Mary Ellen Sprenkel is a long-time champion for youth and national service. With years of experience as a leader in the Service and Conservation Corps community, she has established herself as a trusted advisor and expert in Corps programming and youth workforce development.
During Mary Ellen’s time with The Corps Network, Corps programs are increasingly recognized by lawmakers and policymakers as an effective strategy for addressing pressing projects and developing America’s next generation of workers and civic leaders. The Corps Network has become a go-to source for information, best practices, and policy recommendations related to Corps. Under her leadership, The Corps Network has collaborated with several presidential administrations and many elected officials on Capitol Hill. Mary Ellen and The Corps Network have provided guidance that helped shape Civilian Climate Corps proposals from the White House and numerous members of Congress. Mary Ellen was also a leader in the passage of the John S. McCain 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act (2019), and a strong advocate behind several increases in AmeriCorps funding. In 2010, during Mary Ellen’s tenure, more than $63 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects were granted to Service and Conservation Corps throughout the country by 15 federal agencies.
Mary Ellen is a voice for equity in national service. During her leadership, The Corps Network established the Opportunity Youth Service Initiative, focused on providing education and conservation service opportunities to young adults who are disconnected from work or school. In addition, The Corps Network secured funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to launch the Moving Forward Initiative, focused on confronting racism and advancing equity, diversity and inclusion across the Service and Conservation Corps community. Mary Ellen’s direction has also led The Corps Network to receive financial support to help enhance and expand Corps programs in underserved communities across the Gulf Coast and the Delaware River Watershed.
Beyond her leadership at The Corps Network, Mary Ellen serves as the Secretary of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable Executive Committee. She previously helped lead a Federal Advisory Committee tasked with providing recommendations to federal land management agencies on how to implement a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.
In addition to her time at The Corps Network, Mary Ellen has ten years of Capitol Hill experience, including two years on the House Committee on Education and Labor handling postsecondary education, training, and life-long learning programs. She also worked for Representatives Matthew G. Martinez (D-CA) and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY). Before joining The Corps Network, Mary Ellen was Vice President of Government Relations at the Education Finance Council, the national trade association for nonprofit and state-based student loan providers. Prior to that, she spent two years as the Assistant to the President of the University of Montana. Mary Ellen came to The Corps Network in March of 2008 as Director of Government Relations. She was promoted to Vice President of External Affairs in 2011 and then appointed Interim CEO in May of 2012, prior to being selected as the CEO in October of 2012.
As the Chief Operating Officer, Marie manages the day-to-day operations of The Corps Network including the Gulf Coast Restoration Initiative. Marie supervises The Corps Network’s contracts as well as the organization’s private and federal partnerships with AmeriCorps, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. Marie also helped develop GulfCorps, a conservation and workforce development initiative focused on training local young adults for careers in the growing restoration economy along the Gulf of Mexico.
Prior to joining The Corps Network in 2014, Marie spent 15 years as the Director of Programs and Development for the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia (CCCWV). Marie was involved in the development and implementation of several innovative programs, including the first Brownfields Job Training Program in West Virginia. Marie has served on the board of directors for several organizations, including NASCC (National Association of Service and Conservation Corps); WV Development HUB; Harpers Ferry Job Center Community Council; American Cancer Society; and Main Street Martinsburg. She currently serves as a board member of American Trails and serves as co-chair of the development committee.
Marie holds bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Sociology, as well as a MPA in Public Administration. She studied at Concord University, Old Dominion University, and West Virginia University. Go Mountain Lions, Monarchs, and Mountaineers!
In her spare time, Marie enjoys playing nine holes of golf, listening to great jazz music, and watching college football.
As Communications Associate, Asia assists in creating written, graphic, and video content. Originally from Long Beach, CA, she received her Bachelor’s degree in English Writing with a minor in Mass Communications from Loyola University New Orleans. Post-graduation, she moved to Portland, OR, where she was the Community Manager for a small business, running their social media and events. Now located in Washington, DC, her passion is storytelling through digital content. She has worked with and managed various brands such as publishing companies, luxury magazines, tourism boards, and nonprofits. In her most recent position, she worked with the Communications team at Latino Corporate Directors Association to increase gender, racial, and ethnic diversity on corporate boards. She aspires to continue a career in Communications specifically working with organizations based in nonprofit, policy/advocacy, and social justice work. She enjoys traveling, concerts, and spending time with her two dogs, Cronus and Wilson.
