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Our Impact FY19

21CSC Champion of the Year Awardees – 2019

21CSC Champion of the Year 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 2019 Champions of the Year will be recognized at the annual Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting, happening February 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. This event is part of The Corps Network National Conference.

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


Lisa Norby
Energy and Minerals Branch Chief
Geologic Resources Division
National Park Service
[Retired December 2018]

Lisa Norby began her career as a camp counselor. She later worked as an Environmental Education Coordinator for the Youth Conservation Corps in Florida and New Mexico. Norby received a B.S. in Geology from Ohio University; a M.S. degree in Geology form Idaho State University; and a M.E.P.M (Masters in Environmental Policy) from the University of Denver.

For 26 years, Norby’s career with the National Park Service has spanned many different programs and projects, touching park planning, petroleum geology, and youth programs. In her most recent role as Energy and Minerals Branch Chief with the Geologic Resources Division, Norby oversaw two large-scale internship programs, in addition to overseeing energy and minerals projects in all national parks. For the last 13 years, she managed the largest NPS natural resource science internship program, Geoscientists-in-the-Parks (GIP). The GIP Program is managed in partnership with 21CSC organizations Conservation Legacy, Stewards Individual Placement Program, and The Geological Society of America. The GIP program provides internship opportunities to approximately 170 young adults in national parks each year, providing technical assistance to parks to complete critical natural resource science projects.

In 2013, Norby helped create the Mosaics in Science Program in partnership with Environment for the Americas and Greening Youth Foundation. This program provides meaningful, science-based internships to racially and ethnically diverse young adults.

“Lisa should be recognized as a national leader in engaging the next generation of conservationists on public lands because of her hard work, dedication, and lifelong passion for youth programming,” said Krista Rogers, Program Director for Stewards Individual Placement Program, Conservation Legacy.

Norby has been a dedicated and enthusiastic advocate for youth programming for decades. The partnerships and programs developed through her creativity and efforts have provided priceless experiences for young adults and helped preserve public lands. Norby recognizes the benefits of involving future generations in conserving public lands and seeks out opportunities to increase the visibility of environmentalism and youth programming.


Read the Q&A with Lisa Norby to learn more about her time with the National Park Service.


Greg Sanders
Job Corps and Veterans Fire Programs Workforce Program Manager
USDA Forest Service

Greg Sanders earned his undergraduate degree in Forest Management from Oregon State University. He started his career in wildland fire on an engine crew on the Malheur National Forest in Oregon, where he worked for seven fire seasons. He then moved to Tennessee to attend the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where he received his M.S. in Forestry. Beginning in 1988, he spent five years in a fire management position with the Tennessee Division of Forestry. He then moved to Virginia, where he eventually became Fire Management Chief for the Virginia Department of Forestry.

In 1998, Sanders was hired by the U.S. Forest Service as the first Center Manager for the Virginia Interagency Coordination Center in Charlottesville. In March 2003, he was hired as the Forest Fire Management Officer for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, where he worked until moving into his current position.

In his current role, Sanders has been integral to the development and implementation of the Veteran Fire Corps programming operated nationwide by a variety of 21CSC member organizations, including Conservation Legacy, California Conservation Corps, Student Conservation Association, Mt. Adams Institute and Montana Conservation Corps. With Sanders’ support, the Veterans Fire Corps program expanded across the country and has continued to develop and grow.

Sanders champions and leads the efforts nationwide to engage veterans in fire programs and has worked to increase opportunities for alumni from these programs to successfully obtain jobs in wildland fire. He has convened federal and Corps partners to discuss best practices and opportunities for collaboration. Additionally, he developed a system to collect critical program data that demonstrates the success and impact of Veterans Fire Corps programs.

“[Greg’s] commitment to ensuring that all veterans who are interested in a job in wildland fire post-program is explicit and his investment here has benefited veterans across the country,” said Amy Sovocool, Chief External Affairs Officer for Conservation Legacy, a member organization of the 21CSC.

With a commitment to the community, Sanders shares and broadcasts hiring employment opportunities for alums and continues to work with the Forest Service to develop better connections for veterans and young people interested in post-program employment.


Read the Q&A with Greg Sanders to learn more about his time with the US Forest Service.


Tate Thriffiley
De Soto National Forest, De Soto Ranger District
USDA Forest Service

Tate Thriffiley received his B.S. in Environmental Biology from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). While pursuing his degree, he began his career at DeSoto National Forest. After graduating from USM, he worked as a Field Crew Supervisor, a NEPA Coordinator, and later as an Environmental Officer with Mississippi’s Military Department.

