2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Senga Lukingama, Urban Corps of San Diego County



Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide. Learn more.


When Senga Lukingama showed up at Urban Corps of San Diego County (UCSD), he came with a story of war and almost unimaginable personal loss. What he found was a way to channel his work ethic and his determination to, as his father had urged, get an education. Senga has explored his interest in leadership, resulting in a seat on the Urban Corps’ Corpsmember Advisory Board. According to one of his supervisors, “Senga is always proactive towards his future goals and sets high expectations for himself and works diligently to complete every task.”

Finding his way to the Corps was not easy or at all likely. When he was 14, civil war forced Senga to flee his town in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the chaos of leaving, he was separated from his family. All alone, he walked what seemed like a never-ending road to find himself in a refugee camp. There, Senga looked tirelessly for his family, but never found them.

“I couldn’t stop blaming myself for not being able to go back and find my family. I was afraid and spent many days hungry,” said Senga. “I was very sad and did not know what the future would hold for me, or even if I had such a thing as a future.”

A new life in the United States began for Senga in January of 2016. He came alone and without much direction, but found housing with the help of a community organization.

“It was my first night at my new home that I realized I could finally accomplish my dreams and aspirations,” said Senga.

The next day, while walking the streets and getting to know his new hometown of San Diego, Senga ran into a sign promoting opportunities with UCSD. He signed up and started to work hard to earn money and skills, and studied long hours to complete his high school education. He found a community where he could belong, and where he could be of service to his peers and to his new community.

“In the Corps, we have a lot of kids who have similar backgrounds and stories and I don’t feel alone anymore. I have been able to overcome the pictures and horrible memories in my mind and be at peace,” said Senga. “I have learned many new skills and work experience that I had never thought I would ever reach. Helping my community has always been something that I have wanted to do and I am able to help my community as well as my peers. I can drive in the city and think back at good memories of how I helped with projects around my community.”

Senga’s supervisors salute him for setting high goals and for his dedication to the program. They also note his leadership among his peers; he was promoted to a Crew Leader position. 

“Senga serves as a great role model to our students and shares his story with many who are having a hard time,” said one supervisor.

Senga graduates from the Urban Corps’ Charter School this December. During his time in the Corps, he also obtained his driver's license and saved to buy his first car. He is currently enrolled at San Diego City College and hopes to eventually transfer to San Diego State University and pursue a degree in political science. His goal is to one day become a diplomat or politician. He hopes to return to his country to help to bring peace. He knows that the key to that future is through his education.

“I have learned about many new things that I hope to bring to my country, like the different opportunities that work can give you,” said Senga. “When you work hard and study, you begin to see the light at the end of the road and believe that the world has a lot more for you to see. I plan on meeting new people and sharing my story with others. I know I am not the only one with this story, but hopefully it can help others know they are not alone.”

2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Lance Tubinaghtewa, Arizona Conservation Corps - Ancestral Lands


 

Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide. Learn more.


It was clear from the beginning that Lance Tubinaghtewa was a rising star at the Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC), a program of Conservation Legacy. His focused work ethic and warm, effortless sense of humor helped develop a deep sense of community within his crew.

Lance started out as an AmeriCorps member at Grand Canyon National Park on a crew designed to engage members of the 11 Tribes traditionally associated with the Grand Canyon. There he got a broad look at the different divisions within the park service, working on everything from trail maintenance, to preserving cultural sites, to conducting butterfly population surveys.

Lance then spent two terms with Arizona Conservation Corps’ local program, serving in Tucson and Phoenix on a variety of trail construction and maintenance projects. He eventually worked his way up to an Assistant Crew Leader position, teaching new Corpsmembers about rockwork, trail maintenance and backcountry living. He was instrumental in helping the Corps pilot its Tribal programming in Phoenix in partnership with the Tonto National Forest.

One of the most significant parts of this experience was how Lance helped a member with a difficult background come to feel welcome in the program. The member had been shot in the leg only a year before his Corps experience; Lance helped him really embrace the spirit of “heal the land, heal the man.” Lance, true to form, hesitates to take credit for that, but he helps instill confidence among his peers and encourages them to connect to conservation.

