2019 Corpsmember of the Year: Elamon White, Mt. Adams Institute – VetsWork Environment
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.
“I have found purpose in my life and want to continue efforts in protecting and stewarding our public lands so that we have them for future generations.”
Elamon started her career in a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program while majoring in marine science in college. After training to be a Naval Officer and serving for her initial contract alongside “some of the best sailors she had ever met,” she decided she wanted to pursue a job in the environmental conservation field. Through her research, she found the VetsWork Environment program of the Mt. Adams Institute.
Through VetsWork, Elamon has served as a partnership and volunteer coordinator intern on the Andrew Pickens Ranger District of the Sumter National Forest in South Carolina. In this role, she improved volunteer engagement efforts, creating a system that facilitates communication with local group leaders and tracks needed and completed projects. In addition, she helped develop the mechanism to certify volunteers to work with chainsaws and crosscut saws, thus increasing the capacity of community members to assist in completing important projects that help keep the forest safe and accessible to the public.
In addition to coordinating these outreach efforts, Elamon also leads community groups in service. Volunteer projects she has led include partnering with the Chattooga Conservancy to rehabilitate native River Cane along the Chattooga River and working with the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) to enhance visitor safety by constructing a supportive rock wall in Ellicott Rock Wilderness.
Over the course of her two terms, Elamon has also served as the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew leader for her district. This past summer, Elamon was tasked with redesigning the outreach and selection of local youth for this program. According to her supervisor, Elamon’s leadership resulted in “the best YCC crew season in years, in terms of productivity and crew engagement.” Projects included campground rehabilitation, trail reconstruction, facility maintenance, and water surveys. Recognizing the importance of individual growth, Elamon coordinated various educational opportunities for her crew, including trips to museums where they learned about local history and native species in the area.
“I love the people I get to work with, and I love how I get to interact with the public and influence them to protect our public lands as well. I can express my passion for the great outdoors by cleaning up areas, rebuilding trails and facilities, and outreaching, recruiting, and coordinating with the public to become stewards of our lands.”
A component of the VetsWork Environment program is that all members are encouraged to complete a Community Action Project (CAP): to identify a need in the community, establish a plan to solve that need, and implement the plan. In Elamon’s first term of service she completed her CAP at the Tribble Center in Seneca, SC, an organization that promotes and provides innovative opportunities for people with disabilities and their families. The Tribble Center’s recreation park was in need of vital improvements to allow for its students, residents, and families to have full access to everything the recreation park had to offer. Through her CAP, Elamon recruited volunteers and reconstructed the park’s Pond Trail so that it was accessible and able to be enjoyed by all users.
Elamon’s thoughtfulness and innovation has also reached to her fellow Corpsmembers. She created a work plan to define her projected impact over the course of her term and to track details of that work throughout. This format has been adopted by Mt. Adams Institute and is used in all of the organization’s cohorts because of its detail and practical benefits to members. Additionally, this year, Elamon taught a Leave No Trace class to new members at the orientation for Mt. Adams’ Central and Southeast Region cohorts.
Once Elamon completes her second AmeriCorps term in January, she hopes to transition to a neighboring district, where she is actively being pursued for a Resource Assistant position. She is planning to utilize her AmeriCorps Education Award for training opportunities in environmental education outreach, and is also looking to obtain additional certifications, such as Wilderness First Responder, to enhance her skills in teaching others how to enjoy and protect our public lands.
“Resilience is to overcome every obstacle in your way and to show that it has no control over who you are; to come back even stronger from the experience you now have,” said Elamon “You learn from that experience and you always keep it with you as a reminder of what could have been, but you show it no fear and defy all expectations.”