned away. When hired, they often faced hostile work environments. This included racial slurs and jokes, forcing black corpsmen to the back of the line, and giving them the least desirable quarters and equipment. Certainly reprehensible, these aggressions were unfortunately common in society at the time. However, there were more extreme cases of racism, including one account of an African American corpsmen being discharged from a camp in New Jersey for refusing to fan flies from a white officer.

CCC camps in some Southern states initially outright denied African Americans under the argument they were needed to tend fields. John de la Perriere, the Georgia director of the CCC, stated all applicants in Clarke County be “classed A, B and C” based on need. However, all non-white applicants fell into classes B and C and were far less likely to be recruited. In Florida, state director John C. Huskisson agreed, when pressured by the federal government, to "lower his standards" enough to accommodate two hundred black corpsmen.

Despite Fechner’s segregation order, some camps remained integrated, particularly in the North and in regions with smaller African American populations. Fechner allowed this “because of the natural adaptability of Negroes to serve as cooks.” In some integrated camps, African American corpsmen were indeed assigned kitchen duties as opposed to more technical work outdoors. Also, contrary to Fechner’s claims that African American camps completed the same projects as white camps, there are accounts that black camps in some regions only did routine work and were not assigned special or priority projects.


Picture from Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives.
 

Despite this, it is undeniable that African American corpsmen played a significant role in conservation efforts and the development of our nation’s public lands. Aspects of the CCC were certainly discriminatory, but, as stated by historian John Salmond in his book on the CCC, “to look at the place of the Negro in the CCC purely from the viewpoint of opportunities missed, or ideals compromised, is to neglect much of the positive achievement.”

Black corpsmen did ultimately gain much needed financial assistance through their service, and tens of thousands of African American corpsmen participated in educational programming from the elementary to college level. There are countless anecdotal reports from African American corpsmen who were grateful for the opportunity to learn and work in the CCC. 

To this day, however, the more than 200,000 black corpsmen of the CCC remain “hidden figures” in the development of our nation’s public lands. Most African American corpsmen were from cities where the forestry and conservation skills they learned in the CCC were not applicable. As Dr. Olen Cole, Jr. states, this work “must have seemed artificial and impractical- or at the very least, to have little relevance to their past and future lives.” Many CCC members went on to “negro jobs” as chauffeurs, cooks and gardeners. Many desirable public lands jobs were not, at the time, open to black men, or were more likely to go to white applicants.

As Cole states, the CCC had little lasting impression on the way African American corpsmen felt about the outdoors. It was merely a temporary way to make money, not prepare for a career.

“This failure, critical then, remains a failure of many environmental organizations today.”
 

 

*More to come on this topic – including the experience of Native American, Hispanic and Latino men in the CCC - in future blogs.

Please find a list of resources used for this blog on the Moving Forward Initiative homepage. 

 


For your Consideration:

As you read this blog, here some questions for you to consider: 

  1. What do the policies of the CCC tell us about how the federal government viewed racial discrimination at this time? 
     
  2. As some historians state, the CCC's work opportunities seemed irrelevant to African American corpsmen who mainly lived in urban centers. How might this relate to the problem public lands agencies face today with limited visitation from non-white populations?
     
  3. What can federal resource agencies do today to increase the presence of people of color visiting and working on public lands? 
     
  4. Read this firsthand account from Luther Wandall, an African American member of the CCC. What was positive and negative about his experience? How do his remarks make you feel? 
     
  5. For Corps: What measures have you taken (or can you take) to increase the presence of people of color in administrative or leadership roles in your organization? 
     
  6. For Corps: How do you conduct outreach in your community to people of color? Have your ideas been accepted? Do you believe the information you provide is culturally relevant?
     
  7. For Corps: Have your Corpsmembers ever experienced any racially-motivated hostility in the communities where they work?
    • How can this be combated? What conversations do you have with Corpsmembers in the event racism, hostility, or discrimination on the job occurs?