Most recently, Lance is spending his fourth and final AmeriCorps term as an intern with the Interpretation Department at Grand Canyon National Park at Desert View. He’s proven to be skilled at interacting with visitors, teaching the public about the Canyon’s rich history and his Hopi culture. A park ranger and supervisor said of him: “Lance has done a great job working for us all summer. He is a hard worker who sets a great example and really cares about doing a good job. He is extremely reliable and trustworthy. More importantly, I have come to see him as a quiet leader. Safety awareness is very important to us, and Lance has done a great job of reporting situations and working with us to correct them.”

Lance has walked the talk on safety. On one occasion, he was first on scene to a visitor who had been struck on the head by a falling rock and was seriously injured in a remote part of the park. Using skills he learned in the Corps, Lance assessed the patient, applied a compress to stop the bleeding, monitored his vitals, kept him calm, stopped bystanders from interfering, and ultimately attended to the patient for 40 minutes until the park’s EMS arrived. This was far and above the call of duty for an intern.

Lance himself says the influence of his AZCC experience has been profound.  “Even now, I still struggle to find the words to describe it,” he said. “Prior to my first crew, I was unsure about a number of things, but, during the first term, much self-discovery took place. This coincided with the most unique and humbling experiences of my life. These moments are engraved in my mind and cherished because I spent them with my closest friends. With my different seasons, I grew. Finding new connections to places my ancestors have called home for millennia.  Finding a deeper sense of self along with my worth and strengths.”

Lance says he has become more civically engaged as a result of his service and time at the Grand Canyon. Feeling that his native culture and heritage face significant threats, he has become attentive to and eloquent about issues around Tribal lands.

“I am not the first Hopi, so I’m not fluent in traditional knowledge, but my time here has shed light on cultural ideas and concepts, in effect bringing me closer to my identity as a Hopi man,” he said.

In his role at the Grand Canyon, Lance encounters thousands of tourists each day who are curious about the park and his Hopi heritage. He sees this as another opportunity for great change, service and fulfillment of his heritage. His plan is to use his AmeriCorps Education Awards to attend Glendale Community College toward a degree in archaeology and astronomy; two fields of study that piqued his interest when serving in the backcountry on his ancestral lands.

2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Holden Foley, Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast



Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide. Learn more.


Holden Foley has successfully led over 50 conservation and construction projects since, in 2015, he began as an AmeriCorps crewmember on the Apalachicola Nature Trail Pilot Project, the very first project of the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast (CCFC).

Within his first weeks, it became obvious that Holden was a hard worker. He has since moved up the ranks, recently joining the staff of the Corps as a Field Manager.

“He loves to work and is a problem solver. He combines his life experiences, his training, and an effective ‘tough love’ approach to lead his crews,” said Joe Taylor, Executive Director of the organization.  

For Holden, however, the path to the Corps was a complicated one.

“I had planned to join the Marine Corps and serve our country,” he said. “But in my last year of high school, I was hanging out with the wrong group of people and made a bad decision. That choice resulted in some time in jail. Officer’s school was no longer an option. During my probation, I was working in the construction field; building houses, decks, and doing odd jobs. I just finally got tired of working seven days a week and getting nowhere. I made good money. I just wanted something more. I wanted my life to have more meaning. So I joined the Corps and I am giving back all I can to my community.”

Holden has been with the Corps since its first day. He’s taken part in every training and earned many certifications. He is certified to teach First Aid/CPR, certified to apply herbicides for the State of Florida, and has completed the Waders in the Water aquatic restoration training by Trout Headwaters, Inc. He is also certified as a Volunteer Manager by Volunteer Florida and the Florida Association of Volunteer Resource Management. Additionally, Holden is a specialty trainer for FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Teams in areas of fire safety, disaster medical operations, and light search and rescue. He currently volunteers with the local Emergency Operations Center as the leader for their Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and will soon be certified as a FEMA CERT Program Trainer. His desire to learn and teach make him a valuable asset to CCFC and the community.

Notably, Holden has an instructor’s certification from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), which will help the Corps in its efforts to build affordable housing in the city. Affordable housing was a need identified by Holden and the Corps, who discovered that 14 of 17 early crewmembers qualified as homeless. Their early community assessment found that a safe place to call home could be a key factor in a crewmember’s success. Holden is currently finishing his Certified Building Contractor’s License and hopes his numerous credentials will expand the Corps’ ability to construct affordable housing for the community. He further hopes to use his AmeriCorps education award to work towards a degree in Architecture/Design that may contribute to the effort.

