Meet the 2022 Corpsmember of the Year Finalists

 

Meet the finalists for the 2022 Corpsmember of the Year Award! We are so inspired by all of our remarkable nominees and their outstanding service to their Corps and local communities. The Corpsmember of the Year Award winners will be announced in March 2022 and will be recognized at We Are the Civilian Climate Corps: A CCC for a New Generation. The Corps Network’s 2022 Virtual National Conference, April 4 – 6, 2022.

Corpsmember stories are arranged in alphabetical order by Corps name.

 


Appalachian Conservation Corps

Kalen Anderson

AmeriCorps Member
“I aim to advocate, educate, and act on the problems and issues that our diverse ecosystems have across the world.”

Kalen Anderson’s peers jokingly refer to him as “the good intern.” During his time as an AmeriCorps member with the Werowocomoco Ancestral Lands program at Appalachian Conservation Corps (ACC), Kalen has always been eager to learn, helpful, punctual, and a hard worker. This new program teaches Native youth resource management skills while engaging them in sharing their cultural knowledge and assisting with preservation and interpretation activities surrounding Werowocomoco: a recently rediscovered site with deep historic significance for Tribes in what is today Virginia. Kalen took every opportunity offered, completing trainings in water quality assessment, invasive species identification, the Archeology Repatriation Act, and many other fields. A member of the Nansemond, he used his training to contribute to his tribe’s oyster bed recovery work on the Nansemond River.

Because of Kalen’s stellar performance, a partner offered him an unadvertised internship position to help him deepen his knowledge of archaeology. After completing this position, Kalen will return to ACC this upcoming season to serve in a lead role for the Werowocomoco Ancestral Lands Corps individual placements. As a supervisor said of Kalen, “You can tell how deeply he cares about his heritage and the land in which he wants to take care of.”

 

 

 

California Conservation Corps

Brianna Free

AmeriCorps Member (The Corps Network’s AmeriCorps Education Award Program)
“I’ve always had a great work ethic, but never the opportunity to put it into practice in activities that advanced my personal and professional experience. After joining the Corps, I realized how much I could achieve with the right amount of effort and opportunity.”

Brianna Free told her supervisors at the California Conservation Corps (CCC) that she will never work any less than twice as hard as everyone else. Brianna started her service doing resource management projects with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but her skill and professionalism quickly identified her for fire training. She was also recently selected to participate in the leadership training academy at the CCC’s San Diego Center.

Brianna has completed numerous trainings, including Type II fire training and CPR/First-Aid. She has proven she can keep a cool head in an emergency, once jumping into action and putting her skills to work when a citizen in distress was found in the Corps’ parking lot. In the male-dominated field of wildland fire, Brianna can also hold her own: she is being actively recruited by multiple fire crews with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. She anticipates starting a position with a fire crew later this year, with a goal of one day earning a role as a fire chief. Outside of the Corps, Brianna enjoys creative writing and skateboarding; she also used the knowledge she gained from the CCC to start a native garden at her house and teach her family about the local ecosystem.

 

 

 

Civicorps

Martha Alva Velasquez

“I think we should encourage kids to take care of nature and their environment. It’s an issue that should be addressed by my generation…I want to make sure we preserve our national forests and parks for future generations.”

Martha Alva Velasquez has gone above and beyond during her service with Civicorps. Early in Martha’s time with the Corps, she was inspired by a guest presentation from a park ranger. Since then, she has worked towards the goal of becoming a park ranger herself. She is her supervisor’s lead person on many projects for various government entities, not just because of her skill and understanding with tools, but because of her warm personality that promotes a positive crew dynamic.

Through Civicorps, Martha earned her high school diploma, gained numerous certifications, and completed the Corps’ highly competitive Conservation Crew Leader Academy. She is enrolled in college classes in park management and plans to enroll at Merritt College to study environmental science. Martha has progressed a long way in just a matter of years: originally from Guatemala, she came to the U.S. at age 16 and initially struggled in school due to the language barrier and needing to work to help support her family. Martha leveraged every opportunity Civicorps provided and is now well on her way to achieving her dream of working in parks.

 

 

 

Heart of Oregon Corps

Cankuna “Kuna” Chavez

AmeriCorps Member
“My time in AmeriCorps really changed me as a person, my views, and taught me new skills. After doing some rough projects during my term of service, I have a newfound respect for some of people in this line of work. Putting blood and sweat into these projects helped me put myself in their shoes and put my skills to the test.”

