The Corps Network Announces 2024 Legacy Achievement Award and Corpsmember and Project of the Year Awards
The Corps Network’s annual awards recognize leadership, innovation, and accomplishments in the Service and Conservation Corps community. Awardees exemplify work the wider Corps movement is already undertaking and the potential of the American Climate Corps initiative.
Awardees will be honored in Washington, DC, at The Corps Network 2024 National Conference, #CorpsCon24, March 19 – 21.
WASHINGTON, DC – The Corps Network, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, today announced the winners of the 2024 Legacy Achievement Award, Corpsmember of the Year Award, and Project of the Year Award. Honorees will be recognized in Washington, DC, at The Corps Network 2024 National Conference, happening March 19 – 21.
The Legacy Achievement Award, and the Corpsmember and Project of the Year Awards, are the highest honors The Corps Network bestows; each is a notable achievement within the national Service and Conservation Corps community. The awards are presented on an annual basis to select individuals and organizations within The Corps Network’s membership of more than 140 Service and Conservation Corps organizations across the country. Honorees are chosen through a competitive nomination and review process.
The Legacy Achievement Award recognizes exceptional leadership and dedication to the Corps community. Honorees are those who have worked at least 15 years in the Corps world, served in a senior leadership position at a Corps, and made significant contributions to the national movement. Awardees are nominated and selected by their peers in the Corps community.
Member Corps of The Corps Network annually engage over 20,000 young people and veterans in national service projects across the country. Since 2005, The Corps Network has presented the Corpsmember of the Year Award to recognize Corpsmembers who have demonstrated personal growth, leadership skills, and a sincere commitment to service. The awardees represent the potential that young people have when given opportunities and resources to succeed.
The Project of the Year Award is presented to Corps that have undertaken especially impactful or innovative endeavors. Projects of the Year are noteworthy for their ability to provide both a positive experience for Corpsmembers and meaningful improvements to the community.
The Corps Network’s 2024 awardees will be recognized during an exciting time for the Corps movement. In September 2023, the Biden administration announced the launch of the American Climate Corps (ACC), an initiative to provide thousands of diverse young Americans opportunities to prepare for high-quality, well-paying jobs in a new green economy by doing projects in their own communities to mitigate climate change, advance access to clean energy, and improve community resilience. Today, December 19, the administration made an ACC announcement, including releasing a memorandum of understanding among the federal agencies and departments responsible for implementing the ACC. Among other agreements, the MOU outlines principles for the ACC, including a commitment to build off existing programs and partnerships. The 2024 Corpsmembers and Projects of the Year represent Climate Corps work in action.
“There are more than 20,000 young adults and veterans working every year to mitigate climate change, conserve natural resources, and make a difference in their local communities through service in Corps programs. The 2024 Corpsmember and Project of the Year Award recipients are outstanding examples of what Corps programs can accomplish,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network. “As our country explores offering exciting new opportunities for national service through the American Climate Corps, I encourage our leaders to look to people and programs like our honorees for guidance. I am inspired by the efforts of each of our 2024 awardees and applaud them for showing how individual Corpsmembers, and every Corps program, can make a difference.”
The Corps Network’s National Conference is an annual gathering of national, state, and local leaders in the fields of workforce development, national service, and conservation. The 2024 Conference, #CorpsCon24, is an in-person gathering in Washington, DC. The event is March 19 – 21. Registration is open through February 27, 2024.
2024 Legacy Achievement Awardees
The Corps Network
Allen Dietz has managed or provided technical support to AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Senior Corps programs for three decades. His entry into the national service world was in the 1990s when he served as the program director at an AmeriCorps organization that placed national service members across the state of Texas. He would later serve as the COO for the Washington Service Corps and as the Director of a Senior Corps program. Throughout this time, Allen developed a wealth of knowledge about national service performance measures and logic models. He became a go-to authority on AmeriCorps program development and reporting, serving as a contractor for AmeriCorps and supporting state commissions and AmeriCorps programs across the country. Allen started working as a contractor for The Corps Network in the mid-2010s, later transitioning to a full-time staff role in 2018. He was The Corps Network’s first full-time remote employee, charting a path for TCN’s numerous remote employees today. During most of his tenure, he served as the Director of Technical Assistance and Accreditation. In this role, Allen strengthened and modernized the Corps Center of Excellence Accreditation program. With his deep knowledge of national service programs, Allen developed a list of nearly 30 Accreditation standards, each with their own subset of expectations. At this time, there are more than 40 Accredited programs in The Corps Network’s membership.