Holden chairs meetings of the CCFC Leadership Council with confidence and respects the members’ input. He addresses behavioral challenges by gathering information and determining appropriate corrective actions. He serves as a mentor for crew members who may be having a hard time in their personal lives, and makes time outside the Corps for recreational team-building activities with his crew. He also supports and participates in the Corps’ work with local alternative school students.

Reflecting on what he has learned in the Corps, Holden says, “I haven’t been the best person in the past, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But working with the Corps has shown me that none of that history matters. I am not defined by my past. No one has to put limits on what they can accomplish. I like the sense of accomplishment I feel when our crews complete important environmental work. I enjoy training my crewmembers and using my construction skills in our project work. I have been inspired to help others see the same opportunity and take control of their lives and change for the better.

2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Esperanzita Castillo, Greater Miami Conservation Corps



Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide. Learn more.


Esperanzita Castillo’s time at Greater Miami Service Corps (GMSC) has been busy.  She became an AmeriCorps member with the YouthBuild program at GMSC with her brother in 2016. Her goal was to earn her high school diploma and gain job skills.

Deborah Dorsett, the Corps’ Executive Director, remembers when Esperanzita arrived on campus:

“She was shy and concerned we would not accept her. She left school in the sixth grade and worked various jobs to support her household. Her mom is disabled and she and her brother have to provide for the family. She has far exceeded expectations programmatically and in our local community. She has developed tremendously in terms of finding her voice and having the confidence to speak publically and advocate for second-chance opportunities for young people. Esperanzita has not allowed her past to determine her future.”

Esperanzita has indeed been active as a youth voice in her Corps and in her community. She is a peer leader/team captain at the Corps and assists with the orientation of new members. She is the go-to member whenever someone needs assistance. For example, another member was having problems with their Spanish classes. Esperanzita agreed to tutor her every morning, which helped that member complete her high school requirements. She also assists her peers with the use of tools and equipment, and helps them understand the program’s policies and procedures.

Esperanzita puts in extra service hours at the Corps. Whenever there are weekend volunteer projects, she is there, including Global Youth Service Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Outside the Corps, Esperanzita is an animal rescue volunteer. She has assisted in rescuing numerous animals as well as caring for rescues until they are placed. She has taken this passion and developed a cadre of volunteers that help support the care and placement of rescue animals.

In addition to general Corps responsibilities, Esperanzita was instrumental in participating in a convening of youth from throughout the county to contribute to the development of the local workforce board’s strategic plan. She has also visited Congressional leaders to share her story and discuss the importance of continuing federal funding for GMSC and other workforce development programs for young adults. Additionally, Esperanzita has attended meetings of the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners to educate officials on the need for opportunities and resources for young people in the county. She was recognized in April 2017 by the Mayor of Miami-Dade County as part of the Mayor's Day of Service.

Esperanzita has also been active with Opportunity Youth United – a group of young adults from across the country who advocate on a national level for policies and programs to help young adults who face barriers to jobs and education.

On top of all of her other commitments, Esperanzita works 32 hours per week as a security guard to support her family.

Esperanzita recently completed the final requirements for her high school diploma and graduated in November with a specialty in Veterinary Assistance. She is close to completing the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) credential and has acquired her OSHA ten-hour certification and CPR/First Aid certification. Her story recently appeared in a video by America’s Promise: “A Security Guard, a Flyer, and a Second Chance.”

As for next steps, Esperanzita plans to soon enroll in Miami-Dade college. She is undecided whether to pursue a career in law enforcement or veterinary science, but hopes to have the opportunity to job shadow and intern to help make her decision.

 “I wanted to become a Corpsmember to change my life,” said Esperanzita. “I dropped out of school in the sixth grade and knew I would need a diploma to get a better job or attend college. GMSC means so much more to me than just helping me achieve my goals. The staff is like my family. They assist and encourage us to strive for our goals.  I have also gained a lot of exposure to the community. We participate in housing projects, landscaping, painting, community outreach and so much more. As a Corpsmember of the Year I would expand my outreach to other Corps around the country.”