Shytia “Tia” Blakney was born and raised on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. She has an Associate’s Degree in Business and is close to completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. She enjoys shopping and spending time with her beautiful children ages 10, 6, and 4. Tia worked at CLIMB CDC for 3 years managing their Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act program. She was responsible for managing their employer partnership portfolio and placing young people in externship opportunities. Her passion is working with opportunity youth to help them become employable and self-reliant. During her time at CLIMB, she worked very closely with young people creating their Individual Development Plans and assisting them with meeting their education and employment goals. She worked with the conservation and environmental programs, as well as, the general workforce development operation. Prior to CLIMB, she worked at the Harrison County Adult Detention Center as a Correctional Officer.
Dan has over 8 years of experience on staff with TCN member organizations (PowerCorpsPHL & The Work Group). As a Program Manager, Dan is currently focused on coordinating the multitude of communities and partnerships across four states, involved in the newly launched Delaware River Climate Corps (DRCC).
Dan graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a BA in Environmental Studies. Upon graduating, Dan completed 1+ term-of-service as an AmeriCorps VISTA serving Greater Philadelphia.
Outside of work, Dan volunteers his time to improve Philadelphia’s environment as a Master Watershed Steward through the Penn State Extension office and a Philly Forest Steward with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. He also enjoys visiting national parks, board games with friends, and science-fiction series.
Meghan joined The Corps Network as a Government Relations Coordinator in 2021 assisting with government outreach, public policy research, and advocacy.
Meghan is a recent graduate of George Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Communication. During her undergraduate career, Meghan interned in both the House and Senate where she discovered a passion for environmental advocacy and sustainability. Meghan was also a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a gender inclusive community service-based fraternity focused on volunteering at various service sites throughout the DC community.
Outside of work, Meghan enjoys spending time with family, friends and her fiancé, walking dog her Molly, and staying up to date on reality TV.
Allen Dietz has over 35 years of experience working with non-profit organizations. He has managed or provided technical support to AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Senior Corps programs for the past two decades. Allen founded and managed a large statewide AmeriCorps program in Texas, served as the Chief Operations Officer for the Washington Service Corps, and was the director of a Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
Allen was deeply involved with the development of The Corps Center of Excellence Accreditation Standards for Service and Conservation Corps, and currently manages The Corps Network’s national accreditation process.
Allen lives on the edge of the North Cascades in Washington State and enjoys hiking, kayaking, and skiing in his free time.
As a Programs Coordinator, Lauren oversees and provides support for U.S. Forest Service, NPS, and Fish & Wildlife projects and initiatives in addition to various other AmeriCorps and TCN programs like HOPE Crew.
Prior to joining The Corps Network team, Lauren completed an AmeriCorps service term with the Montana Conservation Corps as a Northern Rockies region field crew member. She served in wilderness areas, public lands, and national parks in Montana and Idaho on backcountry trail construction, conservation, and historical preservation projects.
Lauren is also a Sierra Club Potomac Region Outings leader and volunteers her time by organizing outdoor recreational activities and she recently received Wilderness First Aid Certification through MEDIC SOLO Medical School.
Outside of work, Lauren enjoys kayaking, Netflix-binges, and attending geek conventions.
Sophia Ellison is a seasoned, high-level Executive Professional with both executive assistant and general administrative support experience spanning 20 years. Sophia has provided executive support to Radio, Journalism & CSG Services and Station Initiatives of The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Sophia’s experience includes executive support and project management to the SVP of Commercial Sector Lead, Health Plans, SVP of Sales & Client Partnerships, and support to SVP of HP Specialty Sales teams and staff of the Account Management team of Magellan Healthcare. Along with executive support to SVP of eCommerce at Marriott Headquarters and Administrative assistant to office manager at the Secret Service.
