The Corps Network Announces Winners of the 2022 Corpsmember of the Year and Project of the Year Awards
Awards recognize accomplished national service members and project achievements in the Service and Conservation Corps community.
Awardees represent the potential of a national Civilian Climate Corps initiative.
Awardees to be honored at The Corps Network virtual National Conference, April 4 – 6, 2022.
WASHINGTON, DC – The Corps Network, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, today announced the winners of the 2022 Corpsmember of the Year and Project of the Year Awards. Honorees will be recognized at We Are the Civilian Climate Corps: A CCC for a New Generation, The Corps Network 2022 National Conference, happening virtually April 4 – 6.
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 from The Corps Network’s membership of more than 140 Service and Conservation Corps organizations across the country. Honorees are chosen through competitive nomination and review processes.
The member organizations of The Corps Network annually engage over 20,000 young people and post-9/11 veterans in national service activities across the country. 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 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 the past two years, more than a dozen bills have been introduced in Congress to revive the concept of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the New Deal Era in an effort to address climate change, put young Americans to work, and train the next generation for careers in conservation, resiliency, and clean energy. The Biden Administration also called for investment in a Civilian Climate Corps in their domestic policy agenda. These various Climate Corps plans offer a path for expanding on the network of existing Service and Conservation Corps. The 2022 Corpsmember and Project of the Year awardees represent the impact of the current Corps community and the potential of a larger initiative.
“Every day, thousands of young adults and veterans make a difference in our communities through service in Corps programs. The recipients of the 2022 Corpsmember and Project of the Year Awards have gone above and beyond and highlight the best of the 21st century Corps movement,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network. “As our country explores the opportunity to establish a Civilian Climate Corps initiative, I encourage leaders to look to people and programs like our honorees. The 2022 Corpsmember and Project of the Year Awardees offer examples we can learn from. I am incredibly inspired by their efforts and thank them for their service to our communities and the environment.”
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 2022 Conference – We Are the Civilian Climate Corps: A CCC for a New Generation – will highlight the role of today’s Service and Conservation Corps and offer an opportunity for strategizing on how to implement a larger national Corps initiative focused on equity and community input. Registration for the event is open through April 4, 2022.
The winners of the 2022 Corpsmember of the Year award are as follows:
Appalachian Conservation Corps – Ancestral Lands
During his time as an AmeriCorps member with the Werowocomoco Ancestral Lands program at Appalachian Conservation Corps (ACC), Kalen Anderson has always been eager to learn, helpful, 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 completed 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 performance, a partner offered him an unadvertised internship position to help him deepen his knowledge of archaeology. Kalen will return to ACC this upcoming season to serve in a lead role for the Werowocomoco Ancestral Lands Corps individual placements.
Learn more about Kalen
California Conservation Corps
Brianna started her service at the California Conservation Corps (CCC) 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 when a citizen in distress was found in the Corps’ parking lot. In the male-dominated field of wildland fire, Brianna also holds 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.
Learn more about Brianna
Martha Alva Velasquez
Early in Martha’s time at Civicorps in Oakland, CA, 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 because of her skill and understanding with tools, but also 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.
Learn more about Martha
Southeast Conservation Corps – Veterans Fire Corps
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 Corps (VFC). Aaron’s U.S. Forest Service supervisors said, “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 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 fulfilling. 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.
Learn more about Aaron
The winners of the 2022 Project of the Year award are as follows:
Austin Civilian Conservation Corps
In May 2020, Austin City Council passed a resolution directing the City Manager to create the Austin Civilian Conservation Corps (ACCC). ACCC used municipal funds to erect a workforce program utilizing existing partners to put Austinites impacted by COVID-19 back to work. To date, ACCC has created 100 opportunities for residents through 11 new programs in collaboration with eight City of Austin departments and nine community organizations, including American YouthWorks. The American YouthWorks (AYW) ACCC crew completed local project work, partnering exclusively with the City of Austin. Without traditional 10-day camping service projects, the ACCC is more accessible to Corpsmembers who have home obligations or travel limitations. Project work focused on addressing conservation work and expanding outdoor access in traditionally underserved communities in Austin. Corpsmembers underwent trainings in a variety of resource management skills; nearly all of them entered full-time employment upon completion of the program. “ACCC hopes to correct a long legacy of segregation and exclusion that was present in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC),” said LaJuan Tucker, Parks and Recreation, Culture and Education Supervisor with the City. “It is our hope that the ACCC will expand more opportunities for community members to have access to natural resource and sustainability careers in Austin and beyond.”
Learn more about the Austin Civilian Conservation Corps
Conservation Corps of the Forgotten and Emerald Coasts
This project was supported by AmeriCorps members
Oysters are a critical species for their role filtering water and supporting other aquatic life. However, storm damage and decreased flows of fresh water have caused a massive decline in the oyster population along the Florida Panhandle over the past 10 years, leading to economic distress in many coastal fishing communities. OysterCorps is a training program aimed at coastline resilience, oyster habitat restoration, and economic diversification. The program is a part of Conservation Corps of the Forgotten and Emerald Coasts (CCFEC). Corpsmembers are typically Opportunity Youth who can earn several certifications, over 700 hours of experience, and an AmeriCorps Education Award upon completion of the program. The program partners with local restaurants, seafood processors and others to recycle oyster shells to help rebuild shoreline reefs. OysterCorps also works with the Panhandle Estuarine Restoration Team (PERT) on best practices for costal ecosystem restoration. This program helps strengthen shorelines and reduces erosion. In addition to hands-on restoration work, participants help educate the community, including training high school students and advocating through social media. Since the program launched in 2020, members have collected over 18,000 tons of oyster shells, planted over 24,000 native plants and are growing 21,000 farm raised oysters.
Learn more about OysterCorps
Los Angeles Conservation Corps, San Jose Conservation Corps, Civicorps
This project was supported by AmeriCorps members
With an estimated 160,000+ people experiencing homelessness, California is the state with the highest population of unhoused individuals and families. Innovative, public-private partnerships are critical to help meet the need for support services. Throughout 2021, LA Conservation Corps (LACC), San Jose Conservation Corps (SJCC) and Civicorps worked with the social purpose company Pallet to build more than 960 tiny home shelters for people experiencing homelessness. Each prefabricated Pallet shelter can be assembled in thirty minutes and is complete with two beds, storage space, climate control, and electricity. This project exemplifies how Corps can work together to create an impact across a larger region. The building of each shelter requires teamwork, time management and construction skills. After the shelters are complete, the villages are managed by non-profits that provide case management and other supportive services. For each of the Corps involved, this project brought a programmatic element that was new to their organization. Working together, however, they were able to ask questions and learn from one another. This project has strengthened existing relationships Corps have with local city leaders, providing communities with alternative means to address the housing crises in all three cities. Local leaders appreciate how nimble, responsive, and quick to action Corps can be.
Learn more about the Pallet Partnership
About The Corps Network
The Corps Network, the national association of Service and Conservation Corps, provides leadership and support to over 140 Corps across the United States. Through advocacy, and providing Corps access to funding opportunities and expert guidance, The Corps Network annually enables more than 22,000 Corpsmembers to strengthen communities, improve the environment and transform their lives through service. Learn more about The Corps Network at www.corpsnetwork.org.
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