 


 

 

#CCCAnchor

Photos of the Month - July 2017

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps social pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from July 2017.




American Conservation Experience



Ancestral Lands



Anchorage Park Foundation



Civicorps



EcoServants



Greater Valley Conservation Corps



Greencorps Chicago



Montgomery County Conservation Corps



Nevada Conservation Corps



PowerCorps PHL




St. Bernard Project



SEEDS



Southwest Conservation Corps



Utah Conservation Corps (ft. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell)


Vermont Youth Conservation Corps




Washington Conservation Corps

California Conservation Corps Veterans Fisheries Program


Corps play an essential role in helping preserve our waterways. In 2016 alone, Corps restored 2,551 miles of waterway.

We're recognizing California Conservation Corps' and NOAA for their Veterans Fishery Program. Learn about how this partnership expands opportunities for Veterans and helps improve aquatic habitats.



In partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, California Conservation Corps (CCC) Veterans Corps began their fisheries program in 2012. The program started in Northern California with hopes to expand to Southern California by 2014. 

The goal of the program is to address two national priorities: 1) support and promote job opportunities for veterans; and 2) protect and restore endangered species. 

The Veterans Corps fisheries program is unique from other Veterans Corps in that it provides post-9/11 veterans opportunities to build their skills and gain work experience by restoring habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead. The Corps participants conduct research and monitor the species in their natural habitats. Many other Veterans Corps programs across the country focus primarily on forestry work and wilderness firefighting. 

Due to low funding and limited staff, NOAA Fisheries depends heavily on the CCC Veterans Corps to aid in salmon and steelhead recovery. Veterans are mentored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC), the U.S. Forest Service, and local non-profits. Veterans and partners work on improvement projects identified by NOAA’s Fisheries’ salmon and steelhead recovery plans and gain knowledge about the complex needs of aquatic habitats. 

Since 2013, veterans have assisted with 133 restoration projects. Veterans constructed temporary fishways at the mouths of 20 tributaries, allowing threatened salmon access to cold water within the Klamath River; constructed off-channel habitats to provide crucial overwintering habitat for coho salmon; and deconstructed and modified fish passages to allow endangered southern California steelhead access to upstream spawning habitat. 

“Collectively, all the Veterans within this program have surveyed more than 423 miles of stream for juvenile fish and more than 2,122 miles of stream for spawning adult fish. They have also assessed 122 miles of stream habitat,” said Dana Howard, CCC Communications Director. “This monitoring helps guide future management and restoration decisions that will pave the way for species recovery.” 

Through the partnership between NOAA and the CCC, veterans receive on-the-ground training and have the chance to work side-by-side with fisheries biologists and experts. With this knowledge and experience, veterans have a stake in the competitive work pool and can find permanent employment in environmental and natural resource fields. 

NOAA and CCC credit veterans and the environment as “two of the nation’s most valuable resources.” Howard states, “By providing the training and skills necessary to pursue a career in the natural resources, this program helps young veterans transition to civilian life and continue serving our country in a way that also fills a critical need for improving our fisheries and watersheds…Veterans gain skills by developing real-world experience in natural resources fields encompassing fisheries biology, habitat restoration, project development, and many other areas. In addition, veterans in the program are eligible to receive college tuition and a $5,000 AmeriCorps education award.” 

The Veteran Corps is currently searching for funding and partners to continue sustaining the program, not only for the environment but for the veterans as well. Over a 10-year period, NOAA and CCC hope to 

establish secure funding for the program totaling $4.4M, or $440,000 per year, to employ 12 veterans annually. With this effort, placement sites would be at CCC centers throughout the state. 

NOAA and CCC have discussed expanding the program throughout California to areas including California’s Central Valley and the area between Mendocino County and Monterey County, as well as further south into southern California.

Single Identity-Based Crews Research: Update from the Road No. 1

As part of her studies at the University of Oregon, graduate student Jordan Katcher plans to create a toolkit that provides resources for increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (D,E,I) within Conservation Corps programming. To do this, Jordan hopes to combine academic research with insights from the field.

