The Corps Network Announces Winners of the 2021 Corpsmember of the Year, Project of the Year Awards
Awards recognize accomplished young adults and project achievements in the
Service and Conservation Corps community.
Awardees to be honored at The Corps Network virtual National Conference, March 15 – 18.
Washington, DC – The Corps Network, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, today announced the winners of the 2021 Corpsmember of the Year and Project of the Year Awards. Honorees will be recognized at A New Era: Corps in Today’s America, The Corps Network 2021 National Conference, happening virtually March 15 – 18.
The Corpsmember and Project of the Year awards represent the highest honors The Corps Network grants and are a notable achievement within the national Corps movement. The awards are presented on an annual basis to select individuals and organizations from The Corps Network’s membership of more than 130 Service and Conservation Corps across the country. Honorees are chosen through competitive nomination and review processes.
The member organizations of The Corps Network annually engage roughly 25,000 young people in service across the country. Since 2005, The Corps Network has presented the Corpsmember of the Year Award to select young people who, through their service in a Corps, have demonstrated personal growth, outstanding leadership skills, and sincere commitment to their community. Winners of the Corpsmember of the Year Award were nominated by their Corps and selected by staff at The Corps Network.
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. Winners of this award are nominated by Corps and selected by staff at The Corps Network.
“During an unprecedented time in our country, Service and Conservation Corps proved to be defining leaders of service and unity,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network. “I am incredibly inspired by the quick initiative taken by our Corps to assist on the COVID-19 frontlines, serve the environment, and confront social and racial inequalities. In this challenging era, the accomplishments of our 2021 Corpsmembers and Projects of the Year are all the more noteworthy. We look forward to honoring and learning from their examples.”
The Corps Network’s National Conference is an annual gathering of national, state, and local leaders in the fields of workforce development, community service, and conservation. The 2021 Conference – A New Era: Corps in Today’s America – will highlight the role today’s Service and Conservation Corps can play in building more resilient communities; a sustainable economy; a modern workforce; a more equitable society; and a brighter future. Registration for the event is open.
The winners of the 2021 Corpsmember of the Year award are:
Estefany Gonzalez Ramos
American Conservation Experience
A native of Puerto Rico, Estefany Gonzalez Ramos joined American Conservation Experience (ACE) while in high school. Though she was shy when she first enrolled, Estefany developed confidence in her abilities and inspired her crew with her infectious work ethic. While serving three AmeriCorps terms at El Yunque National Forest, she and her crewmates played a critical role in helping reopen recreation areas damaged by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Estefany’s hard work and technical abilities did not go unnoticed: she currently works for the U.S. Forest Service as a Labor Leader with the Operations Division at El Yunque. In this role, she leads crews of up to eight USFS employees in trail maintenance, construction, and recreational site improvement. Estefany is seen as a role model for other young women in the community.
Destiny Lewis was new to conservation when she joined PowerCorpPHL as an AmeriCorps member in 2018, yet it only took her a few months to embrace her Corps experience and blossom into the environmental activist and leader she is today. In her first year of service with PowerCorpsPHL, Destiny served as a fellow with the Clean Water Fund and the Tookany/Tacony Frankford Watershed. She also participated in the first iteration of “Ladies First,” PowerCorpsPHL’s affinity and support group for women-identified Corpsmembers. During her second year of service, Destiny served as an Assistant Crew Leader and led her crew through an effective season while facing COVID-19. In addition to her leadership role, Destiny completed a Youth Worker Apprenticeship and earned 24 college credits with straight A’s, received her driver’s license and OSHA-30 certification, and was promoted to a permanent staff position as a Crew Leader. Destiny is currently pursuing her associate’s degree.
San Jose Conservation Corps
Victor Lopez joined San Jose Conservation Corps (SJCC) to embark on a new path. In his first seven months as an AmeriCorps member with SJCC, Victor served and attended school full-time to earn his diploma. Victor established himself as a valuable member in the Construction Crew, where he built entire houses and tiny homes from start to finish. He was soon promoted to Crew Leader based on his outstanding work performance. As a Crew Leader, Victor was selected to serve with the Education Design Team, where he represents SJCC as a Youth Ally, working with teachers and professionals in designing a new educational model to help students succeed and stay in school. Still serving as a SJCC Crew Leader, Victor plans to use his AmeriCorps Education Awards to enroll in college and study engineering.
Southwest Conservation Corps
Trevor Taylor is a leader in many ways. An alumnus of the Student Conservation Association (SCA), he joined the Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) Los Valles Crew Leader Development Program as an AmeriCorps member in May 2020. He co-led a crew on a technically and physically demanding trail project in the Rocky Mountains at over 12,000 feet in elevation. In addition to his leadership skills, Trevor is a powerful advocate for people of color in the Corps community. He developed a model for a “Leaders of Color” Corps program, which is designed to provide an affinity space for young people of color to learn advanced technical skills as a means to enter higher-earning conservation industry jobs. During his time with SCC, Trevor also helped Corps staff develop a racial equity-centered restorative justice approach to disciplinary action. He is currently working to pilot the Leaders of Color program with SCC in 2021.
The winners of the 2021 Project of the Year award are:
Emergency Response Work
California Conservation Corps
In 2020, the California Conservation Corps (CCC) certainly lived up to its program motto: “Hard Work, Low Pay, Miserable Conditions, and More!” CCC members served long hours to not only assist with fighting the worst fire season in California history, but also help in emergency response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fire crews assisted on the frontline, working 24-hour shifts to help extinguish hotspots, create fire lines, help maintain and inventory gear, answer phones, keep sites clean, and support food services. In total, Corpsmembers served over 1 million hours in response to 296 fires and spent over 28,500 hours on erosion control assignments, placing wattles in areas where homes burned to prevent toxic chemicals from reaching community water sources. In addition to the fire work and flood mitigation, CCC spent roughly 100,000 hours supporting the state’s COVID-19 response work. Though 2020 was a challenging year, Corpsmembers gained valuable skills for jobs in firefighting, logistical support, the forest industry, and other emergency response organizations. Overall, CCC members were essential in helping lessen the impact of a global pandemic while also combating the effects of climate change.
PowerCorpsPHL (PCPHL) is a program that engages out-of-school or out-of-work 18-to-28 year-olds in an immersive 4-to-24-month program. Since 2013, PCPHL has engaged 684 young people and provided over 660,500 service hours to the city’s park system and green infrastructure. Unfortunately, the Corps has also lost 12 young people, including ten to gun violence. Five of these deaths occurred in 2020. To honor the Corpsmembers whose lives were lost, PCPHL built a Memorial Grove adjacent to their project headquarters and training center in Philadelphia’s East Fairmount Park. AmeriCorps members cleared hundreds of invasive shrubs, felled dozens of trees, and removed thousands of pounds of trash to help restore the multi-acre plot of forested land. The purpose of the Memorial Grove is to provide a publicly accessible area where people can seek healing in nature. Not only did this project have an emotional impact on all the PCPHL Urban Forestry Fellows, but the Memorial Grove has also been important to the families of the 12 Corpsmembers whose lives were tragically lost.
As one of our 2021 Projects of the Year, The Corps Network is collectively honoring the important ways Corps have supported their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other activities, Corps have helped staff food banks, distribute emergency supplies, make contact tracing calls, set up auxiliary medical facilities, provide temporary jobs to displaced workers, and support shelters for people experiencing housing insecurity.