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2020 Corpsmember of the Year: Harley Tijerina, California 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.
AmeriCorps Member, Education Award Program
“Harley goes the extra mile to support and motivate her crewmembers. She assists them in pursuing their goals and development in the Corps. She makes herself available to help answer questions and navigate the CCC program.”
Harley Tijerina leads by example, passionately encouraging others around her to be the best versions of themselves.
Before joining the California Conservation Corps (CCC), Harley was a full-time community college student studying Biological and Physical Science. She also worked part-time as a receptionist at the local Kia dealership. Harley was on track to finish her degree, but her focus was strained by issues at home. Needing a fresh start and a break from college, she decided to join the CCC.
When Harley applied for the CCC, she knew she belonged in conservation work. Having grown up in Southern California, she hoped to find an opportunity to work and learn in Northern California. Six months into the Corps, Harley was accepted to be part of the Yosemite Tent Camp, a special program that brings together 30 Corpsmembers from around the state to repair damage done by the 2013 Rim Fire. The work was challenging and included removing vegetation and dead or diseased trees to allow space for healthy trees to thrive. The crews often hiked miles to reach their project for the day. During this time, Harley earned an S-212 Certification and was responsible for running a chainsaw.
“The Corps taught me to get out of my comfort zone with people and power tools,” said Harley. “I was scared to be around the chainsaw in the beginning, but with time and support, I conquered these fears. My Yosemite Tent Camp Supervisor acknowledged my ability to flawlessly complete a face cut when felling a tree. This supportive environment instilled self-confidence in me to work through my emotions. The more engrained I became in my work at the CCC, the more I was able to focus on positive things in my life and know that I could overcome.”
At the completion of the Tent Camp program, Harley transferred to the Siskiyou Center near the Oregon border. She arrived to find she was the only woman on the crew and, shortly after she started, the crew’s supervisor left for another opportunity. Harley stepped up and was instrumental in assisting with the transition. She gained the respect of her peers and remained a constant for the crew.
Harley began working to be promoted to a Crew Leader. Despite the challenges of joining a new crew, Harley maintained a positive attitude and persisted. She helped re-establish a Corpsmember Advisory Board for the Siskiyou Center and she obtained a Commercial Driver’s License. In June 2019, she was promoted to a Crew Leader position.
“Being a Crew Leader taught me to maintain my composure when a conflict arises,” said Harley. “I learned to work efficiently and with integrity. I have enhanced my critical thinking, management, and leadership skills.”
Harley currently serves as Sargent-at-Arms for the Siskiyou Corpsmember Advisory Board. She helps keep things running smoothly, frequently contributing innovative ideas. She is also working on completing her next promotion to a “Crewleader II” position. In the future, when she has gained more experience, Harley plans to take the California state exam and apply to be a Conservationist I: a permanent CCC staff position directly responsible for supervising a crew.
Since joining the CCC, Harley has given over 75 hours of her own time volunteering, including work with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and at the National Public Lands Day Volunteer Event. As a transition out of the CCC, Harley plans to one day apply for a full-time permanent position as a Fish and Wildlife Technician for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
One of Harley’s major goals is to finish her bachelor’s degree in Forest Ecology with a minor in Philosophy of Ethics. With her AmeriCorps Education Award, she hopes to achieve her educational goals.
For almost a year, Harley has been an integral part of the Siskiyou Center community. She is proud to say her crew has made a complete 180 from when they started.
Harley on the Power of Community:
“The hard work was always there with this crew, but what I have witnessed change is teamwork, initiative, integrity, positive compliments, passion, encouragement, communication and overall respect amongst each other. This crew gives me the strength to strive professionally and personally to be the best version of myself.”