Sophia is currently the Executive Assistant to the CEO / President and COO at The Corps Network. Sophia collaborates closely with Board members, Directors, and all staff. Sophia maintains our Washington, DC office, manages calendars, schedule appointments arrange travel, prepare Board meeting minutes, and support the finance department. Sophia, Interprets internal policies and procedures and functions as a resource to others. Handles confidential and sensitive information. Demonstrate proven track record of employing keen attention to detail in reviewing reports and conducting investigations to verify compliance with set standards. Display reliable dedication to meet organization’s business objectives and maximize growth and profitability. Offer proven reputation for strong customer service, professionalism, and communication skill in delivering quality service that satisfy all specific business requirements. Sophia takes pride in strong planning and problem-solving skills and readily adapts to change and exceeds expectations. Sophia’s well office management skills, including hiring and supervising staff and event planning. Sophia is a licensed cosmetologist and will earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, from University of Maryland Global Campus in December 2022.
As the Communications and Program Associate, Emma assists The Corps Network Communications Team with content creation and strategy and collaborates with external partners to advance The Corps Network’s mission.
Emma is a recent graduate of James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in History and Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication. While in college, Emma served as a tutor at her university writing center and interned for her New York district senator where she discovered a passion for working within the public sphere. She has also had the opportunity to intern in London for the London Business Matters magazine and for the Media Research Center in Reston, VA.
Outside of work, Emma enjoys exploring new places, hiking with friends, and tasting the newest local cuisine.
Thomas joined The Corps Network in 2020 as a Program Associate. His responsibilities focus on helping The Corps Network recruit and manage interns for the U.S. Forest Service Resource Assistants Program (RAP). He works in additional capacities by communicating effectively with the USDA Forest Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the National Park Service. As a Program Assistant, Thomas is responsible for maintaining communications between RAP interns about their specific experiences and projects.
Thomas originates from New Orleans, LA but attended college in Washington, DC, receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from The Catholic University in 2019. He has held several internships around DC, but he has always been passionate about serving his community and looks forward to the exciting opportunities offered by The Corps Network to assist communities and people who are in need.
Candace Hollingsworth joined The Corps Network in January 2019 as the Director of AmeriCorps Programs. She now serves as Director of Programs.
Candace has a passion for service and improving the effectiveness of public sector organizations to advance their missions. She has 15 years’ experience in the nonprofit sector having assumed roles ranging from grants manager to virtual CFO and has managed projects of all sizes. However, Candace is no stranger to corps or The Corps Network. She cut her teeth in workforce development through service and conservation corps as the grants finance manager for the Conservation Corps of Greater New Orleans, a project of The Corps Network from 2008-2009. Since that time, Candace has kept positive youth development as a centerpiece of her work as the mayor of the City of Hyattsville. In that role she regularly works to build strategic partnerships and programming to create meaningful connections with young people to promote civic engagement, expand education and economic opportunity, and support the long-term sustainability of the city.
Candace is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and received a Bachelor of Arts in African-American Studies from Emory University and a Master of Public Policy (MPP) specializing in education, family, and social policy from Georgetown University. When she’s not at work or banging the gavel, you can find Candace somewhere enjoying great coffee or bourbon and making friends laugh with animated stories and eerily accurate impersonations.
Stephanie Mathes is a native Mississippian with over 20 years of nonprofit management and workforce development experience. She attended California State University, Long Beach studying Philosophy with an emphasis in Pre-Law. She, and her husband Bruce, have three college aged children. Her favorite pastime is gardening, painting, and being involved with her local church.
Prior to taking her current position as The Corps Network’s Director of Gulf Operations, Stephanie was the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of a local community development organization (CDC) specializing in human development programs including workforce training for opportunity and at-risk youth. Over the course of her 20-year career, Stephanie has worked with nonprofit organizational management, project development and the implementation of over 135 million dollars of federal funding. Besides the workforce training institute, her project implementation experience has included prevention of child abuse, micro-enterprise, social enterprise, juvenile justice programs, housing and homeless programs, and disaster response/recovery. While at the CDC, Stephanie developed and managed the organization’s conservation corps program as part of their Environmental and Conservation employability track. Stephanie is very involved in her community serving on a variety of local Boards of Directors and committees. She completed Leadership Gulf Coast, Class of 2014 and is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program.
LaShauntya joined The Corps Network in 2016 as a Fellow to the Education and Workforce Development department and is now the Member Services Assistant. She brings 16 years of environmental service to her position. She started as an AmeriCorps member at Earth Conservation Corps, a DC-based environmental organization. She completed two terms and was asked to join the staff as a site manager. After six months, she was promoted to Youth Program Coordinator. She has been featured on 60 Minutes, NOW with Bill Moyers, and in People magazine. In her free time, LaShauntya enjoys spending time with her family, reading and traveling.
