Corps Story: GulfCorps Year-4 Kicks Off
Bringing conservation learning and job training to more than 50 young adults across the Gulf of Mexico
[Photo in banner: Student Conservation Association]
The fourth cohort of GulfCorps officially kicked off this month with a virtual orientation session, held October 5 – 7. During this new season, GulfCorps will provide opportunities for more than 50 young adults across the Gulf region to learn new skills and gain conservation work experience through service in Corps.
Launched in 2017 with a grant made possible by the RESTORE Act, GulfCorps is an initiative to support Corps in engaging young adults in conservation and restoration service and job training across the five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas).
In response to powerful storms and the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, the goal of GulfCorps is to help prepare a local workforce for the growing environmental restoration economy. Since its inception, GulfCorps has engaged more than 300 young people. The initiative is led by The Nature Conservancy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Student Conservation Association (SCA), and The Corps Network.
Orientation: Corpsmembers in Florida with Franklin’s Promise learn how to use orienteering and monitoring tools.
A Different Kind of Orientation
Six Corps are participating in year-4 of GulfCorps: Climb CDC Conservation Corps (engaging Corpsmembers in Mississippi); SCA (Alabama); Limitless Vistas, Inc. (Louisiana); American YouthWorks (Texas and Louisiana); Franklin’s Promise Coalition (Florida); and American Conservation Experience (Texas).
During the coming year, Corpsmembers will work on a range of projects in partnership with land management agencies. Work will include building living coastlines, removing invasive species, installing native plants, prescribed fire, endangered species protection, wetland restoration, and maintaining trails and other recreation areas.
Typically, GulfCorps orientation would involve uniting Corpsmembers from all of the programs for an in-person training. Due to coronavirus concerns, orientation for the year-4 cohort took place primarily online. Corpsmembers participated in virtual lessons on hard skills, like GPS and ecological monitoring techniques, as well as on important topics like inclusivity and navigating group dynamics. Lessons were accompanied by hands-on training at each Corps.
Orientation: American Conservation Experience (ACE)
The Corps Network’s role in GulfCorps is to facilitate professional development. Orientation is the kick start to this professional development component. A full day was devoted to the topic, with panel discussions and workshops. Among others, speakers throughout the day included Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief of the National Forest System, Stephanie Meeks, President and CEO of SCA, and Corps alumni, including 2019 Corpsmember of the Year Jasmine Poole.
A unique benefit of GulfCorps is that it’s more than “just a job.” Throughout their service, Corpsmembers practice field skills, earn certifications, and receive assistance in obtaining post-program employment. Corpsmembers will complete a résumé, practice interviewing, and receive lessons in communication, teamwork and other employability skills. During orientation, Corpsmembers attended workshops on professionalism and active listening, and began working on documents to outline their individual development plan, goals and strategies.
Orientation: Texas Conservation Corps (top) and Louisiana Conservation Corps (bottom).
Both are programs of American YouthWorks
Building on an Impressive Track Record
To date, GulfCorps has far exceeded project goals. Corps have partnered on projects with more than 40 resource management agencies, local governments, foundations and other entities. Corpsmembers have restored or enhanced more than 10,000 acres, including over 2,200 acres of wetland and nearly 5,800 acres of upland.
GulfCorps has also exceeded post-program placement goals, with many alumni going into jobs in conservation. The post-program placement rate for Year-3 was over 90 percent. Among other roles, GulfCorps alumni have progressed into jobs as fire technicians, conservation technicians, forestry technicians, sawyers, biology aides, herbicide applicators, and waste management professionals. There are also alums how now hold staff positions at Corps, and an alum who now works as a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Orientation: Climb CDC Conservation Corps
“I am incredibly proud of what GulfCorps has accomplished. This initiative is completing critical work to restore habitats while doing the equally, if not more important work of providing meaningful training opportunities to a new generation of conservation professionals,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network. “At a time when we often hear discouraging news from the Gulf – about storms and rising waters – GulfCorps offers a hopeful story of taking action for the benefit of our environment and our young people. I look forward to seeing what the year-4 cohort will achieve.”
Year-4 of GulfCorps will conclude at the end of June 2021.
Orientation: Limitless Vistas, Inc. (LVI)