As an Corpsmember at Heart of Oregon Corps, Kuna took every opportunity to learn new skills that would better prepare him for work outside the Corps. Crew Leaders highlighted Kuna’s investment in progressing his technical skills. Even in areas where he was proficient, Kuna remained focused on safety and asked for feedback. His exemplary service led staff and peers to nominate him for Heart of Oregon Corps’ annual Summit Award, which is only given to select participants from all of Heart of Oregon Corps’ six programs. In the words of his supervisor, “Kuna was a standout Corpsmember. He showed up early, stayed determined throughout the day, and pushed his peers to do their best. He led by example, winning over his fellow crewmates with his can-do attitude, humor, and supportive nature.”

Kuna showed grit every day, even when faced with inclement weather, like brutal heat and smoke from wildfires. It’s clear he takes pride in his work and getting things done. Kuna used his Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to support his college tuition and is enrolled at Central Oregon Community College, where he hopes to earn an associate’s degree in forestry. He plans to transfer to Oregon State University and pursue a bachelor’s degree in forestry. Kuna also a took advantage of a USAjobs workshop and hopes to be selected for a seasonal federal job with the U.S. Forest Service. He hopes to become a certified forester through the Society of American Foresters.

 

 

 

Kupu

Breanna Rodgers

AmeriCorps Member
“I have learned that asking for help and expressing your passions can lead to an outpouring of support and love from really interesting and diverse folks. I also found that conservation work must be viewed from a wider scope to see the progress and impact of your efforts.”

Breanna has impressed the staff at Kupu with her discipline, flexibility, ability to learn quickly, and constant pursuit of personal growth. Serving alongside U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff at Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge on Maui, Breanna stepped up and organized a longtime greenhouse volunteer program to be more productive and better aligned with the refuge priorities. Volunteers remark that her devotion and enthusiasm have made their work more fun and rewarding. The staff at Kealia Pond has mentioned that Breanna has set the standard for their expectations for future Kupu/AmeriCorps members. She has also taken a leadership role on a habitat restoration project to restore 80 acres at Kealia Pond that burned during a brush fire.

Breanna has, on her own initiative, recruited and trained a devoted team of habitat restoration volunteers to help with the refuge’s native outplanting project. Her team achieved 10x the number of outplants. Breanna plans to broaden her experience in biology and become a more well-rounded ecologist. In addition, she plans to use her AmeriCorps Education Award towards her undergraduate student loans with the intention of becoming debt-free in 2022.

 

 

 

Los Angeles Conservation Corps

Michelle Meza

AmeriCorps Member
“I’ve learned that there is a whole other world of opportunities that I had never tapped into. I learned that to trust myself to make the right decisions in my life. Most importantly I learned that I could accomplish great things.”

Michelle joined Los Angeles Conservation Corps to gain experience and go to college in order to provide a better a life for her son. While at LACC, Michelle earned her high school diploma and enrolled in college. She was always eager to take advantage of any opportunity to further her leadership and communication skills. She also participated in a training facilitated by Southwest College called Careers for a Causes where participants work directly with local nonprofit organizations to gain clerical skills. Michelle obtained her First Aid/CPR, OSHA 10 and work readiness certifications. She participated in life skills and financial literacy training and was an active participant of virtual learning workshops.

Michelle was a positive Corpmember who was always willing to help anyone. She set a great example of what was expected from Corpmembers. She made a significant effort to learn as many skills as she could from the Corps and utilize them in her personal and professional development. Since finishing her term, she is completing a medical assistant program at East Los Angeles Community College. Michelle’s goal is to get into nursing school and focus on pediatric nursing.

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps – New Mexico

Jordan Duckworth

AmeriCorps Member
“Jordan showed up as a leader from his very first day at RMYC-NM.”

Jordan Duckworth joined Rocky Mountain Youth Corps – New Mexico (RMYC) as a foundation for exploring new opportunities and new experiences. In his two terms with the Corps, Jordan was able to earn five professional certifications and stepped up into the position of Assistant Crew Leader as soon as the position was available.

During his first term, Jordan faced significant personal challenges, but his dedication to RMYC shown through his great attendance record. He is an inspiration to other Corpsmembers and is known for his, professionalism, kindness, and work ethic. As a supervisor noted, one of Jordan’s most positive influences is his ability to make his crew laugh, even during the most challenging times working in the heat, cold, mud, and ice. He always takes the initiative to get things done. Jordan has once again returned to RMYC, this time as a Crew Leader for a forestry crew, and is gaining skills to serve in wildland firefighting. As he said, “I have found this career in line with the values I have learned and built at RMYC. Working hard, giving back to the community, and protecting our land/homes.”