Northwest Youth Corps, Student Conservation Association (SCA)
Jay Satz has more than 30 years of experience in the Corps world, with time spent both in the field and in leadership roles. Jay’s entry into the Corps industry is like so many other stories: he wasn’t looking for a new path, it simply found him when we decided to apply to be a Crew Leader for the SCA in the mid 1980s. Jay has a background in literature and publishing, which he thought would be his career path before he discovered Corps. Among other accomplishments, Jay facilitated the Greater Yellowstone Recovery program and Mount Rainier Flood Recovery Corps, initiatives that both involved multiple Corps organizations. Jay also developed the first ever Queer Youth Conservation Corps in the nation – now referred to as Northwest Youth Corps‘ Rainbow Crew. Additionally, he has developed many urban-based programs for the SCA and Northwest Youth Corps, including the Sound 2 Summit program, a recipient of The Corps Network’s 2024 Project of the Year Award. Jay has been a key partner in the Public Lands Service Coalition for decades and a strong champion for Corps with federal agency partners. Jay has received the Reb Gregg award from the Wilderness Risk Management Steering Committee and also received many awards for his work on the Greater Yellowstone recovery project, including National Park Service and Congressional recognition. Read more
Dion Wright served in several roles during his time at Civic Works, including as Director of Workforce Initiatives, Director of YouthBuild & Corpsmember Development, Chief Operating Officer, and Deputy Executive Director. Dion came to Civic Works in 1995 as an experienced educator and youth advocate. Being a son of Baltimore, he had a particular passion for developing local young people. As a part of the management team, Dion quickly took the lead in cultivating many of the workforce development initiatives that serve as the foundation for the Civic Works programs we see today. Among other accomplishments at Civic Works, Dion steered the development of REACH! Partnership High School #341. With a strong conviction that all high school students should graduate with viable college and career options, Dion helped establish a curriculum focused on career certifications and helping students earn early college credits while still in high school. For more than 27 years, Dion served as a mentor and role model to countless staff and AmeriCorps members. He was always willing to share his experiences and a good laugh. His steady leadership, in concert with Civic Works CEO Dana Stein, helped the organization grow and improve with each passing year. He was also a reliable figure on The Corps Network’s Corps Council for years, providing his guidance to The Corps Network’s board and staff. Dion passed away in early 2022, leaving behind a daughter and an impressive legacy of service to his beloved Baltimore. Read more
2024 Corpsmembers of the Year
Sara Del Mar Velez
BoriCorps – Franklin’s Promise Coalition
One of the first recruits for BoriCorps, Sara Del Mar Velez is in her third AmeriCorps term at San Juan National Monument. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Sara exemplifies outstanding leadership skills as the senior BoriCorps Crew Leader for a trail maintenance project with the National Park Service at El Morro National Monument, and for a new NOAA Underserved Communities grant in Puerto Rico’s rural communities. Through her attention to detail and dedication, Sara sets the pace for BoriCorps, and her work ethic transfers to the crews. She orchestrated over 30 volunteer workdays, mentored new Corpsmembers, represented BoriCorps at The Corps Networks’ Annual Board Retreat in Pensacola, built impactful community partnerships, and more. Sara also overcame personal challenges, including heart surgery and depression, emerging stronger and more empathetic. Sara will become the new Director of BoriCorps at the end of her current term. Read more
New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg
Samir Johnson left high school because he was dissatisfied with the environment, but he knew education was essential and found a place for himself at New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg (NJYCP). While the path to finishing high school was not easy, Samir buckled down and earned his diploma in May 2023. After this, he joined NJYCP’s Phillipsburg Climate Corps. He stepped into a new role assisting staff in supervising NJYC Corpsmembers, as well as working on projects promoting climate resiliency. He was often requested by program partners. A third generation American, Samir is the first of his family to enroll in college. He is currently pursuing an associate degree in business management and has also started the campus’ first club dedicated to Islam. His goal for the future is to be a role model for youth in his community. Read more
California Conservation Corps
While Marcus has collected a long list of certifications during his time with the California Conservation Corps (CCC), his greatest accomplishments are the improvements he’s left on the CCC culinary program. Marcus stepped up during the reopening of CCC Greenwood Center, helping build the kitchen and culinary training program. Outside the kitchen, Marcus volunteered weekly at a local food bank, completed industry qualifications, and reviewed CCC training materials and made recommendations for updates. Marcus has taken the lead on several offsite assignments. Most importantly, Marcus helped future Corpsmembers by developing a new pathway to be promoted to Advanced Crew Leader by using an internal transfer mechanism. Marcus came to the Corps with little certainty about his future, but he now has clear goals to finish his training and prepare for a career in food management. Read more