During the summer of 2017, Jordan is traveling throughout the country to visit several Corps that operate identity-based programs (e.g. Veterans Crews, ASL Inclusion Crews, Native Youth Crews, LGBTQ Crews, All-Female Crews, etc.). She'll be conducting interviews and gathering information about innovative and effective practices. The Corps Network is hosting a blog where Jordan will share her experiences.

 


By Jordan Katcher - submitted July 7, 2017

Background:

Hello all! My name is Jordan Katcher and I am a current Community & Regional Planning graduate student at the University of Oregon. For my master’s degree, I have the opportunity to complete a professional project of my own choosing; given my background serving with AmeriCorps and working for Conservation Legacy, I knew I wanted to focus my research on increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (D,E,I) within the outdoors.

Coming from the Conservation Corps family, I know how difficult it can be to oversee program logistics while maintaining sustainable relationships with members, team leaders, community partners, and funders. It’s a lot to juggle, and being able to perform thorough program evaluations and share what’s happening throughout the larger network of Conservation Corps can also be a struggle, too.

Knowing the limitations that face Conservation Corps led me to think more about D, E, I practices within these organizations, especially as I started to learn more about “single identity-based crew” models. Throughout the country, several Conservation Corps have initiated single identity-based crews that not only create access for traditionally marginalized populations within the Conservation Corps world, but also integrate and share the identities of these members within the larger environmental movement.

Knowing about several single identity-based crews, such as the Utah Conservation Corps Disability Inclusion Crew, the Northwest Youth Corps American Sign Language Inclusion Crew, and the Idaho Conservation Corps All-Women Crew, led me to think more about how important these crews are and how crucial it is that the evolution of these crews be shared throughout the larger Conservation Corps network. I decided to create a toolkit that combines both on-the-ground experience as well as academic research centering on single identity-based crews.

Once I solidified my professional project scope, I partnered with The Corps Network to set up site visits with Conservation Corps across the country. I was also honored to speak with Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin and Ava Holliday from The Avarna Group (who recently published a blog post on the importance of supporting single identity spaces), who assisted me in creating a list of interview questions for each of these site visits.

Two weeks ago, I embarked on my first of three road trips this summer. My first road trip covered the upper Midwest region, where I had the honor of visiting: Montana Conservation Corps in Bozeman, MT; Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa in St. Paul, MN; and SEEDS Youth Conservation Corps in Traverse City, MI. My second road trip will focus on the Northeast region, and my third will focus on the Southwest region. For each of these trips, I’ll be guest blogging for The Corps Network, and sharing bits of my findings with all of you. I want these blog posts to serve as a catalyst for ongoing conversation related to D,E,I initiatives, so definitely reach out to these conservation corps to keep the conversations going!

 

Visits in the Midwest:

Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) Site Visit – Bozeman, Montana

MCC implements single identity-based crews for Native American youth and veterans. Both of these programs formed out of funding opportunities that came up in the past. For MCC, initiating and supporting these crews takes a great amount of work, but, if you qualify the assets and opportunities of these crews, it’s an incredibly important part of their D,E,I goals and objectives. These programs offer so much value to program participants and staff, and MCC highly values the new perspectives that come from these crews.

For their veterans crew, MCC invested in a number of resources for their members, including paying veterans a higher stipend ($150 more each paycheck), providing housing, offering a scholarship program, and giving actual certification for post-service job opportunities. For their initiatives with Native American youth, MCC would like to eventually create an advisory committee of Native American youth that would involve members, alumni, and partners deciding what crews need and want for their crew experiences. MCC has also been able to implement increased resources for their single identity-based crews through The Kendeda Fund.

For MCC, they would like to define the success of their crews from more of a quality than a quantity standpoint. One of their questions is, “outside of numbers, how do we tell the stories of these programs to funders?” Additionally, what recruitment and retention strategies are there for single identity-based crews?