 

 

 

Southeast Conservation Corps

Aaron Conner

AmeriCorps Member
“Aaron Conner was a dedicated member who served with integrity and professionalism his entire 10-month Veteran Fire Crew season.”

After serving with the Army National Guard, including being deployed to the Middle East in 2019, Aaron sought a post-service career path that would be challenging physically and mentally. He wanted to find a sense of comradery, purpose, and accomplishment. This led him to Southeast Conservation Corps’ (SECC) Veteran’s Fire Crew (VFC). Aaron’s U.S. Forest Service supervisors say, “His can-do attitude has brought a sense of leadership and accomplishment that can be valued and emulated through any non-profit organization, and has brought pride, not only to himself but others as well.”

Aaron believes that joining the crew helped him cope with some of the challenges veterans face and allowed him to make connections with like-minded people. Serving as a Wildland Firefighter proved challenging and fulfilling, allowing him to find new ways to tackle problems, face his own psychological hurdles, and meet people from all walks of life. Though he was offered wildland firefighting positions with resource management agencies, Aaron wants to give back to fellow veterans and is continuing to serve with SECC as a Crew Leader in 2022.

 

 

 

Stewards Individual Placement Program

Jamie Gonzales

AmeriCorps Member (The Corps Network’s AmeriCorps Education Award Program)
“Jamie hopes to have a positive influence through advocacy. She believes it is important to challenge the status quo and ask questions.”

As an AmeriCorps member in Conservation Legacy’s Stewards Individual Placement program, Jamie spent more than two years with Community Volunteer Ambassadors (CVA): a program that places recent high school and college graduates at national parks across the country to build relationships between parks and people. By listening to volunteers and staff at Yosemite National Park, Jamie led presentations to park leadership and partners, advocating to strengthen employee resource groups and gain approval to manage a parkwide relevancy, diversity and inclusion council. Among other outcomes, Jamie’s efforts supported the first Yosemite Pride event in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

During her service, Jamie has led numerous critical meetings among park stakeholders, focused on building relationships, promoting employee wellbeing, and advancing equity goals. Her hard work did not go unnoticed: Jamie is now employed at Yosemite National Park with the Safety Office in the Superintendent’s Division. This position was created for her to allow her to continue her work in employee engagement and increasing advocacy for the park’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

 

 

 

Student Conservation Association

Josue Guevara

“Josue has grown through each of his roles and mentored and supported others along his own journey.”

Over the past four years, Josue Guevara has served with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) in roles ranging from mentoring high school students and helping build trails in Rock Creek Park, to serving as an intern for SCA’s Integrated Fire Recreation program. While serving as a Crew Leader, Josue worked with Apprentice Crew Leaders and helped to guide and shape them into their own leadership style. He has shown leadership throughout all of his Corps terms and says, “I believe my generation can continue to be the activating force in creating long-lasting sustainable environmental change in the way that we do projects in parks.”

Josue’s many different Corps experiences and leadership roles, along with his certification in chainsaw safety and operation – which allows him to train others in chainsaw use – led him to his current position as a full-time employee of the National Park Service doing tree care at Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC. In the future, Josue wishes to continue learning about trees and developing his leadership abilities. He says, “I want to use my voice as a Latino to continue to inspire the younger Latino generation to care for the environment and pursue their dreams.”

 

 

 

Urban Corps of San Diego County

Reyna Machado

“Everyone who knows her speaks to her biggest accomplishments, going from unmotivated and unskilled to a leader.”

Before joining Urban Corps of San Diego County (UCSD), Reyna was seeking structure to achieve her high school diploma and focus on her future. Two years later, Reyna has achieved confidence, several certifications, her driver’s license, high school diploma, and is now a Crew Leader. Reyna is known by the local community for her stellar work ethic: city employees that partner with the Corps often ask for Reyna by name because of how hard she works. At one point, Reyna was the only person responsible for a full day of loading over 1,000 sandbags in the pouring rain. She was also asked to be the guest speaker at UCSD’s North County Facility Grand Opening, where she shared her experience with one hundred people.

For Reyna, joining UCSD has been a truly transformative experience. She has now applied to college to begin her journey of becoming a police officer and plans to continue working with UCSD until college begins. She believes that programs like UCSD, “give young people the skills, education, and confidence to make the best life for themselves.”