Great Basin Institute
Jenna Miladin, an intern at Capitol Reef National Park in 2022 and 2023, achieved numerous milestones serving with Great Basin Institute. In her first service term, Jenna led the collection of native seeds for a restoration project. This led her to discovering an insect infestation affecting species key to restoration. After spearheading research, Jenna presented her findings at regional and national conferences. Returning as a lead in 2023, she revamped plant sampling protocols, conducted genetic sampling, and maintained the restoration seed collection program. Jenna also successfully defended her master’s thesis and secured acceptance into a PhD program. Her diverse contributions, including wildlife and invertebrate sampling, are currently being developed into a peer-reviewed publication. Jenna’s positive influence stems from her resilience and enthusiasm, despite facing challenges due to Muscular Dystrophy. Jenna’s future goals include becoming a USGS researcher to focus on climate change effects on plant life. Read more
Urban Corps of San Diego County
Wakilongo Milenge, a refugee from the Republic of Congo, arrived in the United States in 2018. Driven by the desire to improve his English and provide for his family, Wakilongo joined Urban Corps of San Diego County (UCSD) in 2021. It didn’t take long for him to achieve several major life accomplishments, like graduating high school, being promoted to Crew Leader, and having a leadership role in a major project with one of Urban Corps’ major partners, North County Transit District. Wakilongo quickly gained his team’s respect due to his exceptional leadership skills, positive attitude, and reliability. He went on to secure a position at UCSD as a Conservation Specialist. Through UCSD, Wakilongo found career opportunities in the tree industry, inspiring him to pursue U.S. citizenship. In his current role, he leads railroad crews and contributes to Caltrans irrigation projects. Wakilongo plans to enroll in college certification courses, aspiring to join Caltrans and work with the District 11 irrigation team. Read more
2024 Projects of the Year
Supported by AmeriCorps
Conservation Corps of Long Beach (CA)
Utilizing a $1 million grant from CALFIRE, Conservation Corps of Long Beach (CCLB) established the “Urban Wood, A Passageway to a Meaningful Career” initiative in their local community. This urban forestry project, in partnership with the City of Long Beach, Public Works, and West Coast Arborists, removed and replaced 1,000 dead or diseased trees with 2,000 healthy ones. All of the trees were located within areas designated as “High Pollution, Low Population” due to the proximity of the Port of Long Beach. This program also introduced an urban lumber salvage apprenticeship program, providing meaningful and industry-recognized job training for 73 underserved young adults. The initiative also resulted in a substantial environmental impact, reducing carbon emissions by 10,187 MTCO2e and saving 20 million gallons of water. Read more
Sound to Summit
Supported by AmeriCorps
Northwest Youth Corps (OR/WA)
Northwest Youth Corps’ Sound to Summit (S2S) program engages teens from communities in the South Puget Sound in local learning and service. Operating since 2017, the program combines urban and backcountry service, giving young adults the chance to work in their own communities and also experience camping and serving in the nearby national parks. Many S2S participants have grown up looking at the surrounding mountains in the distance but have never had the chance to visit. This year, 54 teens earned stipends and high school credits while participating in conservation service activities, including tree watering, invasive special removal, trail maintenance, native seed collection, and more. S2S aims to help promote diversity in conservation efforts and environmental justice while instilling a sense of conservation citizenship in participants. Read more
Supported by AmeriCorps
Utah Conservation Corps (UT)
In collaboration with the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) has been conducting long-term restoration projects along Bia Ogwa, a National Historic Landmark. Also known as the Bear River, this location witnessed one the worst indigenous massacres in U.S. history in 1863. Over the past 160 years, the riparian habitat along the Bear River, and the river itself, have become severely degraded due to invasive species. The Bia Ogwa project aims to increase climate resiliency and restore the natural habitat to the state as when inhabited by the Shoshone Tribe, prior to the pioneer farming practices that led to a loss of precious wildlife and native habitat resources. This collaboration marks UCC’s first Tribal partnership. Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation Vice Chairman Brad Parry commented, “We are grateful that the UCC has agreed to work with us on this very special project. This is the first step in creating the spiritual feeling we want to create at the site.” Read more