Danielle Owen has joined The Corps Network as the Director of Government Relations. In this role she works to develop and implement policy and legislative initiatives with a focus on conservation/natural resources, national service and youth/workforce development. She works closely with Congress and federal agencies on these issues.
Prior to joining The Corps Network, Danielle worked for 14 years in the office of former Congressman Melvin L. Watt, seven of those years serving as his Chief of Staff. Following her time in the House, she served as a Director of Governmental Affairs and then as a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Governmental Affairs in the Office of Secretary Foxx at the United States Department of Transportation. When not working, Danielle can be found in a bookstore searching for her next favorite book or talking about her adorable nephew, Owen, and her adorable niece, Emerson.
Victor O. Robertson Jr. joined The Corps Network as the Director of Workforce Development in October 2021. In this role, he develops viable career pathways for Corpsmembers by working with Corps to strengthen their employer partnerships; expanding their training and credentialing offerings; and, building their supportive services to assist Corpsmembers who face barriers to employment and education.
Prior to joining The Corps Network, Victor spent eight (8) years at the Department of Employment Services (DOES) developing and implementing workforce programs for adults, youth, and special populations. During his time with DOES, he was responsible for was creating workforce programs and career pathways for individuals with barriers to employment including opportunity youth with a criminal record and lacking literacy and numeracy skills. In addition to developing and implementing workforce programs, Victor has a proven track record of establishing public-private partnerships; policy advisement; performance and compliance management, labor market analysis; and, providing technical assistance.
A proud Howard University graduate, Victor holds bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and African American Studies, as well as a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) with concentrations in Mental Health and Family and Child Welfare.
Christian joined The Corps Network in 2021 as a Program Coordinator. Originally from Round Rock,TX, he received his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy with a minor in Math Informatics fromWesley College in 2020.Post-graduation, he moved to Biloxi, MS, where he started as a crew member atClimb CDC, eventually becoming a crew leader.Outside of work, Christian likes to spend time with his wife and two dogs.
Hannah joined The Corps Network in 2021 as the Member Data Coordinator. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and promptly moved west to work for various public land agencies. Much of her previous job experience has been seasonal field work focusing on surveying wildlife and implementing habitat restoration efforts in the southwest region of the country. Her Corps experiences range from leading a crew with Arizona Conservation Corps that removed invasive trees in the Verde River watershed, to supporting crews of her own as a Program Coordinator with Northwest Youth Corps.
Outside of work, you will most likely find her exploring the Pacific Northwest with her dog Ravioli going backpacking, hiking, and attempting to fly fish.
Capri serves as the Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at The Corps Network. Her focus has been on increasing exposure as well as opportunities in the environmental and conservation field for young adults of color. She has looked to deepen The Corps Network and the Corps understanding around institutional and structural racism and how it plays out in the work that we do. She is a graduate of New York University for both her BFA and MA. She has over 35 years of experience in education in NYC, Seattle, and now DC. She taught Media Studies at Seattle Central College as well as the Intercultural Communication course for international students where she was introduced to the concept of “Integrative Learning Communities,” which is a collaborative interdisciplinary approach to higher education. She was a Faculty member at the BA Completion Program at Antioch University Seattle where she taught the cultural studies courses, and then Director of Student Life and Disability Services at Antioch University Seattle.
Prior to joining The Corps Network, she was in NYC at Federation Employment Guidance Services (FEGS) in their Education and Youth Division where she developed the education program for their now signature Bronx program (serving over 400 young people a year) that works primarily with foster care youth.
She with her husband are the founders of “Rebuilding Haiti One Trip at a Time,” where they focus on changing the narrative of the country by engaging small groups in cultural and historical tours of the country.
As the Member Services Manager, Bobby coordinates and manages activities designed to identify and meet the needs of TCN members, including administration of membership information, management of efforts to retain and recruit members, assistance with the Corps Center of Excellence Accreditation program, and the coordination of member benefits. Member benefits include technical assistance offerings, trainings, resources, partner relationships, events and new initiatives as they arise.
Prior to working at The Corps Network, Bobby completed two AmeriCorps terms-of-service with the Montana Conservation Corps as both a crewmember and a crew leader. He served on a backcountry wilderness trails crew as well as a roving habitat restoration crew. Bobby also worked as the Government Relations Intern at The Corps Network where he assisted the Director of Government Relations as well as provided logistical support for the Public Lands Service Coalition.