 

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa (CCMI) Site Visit – St. Paul, Minnesota

CCMI implements a Native American crew, called Restoring Relations, which began in the summer of 2015 in partnership with local community stakeholders. Additionally, while CCMI does not run a single identity-based American Sign Language Inclusion (ASL) Crew, they do provide many opportunities to ASL crew members within their existing crews.

The Restoring Relations Crew evolved out of CCMI asking how they can change their program models and their assumptions to genuinely provide worthwhile opportunities for Native American youth. CCMI hopes that, through Restoring Relations, there is a space for Native American youth to dive into nature through their own identity and history; this starts from in the very beginning of the program when, during training, crew members take a trip down the Mississippi River in traditional boats.

Like MCC, CCMI wants to strengthen more relationships with Native American leaders and have more voices at the table. Currently, their program is based in the Twin Cities, but they’re thinking about expanding in northern Minnesota once they reach capacity.

With Restoring Relations, CCMI provides time for smudging in the morning. The Corps really focuses on reflection across the board, working with crew leaders to decide what kind of reflection activities make the most sense. CCMI strives to be flexible and ready to listen in order to understand what may or may not work for the crew each year.

For CCMI, they would like more resources to educate their staff to feel more knowledgeable about multiple historical narratives of the land, places, and people that they’re working with. They’d also like to know more about recruitment and retention strategies, as well as ways to talk with staff, crew members, and youth about identities within the outdoor environment.

 

SEEDS Youth Conservation Corps (SEEDS) Visit – Traverse City, Michigan

SEEDS noticed that the majority of their crew members were male. In response, they decided to launch an all-women crew, called GURLS Corps (Girls United in Resilience, Leadership and Service), in hopes that this initiative would integrate more females into their organization. All the crew members identified as female and came from the foster care system.

Since SEEDS knew many of these crew members had difficult pasts, they wanted to invest in a well-trained, considerate, and understanding team leader, so they hired a woman with experience as an after-school educator. The crew model allowed for crew members to organically share stories about their foster care experiences and connect with one another. The focus of the program was not only about job experience, but also about providing an opportunity for female crew members to be in a healthy environment.

SEEDS also partners with local tribes for crew model development. Local tribes assist in recruitment and provide half the funding for the initiatives. SEEDS provides the training and materials needed for the service experiences.

Most of SEEDS’ single identity-based crew initiatives, whether focused on female, Native American, or foster care identities, form out of their partnerships with social services, schools, family courts, and tribes. SEEDS is also very conscious about how they approach their crew experiences; they’ve invested in a holistic approach that focuses on integration between social and ecological aspects (including all species).

For SEEDS, they would like resources on understanding the respective benefits of integrated and single identity-based spaces; what unique experiences come from each model, and how do you decide on one model or the other? They’d also like to see stories on how other Conservation Corps approach the work they need to do with an ecological, social, and/or STEM focus; how are Corps integrating STEM into their every day practices? Additionally, SEEDS is interested in comparing price points for their crew expenses; how much are Corps spending on training, uniforms, and supplies?

 

Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for my next blog post in a few weeks. If you have any questions about my research, have D, E, I resources that have worked for your crews, or would like to set up a potential site visit, please reach out to me via email at jkatcher@uoregon.edu

Moving Forward Initiative - What it is and What to Expect

"Moving Forward, Together"

 

The Work
Launched by The Corps Network (TCN) in the spring of 2017 through a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant, the Moving Forward Initiative is designed to identify, examine, and address unconscious bias and structural racism impacting the Corps movement. The goal is to expand career exposure and increase employment in conservation and resource management for youth and young adults of color.

TCN describes our work in racial equity as a journey. The start of this journey is the development of a foundation of knowledge on which to examine racism in the United States and understand our own personal and professional connections to institutional racism. To build this foundational knowledge, The Corps Network is actively curating a library of articles, essays, academic studies, films, podcasts and other materials that will be housed here on The Corps Network’s website. This library will be updated on a regular basis. We will also publish original blogs, share questions, host discussions, and provide other means of engaging in this journey and thinking about race and racism.

