Legacy Achievement Award Winner: Sam Duran


Sam Duran has dedicated his life to empowering, advocating and improving the lives of under-privileged youth through a career in the Conservation Corps movement. Sam possesses 33 years of executive leadership in conservation corps program operations and management in California. Through his significant experience, he has built a stellar reputation for ethical leadership and organizational ingenuity, while maintaining a tireless dedication to youth and what he refers to as the “magic of human potential.”
As the founding CEO of Urban Corps of San Diego County, Sam has guided this local conservation corps from its original budget of $120,000 to more than $8.5 million. The organization has been responsible for training, employing and educating over 10,000 at-risk youth and graduating more than 1,400 with a high school diploma since its 1989 inception. Through Mr. Duran’s continuous personal belief in and commitment to developing underprivileged youth from all walks of life, the Urban Corps of San Diego County has grown into a dynamic organization that provides a second chance to young people while preserving San Diego’s natural resources. 
Under his leadership, the Urban Corps had the honor of being the only conservation corps to ever receive a grant from the Smithsonian Museum to conduct a survey of all outdoor sculptures in the County of San Diego. Sam’s vision has led to Corpsmember exchange programs with the USSR, Quebec City, Canada, and Mexico as well as enduring contract work from the Port of San Diego, the City of San Diego, and a countywide recycling program that includes major contracts such as Qualcomm Stadium, PETCO Park, Cox Arena and Crickett Wireless Amphitheatre.
This year, Sam led the establishment of Urban Corps’ own charter school. Directly following the transition, corpsmember enrollment increased by 30% thanks to a shift to a week-on/week-off school format in which corpsmembers alternate every week with 50% attending school for five days with the other 50% a working in the community. The shift represents the most significant change in recent Urban Corps history and is providing substantially more autonomy over curriculum and school funding.
Sam is an active member of the California Association of Local Conservation Corps and serves as a board member of the Conservation Corps State Museum.  Among other accomplishments, in 1993, Sam served on the national task force created to advise President Bill Clinton on the creation of AmeriCorps. At Urban Corps and beyond, Sam has been a proven visionary and strategic leader who translates strategies into maximum results for youth, community, and environment.