The Corps Network Announces Winners of 2023 Legacy Achievement Award and Corpsmember and Project of the Year Awards
The Corps Network’s annual awards recognize extraordinary accomplishments, leadership, and innovation in the Service and Conservation Corps community. Awardees represent what could be possible on a larger scale with investment in a national Civilian Climate Corps initiative.
Awardees to be honored in Washington, DC, at The Corps Network 2023 National Conference, March 7 – 9.
WASHINGTON, DC – The Corps Network, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, today announced the winners of the 2023 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 2023 National Conference.
The Legacy Achievement Award, and the Corpsmember and Project of the Year Awards, are the highest honors The Corps Network grants and are 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 150 Service and Conservation Corps organizations across the country. Honorees are chosen through competitive nomination and review processes.
The Legacy Achievement Award recognizes exceptional leadership and career achievements in 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 recommended by their peers in the Corps community.
Since 2005, The Corps Network has presented the Corpsmember of the Year Award to select individuals who, through their service in a Corps, have demonstrated personal growth, outstanding leadership skills, and sincere commitment to their community. The member organizations of The Corps Network annually engage more than 20,000 young people and post-9/11 veterans in national service activities across the country. The Corpsmembers of the Year demonstrate the impact young people can have when given opportunities to learn, apply their skills, and give back.
The Project of the Year Award is presented to Corps that have undertaken especially influential 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.
Over recent years, more than a dozen bills have been introduced in Congress to revive the concept of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in an effort to address climate change, put young Americans to work, and train the next generation for careers in climate resiliency and clean energy. The Biden Administration’s proposed budgets have also proposed funding for a Civilian Climate Corps. While direct funding for a CCC has yet to pass, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act contain numerous funding sources that can support Corps projects and Corpsmember training. The 2023 Corpsmember and Project of the Year awardees represent the impact of the current Corps community and the potential of a larger initiative.
“Today’s Corps programs trace their history back nearly 90 years to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the New Deal Era. Corps have evolved dramatically over this time, adapting to meet the changing needs of our environment, communities, and young people. This evolution has happened because of extraordinary leaders and trailblazers like those we are recognizing with our 2023 Awards,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network. “Corps programs bring together communities and empower young adults to build a better tomorrow. As our country confronts such staggering challenges as climate change and deepening societal divides, Corps programs should give us all hope. I am inspired by all of our 2023 awardees and deeply appreciative of how they demonstrate the power of one person or one program to truly 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 2023 Conference is a hybrid event with virtual sessions and an in-person gathering in Washington, DC. The event is March 7 – 9. Registration opens in early January 2023.
2023 Legacy Achievement Awardees
Henry “Harry” Bruell
Harry Bruell has been a leader in the nonprofit sector for more than 30 years. He made a lasting impact during his 26 years in the Corps community through his leadership, organizing abilities, and tireless work to advance growth strategies for the Corps movement. Harry is known as someone with big ideas who also has the experience and tactical knowledge to actualize those ideas. Harry came to the Corps world in the early 1990s, working at the Durham Service Corps. He would later work at The Corps Network and eventually move out to Colorado in the early 2000s to lead Southwest Conservation Corps. He was instrumental in developing Conservation Legacy, an organization that now represents eight Corps programs that annually engage more than 2,000 participants in stewardship projects and workforce development across the country. During his time with Conservation Legacy, Harry served on The Corps Network’s Board of Directors and was appointed by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar as chair of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps federal advisory committee, which focused on exploring strategies to expand Corps programs.
Harry stepped away from the Corps community to focus his career on mental health. He has led PathPoint in Santa Barbara, CA, since 2017. The California Department of Developmental Services selected Harry to formal workgroups and many other informal and time-limited committees. He serves on the Board of Directors of the California Disability Services Association and California ASPE. Harry is also an active member of the Los Angeles Coalition of Service Providers, the Lanterman Coalition, and the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies. He graduated with honors from Rice University with a degree in civil/environmental engineering.
