2013 Corps Legacy Achievement Award winner, John Irish


In 1972, John Irish took a position working with at-risk youth for the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center. This experience started John’s 39 year career of promoting, designing, developing, and implementing corps programs across the state of Arizona. As said by Miquelle Sheier, program manager of Coconino Rural Environment Corps, “We, Arizona and the Nation, owe John a debt of gratitude for the…public and private support he has generated during his years of service in support…and preservation of corps programs.”
After leaving his position with the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, John took a job with the US Forest Service. John was employed by the Forest Service in one capacity or another from 1977 to March 2005. During this nearly 30 year career, John worked with the Forest Service National Job Corps office on several projects designed to develop relationships between various youth corps programs and Job Corps centers. John was at one point responsible for providing support for senior, youth and volunteer programs in four National Forests. He was also responsible for the start up, supervision and coordination of numerous corps programs and work projects. John helped set up and was Director of a Young Adult Conservation Corps (YACC) program and helped set up several Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) programs in Arizona. He also established the Arizona Conservation Corps (ACC) and the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC). John served as the Director of CREC from 1996 to 1999 and returned as Interim Director in 2005 and 2006.The organization celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2012.
Additionally, John has been involved in the design, development and implementation of several AmeriCorps programs. This includes Team USDA Arizona, and Youth-In-Action AmeriCorps, which is currently the longest running and largest AmeriCorps program in Arizona.
John’s commitment to youth, conservation and service has been influential in building support for the Corps Movement and in establishing Corps legislation at the state and national levels. In 1985, it was John’s work with Arizona State Representative Karan English that resulted in the passage of House Bill 2654, which established funding for a conservation corps program in Arizona. This bill literally launched the Arizona Conservation Corps (ACC) and provided support and funding for corps programs throughout the state. John’s efforts fostered a powerful grass roots movement that united citizens and organizations throughout Arizona in supporting youth and environment. The Arizona Conservation Corps was recognized by the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (NASCC, now The Corps Network) as “A Model of Federal-State Cooperation.”
In 2004, John worked with Arizona congressional candidate, and former Coconino County Supervisor, Paul Babbitt, to support US Senator John Kerry in announcing the Forest Restoration Program that included about a hundred million dollars for an environmental corps.
John served on The Corps Network (then called NASCC) Board of Directors from 1993 to 1996. He has been an active member of The Corps Network for over 20 years. Since 2005, John has served as the Chairman of Southwest Conservation Corps’s (SCC) Four Corners Board of Directors, Secretary of SCC’s Executive Board of Directors, and is the current Chairman of SCC’s Board of Directors.
When asked what keeps him so passionate about the Corps movement after all this time, John says, “Because this is good stuff.” John’s vision and contributions to the Corps movement have definitely brought the “good stuff” to numerous communities and thousands of youth and young adults.