2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Earl Bowman, Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps


 

Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide. Learn more.

*Earl Bowman is being recognized as the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Corpsmember of the Year. The 21CSC is a national initiative to increase the number of young adults and recent veterans serving on public lands. The 21CSC Corpsmember of the Year is a young adult who has served in a member Corps of the 21CSC and is a champion of the initiative’s vision of increasing the engagement of young adults in conservation, preservation, and outdoor recreation. 


Before becoming an AmeriCorps member with the Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps, Earl B. Bowman IV worked various jobs. He tried his hand at commercial printing, but quickly discovered the factory setting was not for him. Wanting to make a difference, he joined the Delaware Air National Guard and served a term in the Support Group squadron.

After completing his service, Earl drove for an ambulance company in his hometown. Although he enjoyed this work, he wanted more. Since the age of 13, Earl has served his community as a volunteer firefighter.  

Knowing his passion to serve, Earl’s mother advised him to join the Veterans Conservation Corps. Admittedly, he was apprehensive; he wasn’t sure he’d be a good fit. However, with continuous encouragement from his mother, Earl decided to give the Corps a try. After only one day in the field, Earl decided to commit to one term.

“My experience with the Delaware Veterans Conservation Corps has been transforming,” said Earl. “Not only did I get to spend 11 months with fellow veterans, but I gained a wealth of knowledge in environmental stewardship and trail maintenance.”

Earl quickly acclimated to the program, becoming the team’s chainsaw expert. He was always willing to help his peers with their skills, patiently explaining and helping them with technique. Earl took advantage of every training offered, eventually earning his wildland firefighting Red Card. About midway through the year, he was clearly becoming a leader.

When the program added new members in the spring and summer, Earl stepped up and became the Team Leader’s “right hand man.” The Team Leader would split the team into two and Earl would lead one group while the Team Leader worked with the other. Earl also supervised when the Team Leader was absent. Additionally, he became the team transportation supervisor and was responsible for the team’s truck. Earl was awarded the State Office on Volunteerism Member of the Year award and the Program Member of the Year award.

Earl led the way in educating the Corps’ summer members in environmental stewardship skills, including how to identify invasive plants and treat them, proper trail trimming techniques, and safe chainsaw operation. Towards the end of the program, Earl was offered employment with Delaware State Parks. However, given the commitment he made to the Corps, Earl waited until the end of the program to accept an offer. Now, as a Conservation Tech with the Delaware State Parks trail team, he continues to be an advocate for the Corps and is always looking to engage the current cohort in trail projects.

Despite taking on many roles, Earl continues to serve as a volunteer firefighter. He often works all week with Delaware State Parks, then serves all weekend with the fire company. For the future, Earl plans to use his AmeriCorps education award to finish the necessary trainings to become an EMT and continue serving his community on a part-time basis.

Earl Bowman truly lives the motto, “Service before Self.”  

Photos of the Month - September 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 September 2017.




A
meriCorps NCCC


AmeriCorps NCCC



Knox County CAC AmeriCorps



Canyon Country Youth Corps



Canyon Country Youth Corps

 


American Conservation Experience (ACE) with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for NPS 101st Birthday (taken August 25) - courtesy of DOI
 


American Conservation Experience (ACE) with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for NPS 101st Birthday (taken August 25) - courtesy of DOI



Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and U.S. Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield - courtesy of DOI
 


Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa and AmeriCorps NCCC with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in Houston
 


Chairman Steve Daines (R-MT) and Ranking Member Mazie Hirono of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks with John Leong, CEO of Kupu. Mr. Leong testified at a hearing on engaging the next, more diverse generation of park stewards and users.
 


Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast



Conservation Legacy



Conservation Legacy (AZCC)



EarthCorps



Greater Valley Conservation Corps



Greening Youth Foundation



Limitless Vistas, Inc.



Montana Conservation Corps



Nevada Conservation Corps



Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - NM



Rocky Mountain Youth Corps



Rocky Mountain Youth Corps



Southwest Conservation Corps



Utah Conservation Corps



Utah Conservation Corps



Utah Conservation Corps


 

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.” 

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

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