Deborah “Debbie” Dorsett
Executive Director, Greater Miami Service Corps
Debbie Dorsett has led Greater Miami Service Corps (GMSC) with strength and compassion for nearly 20 years. She has been with the program for over 30 years. Among other responsibilities, her role includes leading the organization’s development efforts, grant implementation, contract management, and delivery of job training and social services. Within the Corps community, Debbie is recognized as a mentor, a champion for today’s young adults, and a powerful advocate for the resources needed to support those who may face barriers on their career and education journey. Debbie has guided GMSC in creating strong career pathways and developing meaningful partnerships with the city, local employers, and other supporters.
Through more than 30 years in public administration, Debbie has served in numerous leadership positions, including the former Chair of The Corps Network Board of Directors. She currently serves as a member of The Corps Network Board of Directors; as Assistant Treasurer of the Women’s Involved in Service to Humanity (WISH) Foundation; Vice Chairman of NieCat Foundation of Excellence; Vice President of the Florida YouthBuild Coalition; and Chair of the Risk Management Committee of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Gamma Zeta Omega Chapter. In 2019, she was awarded by Legacy Magazine as one of the 50 top influential Black business leaders and public official of the year. Debbie received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management from Florida Memorial University, and she earned a Master of Business Administration from St. Thomas University.
2023 Corpsmembers of the Year
Rockland Conservation & Service Corps
Described as “driven, scientifically curious, and results-oriented,” it’s no surprise that Charity has faced numerous professional, personal, and environmental accomplishments while serving with Rockland Conservation & Service Corps. Eager to help the neighborhood where she grew up, she conducted important community fieldwork within the Village of Haverstraw while also serving as a near peer mentor with the Next Generation of Hudson River Educators program through Columbia University. One of her supervisors stated that “Charity really helped to define the role of building connections between the local community and their environment. Her passion for introducing her community to the Hudson was unstoppable.” Through NextGen, Charity maintained close connections with 19 high school students while they participated in the eight-week program. Additionally, through co-facilitating Science Saturdays on the Piermont Pier, she educated more than 1,400 people with Hudson River activities. What makes Charity so effective in her work in environmental education and outreach is her “ability to render scientific concepts into engaging and fun community events.” Read more
Christopher “CJ” Franco
Stewards Individual Placements
CJ worked in national parks in food and beverage positions and volunteered with the National Park Service before joining a Corps. He wanted to follow his dream of preserving beautiful scenery for the next generation. After serving terms with Conservation Corps North Carolina (CCNC), and as a crew leader with Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC), he then joined a third term as a Historic Preservation Training Center (HPTC) Indian Youth Service Corps intern with Haleakala National Park. CJ’s focus has been trail maintenance and historic preservation. To access the worksites, which are located inside a crater, CJ and his crew must hike 10-18 miles one way, leading a team of donkeys to transport their supplies. He completed his A100 flight class and became certified to be a flight crew member to assist with the heli-ops, also transporting project materials. In addition to the outstanding work in the field, CJ has played an integral part in two rescue operations involving visitors to the park, receiving a letter of commendation from the park for his efforts. Haleakala National Park has expressed they hope to bring him on as a full-time staff member upon the completion of his current internship. Read more
San Jose Conservation Corps
Despite facing adversity, Rosalina is constantly uplifting her San Jose Conservation Corps community with her can-do attitude and perseverance. While taking care of two daughters as a single mother, she has helped improve her community’s green spaces by working on various vegetation management projects this past year. She has been described as “a staple and influence for other women in the organization by leading by example.” Not only did she encourage her team with endless support and lead the way for various community improvement projects, but she was also able to earn her driver’s license and become a U.S. citizen. Rosalina is still serving as a Corpsmember while also working as a translator at a law office. She is currently working to become a certified translator. Due to her work with SJCC, Rosalina was connected to various new experiences and skills that have given her the confidence to accomplish her goals. Though she came to the Corps with limited experience outdoors, Rosalina plans to use her newfound skills and experience to apply for permanent jobs involving city or park maintenance. She also aspires to one day pursue a career as a medical assistant. Read more
X-Cel Conservation Corps