Bobby graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a BA in International Affairs. Outside of work, he enjoys running, documentaries on Netflix, and watching the Wizards and Nationals.
As the Communications Manager, Hannah develops and produces written, graphic and video content. She also oversees The Corps Network’s website and social media accounts. Over the years, Hannah has created countless publications about Corps, written articles and opinion pieces for national outlets, and assisted in the planning efforts for The Corps Network’s events. She has developed resources for helping Corps improve their communications efforts, and leads a working group of communications and marketing professionals across the Corps community. Hannah was the lead author of the book Join the Crew: Inspirational Stories of Young Adults in America’s Service and Conservation Corps.
Hannah received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. While in college, Hannah volunteered at the National Air and Space Museum, and volunteered in DC Public Schools through DC Reads (a tutoring program) and Prime Movers (a journalism education program). She also spent a semester interning with the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and spent over a year interning and writing for Street Sense; a DC-based newspaper focused on raising awareness about homelessness.
Leslie began with the Human Environment Center in 1984 and transitioned to The Corps Network when it was created in 1985. Since she began, Leslie has planned numerous conferences, designed and edited a quarterly newsletter, and directed member services. Leslie has taken on almost every responsibility possible at one time or another, and has become one of the most knowledgeable leaders in the Corps Movement, sought out for her wisdom, command of Corps history, and expertise in AmeriCorps programs and initiatives.
Leslie Wilkoff administers The Corps Network’s AmeriCorps Education Award Program (EAP). She created TCN’s AmeriCorps Program Manual as well as a document on how to get the most out of the AmeriCorps Education Award (scholarship), which includes non-traditional uses of the award. She also ensures compliance and provides technical assistance to TCN Subgrantees in our Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) AmeriCorps grants.
Throughout her tenure, Leslie has developed a cache of tools for national service and youth development programs and has emerged as one of the leaders of the EAP, serving on numerous working groups for CNCS. She also provides training to Subgrantees for the eGrants Portal on-line member management system, AmeriCorps Compliance and other aspects for running a successful, compliant program. In addition, she worked with Willis Towers Watson to develop The Corps Network’s Health Insurance Plan for Corpsmembers and AmeriCorps members.
Leslie has a degree in Textile Design and likes to spend her free time creating beautiful quilts and other fabric items. Attendees at the special AmeriCorps session at TCN’s Annual Conference always get a fun fabric craft or toy to take home.
Aileen Yelle is a native Mississippian with an MBA and over 20 years of small business, HR and project management experience. She has three grown boys, loves to cook, and loves to watch movies, football and sunsets on the water. She has traveled to almost every area of the country (and lived in a few different areas), but she chose to make her home on the southern shores.
Aileen has experience running a small construction business, working in human resources, and project management. She has worked in a variety of industries including computer software, wireless communications, manufacturing, beverage distribution, multimedia, finance and non-profit.
Prior to taking her current position at The Corps Network, Aileen worked with Climb CDC for five years, investing in Mississippi Gulf Coast communities through housing programs and workforce development for opportunity youth. During her last year with Climb, the organization had two Conservation Corps crews; Aileen was closely involved with hiring the crews and implementing the program.
“Working in the non-profit workforce development arena has been infinitely more satisfying than any job in a for-profit company because it allows me to merge my moral and spiritual principles with my daily work endeavors. I feel privileged to continue my career on a regional scale with The Corps Network, increasing the environmental, social and cultural impact I can have on my southern home.”
Rachael Zwerin is responsible for assisting the Member Services Team in identifying and supporting the needs of The Corps Network’s member organization. Rachael was born and raised in Westchester, NY. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sustainability from The State University of New York College at Oneonta. Rachael has prior experience volunteering with the non-profit organization Common Ground Relief in New Orleans, LA, working on coastal restoration projects to rebuild communities and wetlands along the coast of Louisiana. She also worked for two consecutive summer seasons as a Youth Program Assistant for Groundwork Hudson Valley as a crew leader for youth working on local conservation projects, such as trail restoration and invasive species removal. In her free time, Rachael enjoys traveling, kayaking, camping, and sunset picnics with friends.