“If racism was constructed, it can be undone. It can be undone if people understand when it was constructed, why it was constructed, how it functions, and how it is maintained.” – The People’s Institute
 

Why It’s Important at This Time 
It has become clear to us at The Corps Network that, as MLK Jr. once stated, there is, “a fierce urgency of now” in addressing the issue of racial equity in the world of conservation and the communities where our Corps work. The Corps Network realizes that we must be proactive in addressing the deeply imbedded and historically ingrained racial inequities that impact all of us, and particularly our Corpsmembers. Young adults of color represent roughly half of our Corpsmembers, and, with the development of native youth programs and the expansion of Corps in both urban and rural areas, we realize that this number will grow.

Failure to address systems and knowledge deficits that limit opportunities for Corps and Corpsmembers would be antithetical to our mission of helping Corps empower America’s youth. As the national liaison between Corps, which train the next generation of conservation professionals, and the agencies that hire such professionals, TCN is uniquely positioned to – with the guidance of experts in racial equity – help make racial equity the standard in resource management.
 

Upcoming
On August 17, 2017, we will introduce our first blog that will look at the experience of people of color within the Civilian Conservation Corps and introduce you to the works of Olen Cole, Nikhil Swaminathan and Daniel Medina.

Next Generation of Aquatic Restoration Leaders: Holden Foley

Operated by Trout Headwaters, Inc.Waders in the Water (WitW) is an interactive, webinar-delivered training that instructs students in common restoration industry tools, techniques, and processes, workplace safety, and proven, practical, & innovative habitat enhancement. WitW graduates have a path to projects, jobs, and careers in the $10B/Yr restoration economy. Corps that offer the WitW training are better positioned to participate in the growing number of public-private restoration partnerships with for-profit, non-profit and government entities.

This summer, The Corps Network and THI are partnering on a blog series to highlight young adults who have benefited from the WitW experience.


When ten-year-old Holden Foley was helping his oysterman dad and grandpa on their boat in Franklin County, Florida, he didn’t know what other options he had. He never imagined that, 13 years later, he’d be helping to restore and protect the waters he grew up on, while mentoring young men and women looking for something better: just like he was.

Oystering is hard work for a young boy. Holden started by culling the oysters, or sorting and grading each one by shape and size. As he got older, he started tonging for them with a long rake, scouring the Apalachicola Bay floor for shellfish gold. Holden spent every summer on the boat until he entered high school and discovered a way out of summer oystering. High School football in Florida meant practicing all summer and Holden was happy to trade his tong for some shoulder pads.

After graduating high school, Holden took a job in construction, but, after a few years, he felt stuck at a dead-end. During his time in construction, Holden worked on projects for Franklin’s Promise Coalition, Inc. (FPC) in Apalachicola. That’s when he met Joe Taylor, Executive Director for FPC.  Joe offered Holden another path. He said if Holden joined the newly-formed Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast (CCFC), he would have career opportunities working outdoors to improve the environment. Holden was particularly excited because he loves the outdoors and previously thought having a career meant being stuck inside at a desk all day.

Holden joined the Corps in June 2015 and soon found himself busy with a variety of outdoor projects. He built and repaired nature trails and used his construction background to help build a playground and renovate recreation centers and parks for the City of Apalachicola.

After eight short weeks in the program, Holden was promoted to crew leader. Just six months later, he was promoted to his current position of field manager/instructor. Along the way, Holden has completed many training classes and earned multiple certifications.

Holden participated in the Waders in the Water (WitW) Level I program in 2016 and found it helpful for many of the projects he worked on. It gave him a much better understanding of the terminology used in aquatic restoration, and greatly expanded his understanding of hydrology and the interdependency of aquatic systems. He now better understands how the precipitation falling on local forests makes its way to the bay. When Holden underwent the WitW training, he and his crew members had just started work on a living shoreline; he was able to use his newfound aquatic knowledge on that project to help protect vanishing shorelines and vulnerable species.