For the past 16 years, Thriffiley has served in a diverse array of positions with De Soto National Forest, working in all aspects of rare, sensitive, threatened, and endangered plants. He currently serves as an Ecologist. He also serves as a primary contact for GulfCorps, an initiative to restore coastal habitats by expanding Corps capacity in the five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

“What makes [Tate] an incredible project partner is that he is equally passionate about the development of young people as he is about environmental and conservation stewardship,” said Stephanie Mathes, Director of Gulf Operations for The Corps Network.

Thriffiley is an original member and co-founder of an award-winning outreach program, Blues Rangers Conservation Education program. He understands what it means to nurture young adults and has consistently displayed patience, creativity, and caring when working with Corpsmembers in 21CSC programs. He also understands the importance of providing Corpsmembers with comprehensive training and certifications. Thriffiley engaged trainers to provide all Year-2 GulfCorps members with S-212 Sawyer A-level certification. Some Corpsmembers also received training in prescribed fire. These efforts have allowed the GulfCorps programs to have a much larger impact than initially anticipated. Corpsmembers have participated in a range of projects, including felling trees, conducting prescribed burns, and mapping and monitoring habitats as part of a multi-year project to restore Pale-topped Pitcher Plant bogs at De Soto.

Over the years, Thriffiley has earned more than 26 awards in recognition of his extensive impact.


Read the Q&A with Tate Thriffiley to learn more about his time with the US Forest Service.


Jennifer Wheeler
Arcata Field Office
Bureau of Land Management

Jennifer Wheeler studied Game Ranching and Wildlife Management in East Africa with the School for Field Studies and received her Associate of Science Degree from Cabrillo College. Following that, she attended Humboldt State University to study Range Management and Botany. While studying, she began working for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Lakeview, CA. In 1993, Wheeler earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Rangeland Resource Science with a minor in Botany.

In her role with the BLM, Wheeler has worked with the California Conservation Corps (CCC) for over two decades, facilitating life-changing service experiences for rural and urban youth from almost every social and economic demographic within the state of California. She is a champion of Corpsmembers, helping thousands of CCC participants learn about science, nature, strong work ethic, how to communicate properly, how to push yourself through adversity, and most of all, how to be a better citizen and steward of the environment.

For years, Wheeler has been mentoring CCC members and college graduates through BLM’s cooperative agreement with the Chicago Botanic Garden Conservation Land Management (CLM) internship program. She has provided training and practical experience in the fields of botany, range management, as well as land-use planning, NEPA and ESA regulatory compliance, GIS, and GPS.

Notably, Wheeler has worked with the CCC since 1994 on the recovery of coastal dunes and grasslands that provide important habitat for endemic plants, pollinators, and shorebirds. Over the years, these restoration efforts have engaged more than 10,000 CCC members and volunteers. Thanks to this work, a 2012 status review recommended the down-listing of the beach laiya – a coastal flowering plant – from endangered to threatened. She also worked with CCC members and other partners on eradicating over two dozen non-native species on over 200,000 acres of public land in northwestern California using manual regimes instead of herbicides.

“It is rare that one person helps provide so much for so many,” said Larry Notheis, Deputy Director of the CCC. “The education and opportunity for such a diverse set of young adults only happens when someone thinks more about others than themselves.”

Read the Q&A with Jennifer Wheeler to learn more about her time with the Bureau of Land Management.


Craig Young
Terrestrial Program Leader
Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network
National Park Service

Craig Young received his B.S. in Biology from Centre College in Danville, KY and an M.S. in Environmental Forest Biology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He then worked with Virginia’s Natural Heritage Program as a natural areas manager, and with The Nature Conservancy of Georgia as an ecologist. Young currently serves with the National Park Service as a Biologist and Invasive Plant Program Leader for the Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network. In this role he oversees the Heartland Exotic Plant Management Team, which is dedicated to managing invasive plants across all network parks. The network  stretches from Ohio west to Kansas, and from Minnesota south to Arkansas. The size of network parks ranges from 160 acres, to almost 100,000 acres.

Young is a strong advocate and voice for Conservation Corps and national service in the Midwest. He is a valuable project partner, host, and mentor for many young people interested in entering the natural resource field. Over the years, Young has helped provided direct service opportunities and mentorship to nearly 200 AmeriCorps members. His dedication to conservation and to training young people has led to a long-term partnership that has greatly enhanced Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa’s work throughout the Midwest.

Young has specifically chosen to use his limited program funds to partner with Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa (CCMI) and has persuaded the individual parks within the Heartland Network to partner with 21CSC programs as well. He and his staff take part in CCMI’s training and orientation to provide expert teaching to over 36 AmeriCorps members each year in topics ranging from GIS/GPS data collection, to chemical application, to best practices in invasive species management. Young and his staff also help Corpsmembers pursue employment with federal resource agencies, offering career advice and guidance in résumé writing and USAJobs applications.

“[Craig] has a passion for and recognizes the importance of providing training, education, and experience for the next generation of conservationists and natural resource managers,” said Mark Wilson, Iowa Program Manager for Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa.