Engaging Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Youth in the Outdoors



Inclusivity in the Corps World

Everyone faces small daily challenges and uncertainties. Fortunately, for many of us in this country, our troubles are relatively trivial. For those in the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community, however, communication barriers can make it prohibitively difficult to participate in basic interactions. In recognition of Deaf History Month, we’re looking at steps taken by America’s service and conservation Corps to make the workplace and the outdoors more accessible for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.

Unfortunately, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals have fewer employment options due to a lack of resources in the workplace and preconceived notions about their abilities. It can be particularly difficult for a Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing young person with limited job experience to gain a foothold in the workforce. Recognizing this issue, the Corps community has gradually increased the presence of inclusive crews since the mid-1970’s and early 1980’s.

Based on the model of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, modern Corps are locally-based organizations that engage youth and recent veterans in service projects that address conservation and community needs. Through their service, Corps participants – or “Corpsmembers” – gain work experience and develop in-demand skills. Corpsmembers are compensated with a modest stipend and have access to mentors and counselors.

There are over 130 Corps across the country. While not all Corps have the resources to offer disability inclusion programs, several have made concerted efforts to expand their inclusivity. There are currently five Corps across the nation that provide employment, service, and volunteering opportunities for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing youth and young adults. Corps with such programs include, Northwest Youth Corps (OR/WA), Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa (MN), Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (NM), Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VT), and Utah Conservation Corps (UT). We reached out to these organizations, as well as CorpsTHAT, a non-profit specializing in helping Corps develop ASL-inclusion programs.

How it Works

Corps typically operate under a “crew model” in which Corpsmembers serve together in small teams under the supervision of trained adults. ASL inclusive crews typically consist of hearing participants, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing participants, and ASL interpreters. Members of these crews work together on building and improving trails, restoring habitats, removing invasive species, and numerous other conservation projects. Projects usually take place on public lands and waters, including properties managed by agencies like the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.

Through inclusive crews, Corps help people in the Deaf community explore the outdoors in a safe, welcoming manner. In addition to learning about cultural differences, participants in inclusive crews gain valuable leadership and communication skills as they create bonds with those who may be different from themselves.

“It gives members a chance to gain empowering real-life skills through a meaningful employment experience,” said Sean Damitz, Director of Utah Conservation Corps.  

The primary goal for Corps that provide these programs is to diversify populations they serve and promote cultural exchange among youth in their programs. Although some youth are pushed out of their comfort zones, learning new ways to communicate and work with others is extremely valuable.

Progression of Inclusion Practices

In the Midwest

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa has served youth in the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community since the mid-1970s. What started as a business relationship between the Corps and local summer camps for the Deaf, flourished into the inclusion of Deaf individuals in CCMI programs over the last thirty years.

Under CCMI's crew model, the majority of Corpsmembers and crew leaders are Deaf, but there are a few hearing youth, as well as a crew leader who interprets. Other Corps, such as Northwest Youth Corps, have crews comprised entirely of Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing youth, with the occasional participant who is the child of Deaf adults. Still other programs incorporate a few Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing youth into a crew comprised predominately of hearing youth. All of these models provide participants of different abilities the opportunity to teach one another about their different cultures while working towards the common goal of completing the conservation project at hand.

Keeping Deaf individuals in leadership positons has proven to be a challenge for CCMI. Jonathan Goldberg, CCMI’s Summer Youth Corps Program Manager explains, “As we do not have a full-time office staff member who is fluent in ASL, it becomes harder to share our program with the Deaf community.”

Working with new project sponsors has also been somewhat of a challenge. Project sponsors are usually local, state and federal resource management agencies that engage the Corps in conservation service. In the beginning, sponsors are a little unsure how to interact with the inclusive crews. After that initial awkwardness, however, a comfort level develops between both groups. The essential goal for CCMI’s inclusion program is to transcend fear of communication with those of various backgrounds.

“Many hearing youth have never had the opportunity to interact with Deaf youth, and the Deaf youth have the opportunity to share their language and culture with hearing youth who are super excited to learn (and in that, the Deaf youth learn from the hearing youth as well),” said Goldberg.

In the Pacific Northwest

In 2013, with the help of CorpsTHAT founders Emma Bixler and Sachiko Flores, Northwest Youth Corps (NYC) began their first disability inclusion crew. Although the first season was small, over the years it has grown into a renowned program, winning The Corps Network’s 2017 Project of the Year Award.

NYC’s success comes from offering two programs: one consisting of youth ages 16-19, the second with adults ages 19-24. Participants in each session work for five to eight weeks, which allows two sessions each summer. Crews travel throughout Washington, doing various types of restoration work in state and national parks and forests. The initial goal of starting a program like this was to provide Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals support, a comfortable space, and an equitable environment to experience the outdoors in our hearing-dominant world.

Even though NYC has experienced many successes with this program, they continue to face lack of support. Inclusion Coordinator, Darian Lightfoot states, “The largest challenge I’ve seen is people being unaware of Deaf culture and how to support equitable communication. All the information that hearing people are exposed to should be accessible to people using ASL, and that doesn’t always happen.”

Despite the communication barrier, hearing youth request to be on the ASL inclusion crew. This is a prime example of how valuable inclusive crews are to everyone involved. Lightfoot explains, “These hearing youth are able to see that the participants in the ASL inclusion crew are their peers and enjoy all the same things as them.”

In New England

Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) continues the progression of inclusive crews, recently winning a Public Lands Alliance Award for their partnership with the US Forest Service (USFS) to engage the Deaf community. Last year, VYCC expanded their partnership with USFS through a collaboration with the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, NY. Through these partnerships, VYCC provided a cutting-edge inclusive conservation program. Youth completed various conservation projects at Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests in Vermont and New York.

During the four-week program, hearing members quickly adapted to using sign language, and Hard-of-Hearing youth were provided the support to successfully complete the projects at hand. Executive Director Breck Knauft states, “Having Deaf and hearing Corpsmembers work side-by-side exemplifies our belief that bringing people from different backgrounds together in service creates conditions for powerful learning.” VYCC also serves youth with different types of disabilities, including those with learning disabilities, vision impairment and blindness.

“The most rewarding aspect is watching people grow through their experience and overcome challenges they found daunting at the start of their service. Seeing the changes someone may go through in just 4 weeks is amazing. Also, talking with people whose lives were impacted be the program in the past, I often hear stories of people who were on a crew long ago and it changed their outlook on life”, Patrick Pfeifer, Conservation Program Director.

Barriers to Inclusion

“Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Corps programs are very important because Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people are often excluded from serving country and community due to the barriers and lack of opportunities,” said Emma Bixler and Sachiko Flores, founders of CorpsTHAT. “Corps programs help open great opportunities for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people to volunteer, show their community involvement on their résumés, and use their experience to obtain jobs.”

However, developing a successful inclusion program is not easy. Created in 2007, the Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) inclusive crew has seen its fair share of setbacks in terms of procuring funding and sponsors to run their program on an annual basis. Even so, their main challenge continues to be the accessibility of recreational sites. Their program engages individuals with various types of physical disabilities, not just those from the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community.

UCC developed a disability inclusion toolkit to inspire Corps around the country to develop their own inclusive programs. UCC credits accessibility condition surveys as the critical first step in determining if spaces are safe and welcoming for disabled participants on their crew. These surveys include a variety of tests and measurements: Are trails passable by a wheelchair? Do videos in the interpretation center have closed captions? In 2009, UCC assisted the U.S. Forest Service in developing a national database of information on the accessibility of public lands.

As opposed to more obvious structural issues that may limit the work of other inclusive crews, CorpsTHAT considers people’s assumptions and misunderstandings as the major barriers faced by Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing crews specifically. For the most part, the average hearing person has limited or no experience working with Deaf individuals. Both parties face fears of miscommunication, inaccurate assumptions, and lack of confidence in their ability to perform.

“When Deaf participants have full access to communication and are on the crews with other Deaf participants, the uncertainty is removed and all participants are able to have a barrier-free experience,” Said Bixler and Flores.

CorpsTHAT believes inclusion crews have unique benefits hearing crews lack. For example, inclusion crews’ productivity and attention level is at a higher rate than hearing crews. Due to their inability to comfortably communicate and work at the same time or hold side conversations, interruptions are scarce; all their focus and energy is geared towards completing the task at hand. Another benefit of inclusion crews is the strength of Deaf crew members’ visual-spatial abilities, which aid in solving problems or completing projects faster.

Though inclusive crews offer numerous benefits, one of the most rewarding aspects is providing all individuals – regardless of their abilities – the opportunity to serve our country through conservation efforts. Feeling safe and comfortable working outdoors is something many of us take for granted; these programs make conservation work something that more people can experience. Inclusive crews at Corps demonstrate that any workplace can adjust be more inclusive. The young people on these crews start off as strangers, but they face communication barriers head on and take the time to understand one another, despite cultural differences.

Tell Congress the President's Proposed Budget Cuts are Unacceptable

Use our templates to send letters to Congress. Let your Senators and Representatives know how the proposed cuts in the president's budget would affect your community. 


CLICK HERE - SUMMARY OF THE PRESIDENT'S BUDGET


TEMPLATE LETTERS TO CONGRESS

FY18 Appropriations Advocacy Action Items

  1. Mail this National Service Appropriations letter to your House and Senate Members
  2. Mail this Public Lands Appropriations letter to your House and Senate Members
  3. Mail this Workforce Development Appropriations letter to your House and Senate Members
  4. Submit programmatic appropriations funding requests to your House and Senate Members in support of National Service, Public Lands, and Workforce Development
     

A MESSAGE FROM OUR CEO

Dear Friends,
You may have heard in the news that President Trump has released his initial budget proposal. This is our first real glimpse into this administration’s policy and spending priorities, and there is unfortunately significant reason for concern. 
 
I want to reach out to you directly and let you know we are paying close attention to these issues here in DC and will work hard to advocate for the funding Corps need to continue engaging youth and veterans in serving our communities and nation. This budget is simply the first step in a long budget and appropriations process. There is near certainty of major changes to the president’s current proposal in Congress.
 
The President’s Budget proposes the complete elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which includes AmeriCorps. It also proposes massive cuts to USDA and the Forest Service of 21%, and a 12% cut to the Department of Interior. Department of Labor would also be cut by 21%. If these changes go into effect, they would have a devastating impact on our Corps and opportunities for our Corpsmembers and partners around the country.
 
The key word though, is “if” - the president has no power to enforce these changes without Congress. Per the constitution, Congress (and the House specifically) makes the final decision on spending. This is why we must keep the pressure on our Members of Congress and use our most effective local tools - your voice - to let Congress know that #CorpsWork. We need to use use these letter templates today to let Congress know this budget is unacceptable in the areas of National Service, Public Lands, and Workforce Development.
 
Thankfully, after multiple years of budget caps, we’re hearing from Republicans in Congress that there have been too many cuts to smaller programs and they cannot continue. There’s also room to be optimistic that our advocacy is paying off. AmeriCorps received a $50 million increase in FY16 and the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the Senate, along with Chair of the LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee (which funds AmeriCorps), both joined a resolution honoring AmeriCorps last week. Additionally, the Chairman of the subcommittee in the House expressed his support for AmeriCorps in a recent committee hearing.
 
Interior Secretary Zinke has also pledged to be a champion of public lands funding and budget issues for DOI and it’s sub-agencies. We also know that Interior Appropriations Committee members want to work harder to address the growing list of backlog maintenance and ensure more access and recreation opportunities on public lands. Corps are well positioned to help accomplish all these goals on public lands. We have a strong case to make and years of quality work to stand on.
 
Along with our own appropriations strategy and convening monthly advocacy calls with our issue-focused coalitions, we're going to be working with our partners here in DC and a variety of appropriations advocacy groups. We hope you will join those monthly advocacy calls to learn more about what you can do. In the meantime, please use the letter templates above in the areas of National Service, Public Lands, and Workforce funding to reach out to your House and Senate members today to tell them about the impact these cuts would have on your Corps and community.
 
Thank you as always for all that you do, and keep up the good work!

Mary Ellen Sprenkel
CEO
The Corps Network

Actions You Can Take to Help Protect AmeriCorps

In this current budget cycle, AmeriCorps could face major cuts or even total elimination. This would be a major blow to the member organizations of The Corps Network and the young people and communities our Corps serve.

Creating the federal budget is a long process that involves many players, but Congress ultimately decides what gets funded. Here are some steps you can take to show support for AmeriCorps.*
 


REACH THE WHITE HOUSE:
Do you, your organization, or your organization’s board members/sponsors/funders have any connections to the White House? This includes any connections you may have with Republican Governors. If so, let us know ASAP. We have a small window to let the Administration know it's a mistake to include AmeriCorps on the elimination list.

 

TARGET APPROPRIATORS: 
Reach out key members of Congress who sit on the Labor, HHS Appropriations Subcommittees in the House and Senate. Encourage your organization’s board members and partners to do the same. Congress will ultimately decide whether AmeriCorps survives.

REQUEST APPROPRIATIONS: 
Reach out to your Members of Congress (House and Senate) and let them know that you want them to support appropriations requests for AmeriCorps and other key CNCS programs. See this message we’ve sent out to the network. Cut and paste the CNCS/AmeriCorps requests into an email or word doc, and send to your Member of Congress and ask for their support on these funding levels. 
 

ENGAGE PARTNERS IN MEDIA OUTREACH:
Identify a Republican Governor, Mayor, State Legislator or former Member of Congress who could write an Op-Ed or Letters to the Editor. We need outside Republican voices who can validate the local impact of AmeriCorps. Let us know if you have connections with any such officials so we can help craft the message. It is more than likely that AmeriCorps members have, in some way, helped improve your community. Now is the time to ask your elected officials for their help. 
 

CALL YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS:
Join with the national service community today to let you Senators and House Member know that #AmeriCorpsWorks and #CorpsWork! Simply click this link, enter your information, and you’ll be connected with both your Senators and House Member on the same call and given a short script.

of Congress to urge them to support AmeriCorps. You can do so by using the online systems of BOTH Service Year Alliance and Voices for National Service. We need all the help we can get, so encourage your friends and coworkers to make their voices heard, too!


STRATEGIZE:
Join The Corps Network's National Service Coalition on Thursday, February 23, at 1:00pm EST. During this call, we'll discuss the service community's united national strategy, and how Corps should be engaged.
 

GET SOCIAL: 
Post your support for AmeriCorps on social media using the hashtags #AmeriCorpsWorks and #CorpsWork. Use photos and stories to show the huge LOCAL impact AmeriCorps has in communities around the country. Tweet @ your House and Senate Members and ask them to protect AmeriCorps! See below for some shareable images.

 

*IMPORTANT
Please note that AmeriCorps grantees are prohibited from performing advocacy activities, and social media activities related to advocacy, directly with grant funds, equipment, or while counting AmeriCorps hours of Corpsmembers or volunteers. You may perform education on program activities and operations with AmeriCorps funds.

You may perform advocacy on non-AmeriCorps funded time, staff positions or staff time, Corpsmembers' non-AmeriCorps service hours, or on personal time. Please refer to this recent post from CNCS on social media considerations and this general advocacy post.


 

 

Photos of the Month - February 2017

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps social pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from February 2017. 






American Conservation Experience



American Conservation Experience



American Youth Works



Appalachian Trail Conservancy



Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa



Greening Youth Foundation



Heart of Oregon Corps



Montana Conservation Corps



St. Bernard Project



San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps



Texas Conservation Corps



Utah Conservation Corps

 

We Must Act Now to Save AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps could be eliminated; we need your help to ensure this vital program does not get cut from the federal budget.
 

Dear Friends,
 
I hope you are still as energized as I am from the national conference last week. If there was one thing I took away from the advocacy discussions, it’s that now is the time to be loud and proud about the work Corps do in communities and on public lands every day.
 
Right now we urgently need your help. AmeriCorps faces more than just budget cuts; it could face total elimination. Late last week, The New York Times received a leaked memo from the Office of Management and Budget. The memo lists the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) – the agency that oversees AmeriCorps – as one of the first federal programs to cut.
 
The budget is still in its preliminary stages, but note that this is not a drill. If we act now to show our support for national service, there is still hope AmeriCorps and CNCS could be saved from the chopping block. We know #CorpsWork and #AmeriCorpsWorks. Every dollar invested in national service returns nearly four dollars to society in terms of higher earnings, increased economic output and meeting public needs.
 
The majority of The Corps Network’s member organizations receive AmeriCorps funding. In the communities where our Corps operate, people depend on the services AmeriCorps members provide. Through their service, our young adults and veterans develop valuable experience on the path to careers. Whether or not you directly work with or benefit from AmeriCorps, your community does.
 
If your organization receives AmeriCorps funding or Education Awards, you need to act now. If you currently serve in AmeriCorps, or previously benefited from an AmeriCorps term of service, you need to act now. If you believe in giving people the opportunity to serve our country, you need to act now. We all need to act if we want to save AmeriCorps.
 
This budget is not the end of the road; Congress ultimately decides what is funded and what is not. All of this is to say that we are just at the beginning of a long budget and appropriations process during which we will need to continue to make our voices heard in support of the programs and funding streams on which Corps depend.
 
If you hear from us in coming days and months about this topic, PLEASE consider it important and have at least one member of your organization act on our suggestions. SEE BELOW FOR ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE NOW.
 
Sincerely,
 
Mary Ellen Sprenkel
CEO
The Corps Network

 

How You Can Help Save AmeriCorps

  1. REACH THE WHITEHOUSE:
    Do you, your organization, or your organization’s board members/sponsors/funders have any connections to the White House? This includes any connections you may have with Republican Governors. If so, let us know ASAP. We have a small window to let the Administration know it's a mistake to include AmeriCorps on the elimination list.

     
  2. TARGET APPROPRIATORS: 
    Reach out key members of Congress who sit on the Labor, HHS Appropriations Subcommittees in the House and Senate. Encourage your organization’s board members and partners to do the same. Congress will ultimately decide whether AmeriCorps survives.
    list of key members on Labor, HHS Subcommittees
    please let us know about your outreach so we can track efforts
     
  3. REQUEST APPROPRIATIONS
    Reach out to your Members of Congress (House and Senate) and let them know that you want them to support appropriations requests for AmeriCorps and other key CNCS programs. See this message we’ve sent out to the network. Cut and paste the CNCS/AmeriCorps requests into an email or word doc, and send to your Member of Congress and ask for their support on these funding levels.
     
  4. ENGAGE PARTNERS IN MEDIA OUTREACH
    Identify a Republican Governor, Mayor, State Legislator or former Member of Congress who could write an Op-Ed or Letters to the Editor. We need outside Republican voices who can validate the local impact of AmeriCorps. Let us know if you have connections with any such officials so we can help craft the message. It is more than likely that AmeriCorps members have, in some way, helped improve your community. Now is the time to ask your elected officials for their help.

     
  5. CALL YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
    Join with the national service community today to let you Senators and House Member know that #AmeriCorpsWorks and #CorpsWork! Simply click this link, enter your information, and you’ll be connected with both your Senators and House Member on the same call and given a short script.

     
  6. STRATEGIZE
    Member organizations of The Corps Network - especially those that receive AmeriCorps funding - are encouraged to join our National Service Coalition. We host regular strategy calls and send out an email on national service-related news. If someone on your organization is not already participating in the Coalition, please contact us to join!

     
  7. GET SOCIAL
    Post your support for AmeriCorps on social media using the hashtags #AmeriCorpsWorks and #CorpsWork. Use photos and stories to show the huge LOCAL impact AmeriCorps has in communities around the country. Tweet @ your House and Senate Members and ask them to protect AmeriCorps! See below for some shareable images. Along with these images, be sure to share a personalized message to let your members of Congress know about the important work AmeriCorps members do in their district

     

*IMPORTANT
Please note that AmeriCorps grantees are prohibited from performing advocacy activities, and social media activities related to advocacy, directly with grant funds, equipment, or while counting AmeriCorps hours of Corpsmembers or volunteers. You may perform education on program activities and operations with AmeriCorps funds. 

You may perform advocacy on non-AmeriCorps funded time, staff positions or staff time, Corpsmembers' non-AmeriCorps service hours, or on personal time. Please refer to this recent post from CNCS on social media considerations and this general advocacy post

 


 

An An Interview with Thomas Hark, a 2017 Corps Legacy Achievement Awardee

Thomas Hark, formerly of Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, is a 2017 Corps Legacy Achivement Award Winner. We interviewed Thomas to learn more about him and his experience in the Corps movement. Click here to read his bio. 
 


Tell us a little bit about your background, where you come from.

I grew up in Minnesota and in my junior year of college took a summer job with the federal YCC program in Young Harris Georgia.  I had offers at 19 national parks but was oddly drawn to this small, indiscrete, operation in northern Georgia.  It changed the course of my life.

 

How did you become involved in Service and Conservation Corps? What were you doing before?

I thought I would return the next year to the federal YCC program and direct a camp of my own.  However, that year President Reagan froze federal funds and all but eliminated the YCC program.  I was shocked. 

An idea kept rolling around in my head and soon turned into a graduate thesis:  What are the necessary and critical elements to creating a public-private YCC program. I believed it was possible and was determined to prove it.

I graduated from college and took a job directing the Minnesota YCC summer program and when I learned that Minnesota would be hosting a national meeting on how to start a YCC I immediately and enthusiastically signed up. 

My application was rejected as I was an under employed college graduate with no professional experience to my name.  Yes, I had enthusiasm and passion but truly nothing else.  However, the night before the conference I got a call.  Organizers needed someone to pick guests up at airport and drive them 40 miles to the Wilder Conference center.  I jumped!

I was able to meet everyone who had anything do with YCCs at the time…legendary Robert Burkhart from the SFCC, Joanna Lennon from East May YCC and many others.

I also met an individual from Vermont, Peter Comart, who was there because a piece of legislation just passed with a one dollar appropriation and he wanted to learn how to put one of these programs together. Suffice it to say I overwhelmed him with passion and enthusiasm.

It was a match made in heaven.  I didn’t need much being hungry for a job and he did not have much to offer, outside an opportunity.  However, I had ideas and a plan, untested, and perhaps a little crazy.  They were game and promised all their support.  A few months later I was in Vermont.

One dollar.  No desk.  No phone. While I was wildly excited as it felt like the opportunity of a lifetime, the state agency apparently did not know I was even coming, as of course a one dollar appropriation was not much of a mandate.

I landed in May 10th and had my first 5 Enrollees working by mid-June.  I thought I would say a few years and then go home to Minnesota. 

However, what happened was significant growth every year, an outlet for endless creativity and experimentation, and an enormous amount of fun…25 years later I realized I was not going anywhere.  I loved Vermont.  VYCC was my vocation.  While I didn’t make much of a paycheck, I absolutely loved my work.  I literally pinched myself some nights after working 12+ hours, as I left work, thinking how it was possible to be so happy!

That one dollar was eventually, over thirty years leveraged to more than 50,000,000 dollars, more than 6000 alumni, and a 400 acre campus and to die for training center.

However, what was so cool was to have work that mattered and where every day I could see the positive life-changing impacts on the lives of others be they enrollees, staff, or others in the community, similar to my initial YCC experience in Georgia.

Part of the driving force was to emulate my hero, Liz Cornish, the camp director that hired me against her better judgment, supported me, challenged me, and in the process changed my life. I never forgot and I always have tried to live up to her example.

 

Who are some of your heroes? What did they do to inspire you?

Liz Cornish, the Camp Director in Young Harris YCC.  She was an incredibly talented Outward Bound Instructor who knew how to build teams by bringing the best out of each person.  She pushed me to my absolute limits and in the process created in me a hunger to help do the same for others.

 

Describe some of your most memorable experiences working in youth development.

The Mission of VYCC was for each member of the organization to fully embrace, adopt, and live by the idea of taking personal responsibility for all of their actions, what they say and what they do….

A young women was fired.  She was having an “exclusive” relationship which was prohibited as the goal was for each crew of incredibly diverse individuals in the short month long residential experience, to truly get to know each other and build a strong community.  Something not possible if two people spent all their time together and in so doing were not part of the community.

She could not have disagreed more with this rule.  However, she knew going in what was expected, she had had chances, and now VYCC was following through. She was sent home.

Several months afterwards I received a letter saying she still strongly disagreed with the rule…and she was angry…however, not because of this rule.  She went on to explain that upon her return this idea of personal responsibility that was woven into every aspect of VYCC life had just stuck with her, she couldn’t shake it.  And thus her whole life had changed.  Everyone in her life seemed different as no one seemed to take responsibility for anything.  It was incredibly disturbing.  She could never go back to being like them as VYCC had changed her.

She still didn’t like the rule but she was so thankful for the experience as this one idea around personal responsibility was empowering.  She was now in control.  She made decisions and good or bad, she owned them.  She felt like a whole new person. And she was.

 

Given your experience, what is the primary piece of wisdom you would give to a young person currently enrolled in a Corps?

Whatever you do, give it everything you have, or get out. It is your choice. It really is.

 

What is the primary piece of advice you would give to staff at Corps?

A poem by Marge Percy was recited by Robert Burkhart at the opening session of that conference in Minnesota on how to start a Corps.  The poem was entitled “To be of Use. A line in said “The work of the world is as common as mud…done well it is a Hopi vase that holds water and satisfies thirst for centuries…done poorly it becomes falls apart becoming dust…

Whatever you do.  Dot it with all your heart. Do it as well as you possibly can.  Take joy in it. Have passion. Have fun with it.  Take chances.  Don’t be afraid to fail. Embrace your successes and failures as just two sides of the same coin treating both the same.  Keep moving forward as hard as it can be at times.

This is what I have shared countless times.

 

In the future, what developments would you like to see happen in the Corps movement?

What I told folks when I first came to Vermont was that I believed every young Vermonter who wanted to have this experience should.  This belief drove everything I did.

I now have expanded my view.  I believe every young adult in our Nation who wants to work hard, make a difference, and grow as a person should have this opportunity. 

When I left VYCC I took some time to think and reflect and my conclusion was that this is powerful important work.  More, we live in a time where it is absolutely crucial that we instill character, virtue, practical wisdom, and what I call bed rock American values in every young American.  As we do, we will change our Country.  We can again become that shining city on the hill.  A beacon again for all the world.

 

What do you hope your legacy will be?

I set out to test an idea.  That idea was to create a successful public-private venture that, based on quality outcomes, and a solid business model, would last the test of time, providing these incredible life changing experiences, called YCC, to generation after generation.  A model that would withstand whatever political winds happened to be blowing.  A model that would teach practical leadership skills so that every alumni would make a difference for their own family, place of work, community and state, and through this nation. 

Each of us has it in us to change the world, or at least our small corner of it. Let’s do that!

 

Photos of the Month: January 2017

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps social pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from January 2017.



Appalachian Trail Conservancy



Arizona Conservation Corps



CAC AmeriCorps



California Conservation Corps



Canyon Country Youth Corps



EarthCorps



Great Basin Institute (Nevada Conservation Corps)



Green Mountain Club



KUPU - Hawaii



Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - CO



SCA - NYC



Vermont Youth Conservation Corps

 

Apply to participate in TCN Summer Opportunity AmeriCorps Program (SOAP)

Great News!  CNCS is continuing the AmeriCorps Affiliate program and TCN is applying to continue our summer term this year.  For those renewing or applying for the first time, find some facts on SOAP below:

  • Please note that teens ages 14 - 15 are eligible to participate in this program
  • Submit application and other docs to Leslie Wilkoff, lwilkoff@corpsnetwork.org
  • Deadline for submitting to TCN is Wednesday, January 25th
     

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS:

 


FACTS:
 
Eligibility:                   
Current AmeriCorps programs only (does not have to be a TCN grant)
 
Age range:                 
14-24*   (a parent or guardian must also sign all documents for Corpsmembers under age 18)

 
Member Terms:         
TCN is offering the following summer terms:
100 hr.  300 hr.  450 hr.
-- 100 hour members may not serve more than one term per summer and are not eligible for a pro-rated award.

 

Program Term:          
May 1 – September 30, 2017 (all members must complete their term by Sept. 30)
 
NSCHC:                       
Corps must conduct a NSOPW on all members prior to enrollment. You are not required to run the state repository or FBI check but must have a signed “self-certification” from all members (form provided by TCN).
 
Type of Award:           
From CNCS - AmeriCorps Affiliate designates positions as national service positions through which individuals serving in the position may be eligible for an Education Award. No funds will be awarded.
 
PMs:                           
Members must spend at least 30% of their time on Environmental Stewardship Performance Measures – acres of public lands and miles of trails and waterways improved.
 
eGrants:                     
Staff must enroll/exit all members under 16 and have the option of self-enroll/exit of all other members.
 
Reporting:                  
Progress Reports are due twice a year. (Possibly only 1 for summer) Members must complete an online TCN survey within one week of exiting the program.
 
EAP:                             
Current EAP Subgrantees must fill all of their awarded slots (2016-2017). Any SOAP slots are in addition to those you committed to fill for EAP. 

Photos of the Month: December 2016

Photos of the Month: November 2016

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps social pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from November 2016.
 

 


Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - CO 



Greencorps Chicago 



Civic Works 



Greening Youth Foundation 



Greening Youth Foundation 



Southwest Conservation Corps 



Washington Conservation Corps 



Washington Conservation Corps 



Operation Fresh Start 



California Conservation Corps 



Greater Miami Service Corps 



Montana Conservation Corps 



Citizens Conservation Corps 



Maine Conservation Corps


 

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