Before the WitW class, Holden had no idea there were so many restoration jobs available. Earning the WitW certification inspired him to seek out more environmental training; he’s currently completing a construction course entitled Your Role in the Green Environment to add to the Corps certification offerings.

Now 23 and married to his wife, Tristen, Holden plans to stay with CCFC and hopes to build affordable housing for the City of Apalachicola while continuing to lead CCFC corps members on restoration projects. Holden wants to stay a member of the FCP management team and reflected “I’ve been there, so I want to return the favor granted to me and offer these young people some better opportunities.”

Pictured above: Holden (red hat) and his corpsmembers bag oyster shells for one of their living shoreline projects.

Photos of the Month - June 2017

Next Generation of Aquatic Restoration Leaders: Abbey Toomer

 

Operated by Trout Headwaters, Inc., Waders in the Water (WitW) is an interactive, webinar-delivered training that instructs students in common restoration industry tools, techniques, and processes, workplace safety, and proven, practical, & innovative habitat enhancement. WitW graduates have a path to projects, jobs, and careers in the $10B/Yr restoration economy. Corps that offer the WitW training are better positioned to participate in the growing number of public-private restoration partnerships with for-profit, non-profit and government entities.

This summer, The Corps Network and THI are partnering on a blog series to highlight young adults who have benefited from the WitW experience.

 


She grew up in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas where she loved to fish Lake Norfork and the White River with her Dad and Grandfather, “Pa”. It was this draw to nature and the outdoors that, in 2011, led Abbey Toomer to join Florida’s Community Training Works, Inc., also known as Young American Conservation Corps. 

Starting as an office assistant in 2011, Abbey, now 28, learned the ins and outs of financing and managing a Corps. After three years in this position, she transitioned to working in the field and training other crewmembers.

Over the years, Abbey numerous certifications and completed trainings in proper ax usage, Wilderness First Aid and CPR, and wildland firefighter basic management. She also completed the Waders in the Water training, which introduced her to water safety and the concept of how all environmental systems are connected. With this experience, Abbey spent three months in Mississippi training new Corpsmembers with Climb CDC Conservation Corps in skills such as endangered species tracking, processing, handling, and cataloging invasive species.

Abbey has worked mostly in the Florida Panhandle, but has also worked in Ft. Lauderdale, St. Augustine, and on the Florida National Scenic Trail. Recently, she and her crewmembers are worked with the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory to expand Living Dock; a learning platform used by thousands of school children, marine biology and aquaculture students, and medical and scientific researchers. They also recently partnered with Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory on oyster restoration, coastal restoration and trail maintenance.

Abbey believes the Waders in the Water program provided her insight into new perspectives on nature. While she has always considered herself environmentally conscious and tries to live as “green” as possible, Abbey’s made some changes since the training. She now uses a “First, Do No Harm” approach in her work, pausing to assess both the environment and proposed solutions before taking any action. She asks herself, “Is this solution really the BEST thing to do for nature and this particular habitat?" Abbey strives to help Mother Nature heal herself, instead of counting on nature to fix whatever problems humans impose. She now considers the unique qualities and needs of each project location, knowing that, in restoration or rehab work, one size rarely fits all. 

The professional training she has received through WitW gave Abbey greater confidence to work on bigger restoration projects and communicate more knowledgably with land and project managers. She is excited about continuing Gulf Coast restoration work and looks forward to, along with her team, applying the knowledge she gained through WitW.

“So many folks living in rural Arkansas, and other communities throughout the US that struggle with crippling high unemployment, could really benefit from this training,” reflected Abbey. “These folks would not only become better job candidates for organizations and companies restoring lands and waters, but they would also improve their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities, for many years to come.” 

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