A major part of X-Cel Conservation Corps is preparing Corpsmembers to obtain a license that’s required to seek an entry-level wastewater service operator position. This process involves taking a class similar to a college-level course. Not only did Cory consistently score higher on his weekly exams and final test than any other previous Corpmember, but he was also dedicated to supporting his classmates. “Before weekly tests, without being asked, Cory would go around to fellow Corpsmembers to review questions or practice solving math questions to make sure they were ready to pass the test.” Though it had never been done before, Cory’s cohort requested to be prepared for a higher-level license. Largely due to Cory’s leadership, almost everyone in his cohort earned their Grade 5 license which can add around $9 to the hourly pay rate. Through hard work, Cory now has the highest level of wastewater operator license he can obtain in Massachusetts without having work experience in a treatment plant. Additionally, Cory was hired as a part-time instructor for the Corps’ wastewater operator license preparation classes. Motivated by helping Corpsmembers, Cory is determined to find a full-time wastewater operator job that doesn’t conflict with his instructor responsibilities at X-Cel Conservation Corps. Read more
American Conservation Experience (ACE)
Before joining American Conservation Experience (ACE), Precious Vicenete had spent the past few years working as a barback and a Fedex employee. She was seeking a new opportunity when she came across ACE and decided to join their Traditional Trades Advancement Program (TTAP) through the National Park Service. While at ACE, Precious was able to connect with her ancestry and work to help preserve the Gila River Indian Community’s culture, traditions, and historic sites. Precious leads by example in her community; she says, “When kids come to tour our site, I hope they can see a representation of themselves working in the Corps or Park Service.” Precious networked during her TTAP term and secured another internship with Conservation Legacy. From there she was hired by the National Park Service where she works as a full-time park ranger at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. Precious would like to return to school to study field archaeology. She believes that, “through the Corps, Indigenous youth are able to find their own self-identity by preserving their own sacred sites and learning to be stewards of the land.” Read more
2023 Projects of the Year
AmeriCorps St. Louis
Greenwood Cemetery Restoration (Missouri)
Supported by AmeriCorps Members
Greenwood Cemetery was founded in 1874 as the first commercial, non-sectarian cemetery for African Americans in the St. Louis metropolitan area. More than 50,000 people are buried within Greenwood’s 32 acres. After the final burial in 1993, the property fell into disrepair. In 2016, Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association (GCPA) recovered the site and has since reclaimed roughly 12 acres with the help of volunteers. Funded in part by a grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation, AmeriCorps St. Louis (ACSTL) partnered with GCPA to develop a two-phase land management plan for the site. Over the summer of 2022, ACSTL brought in a crew of AmeriCorps NCCC members to complete projects and help host numerous community volunteer events. Eight additional acres have been cleared during this collaboration, creating public green space and – most importantly – uncovering hundreds of new headstones and connecting family members with their ancestors. Read more
Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps
Acoma Pueblo Water Delivery (New Mexico)
Supported by AmeriCorps Members
The Pueblo of Acoma experienced a major water infrastructure failure in October 2022, leaving the entire community without running water. The local health clinic, dialysis center, and schools were forced to close; many people who cannot haul water faced a crisis. This is where Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps (ALCC) stepped in to help. ALCC has experience doing disaster relief projects, but had never supported crisis relief so close to home. With support from the Conservation Lands Foundation and private donors, ALCC crews could begin delivering potable water and other supplies to community members in need. A crew of 10 AmeriCorps members has been serving approximately 20 households daily, averaging nearly 100 community members reached. Corps are not new to disaster relief, but these projects are almost always supported by federal or state dollars. In this situation, the Corps had no funding from the federal, state, or Tribal government. Using a network of supporters and their strong relationship with the community of Acoma, ALCC was able to fill a critical need. Read more
Louisiana Green Corps
Louisiana Coastal Restoration Workforce (Louisiana)
Louisiana is losing 24 miles of wetland each year, the effects of which are causing flooding and becoming particularly damaging to underserved populations. However, there is real opportunity to reduce social and economic inequalities through coastal restoration. Louisiana Green Corps partnered with Tierra Foundation and Common Ground Relief (CGR) in early 2022 to help restore the coastal wetland and create a “Climate Mitigation Workforce.” Corpsmembers are being trained to understand critical threats to the coast; they are gaining skills to create and operate wetland tree nurseries, as well as plant and monitor carbon sequestration projects. For many of the Corpsmembers, this project was their first exposure to the critical natural habitats that protect and surround New Orleans. The need for coastal restoration is great and there is much work to be done; the Corps hopes that training the Corpsmembers will give them job skills to obtain higher wage jobs in conservation, helping reduce racial economic disparity in the region. Read more