Applications open for new career pathway program

7/15/2019

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If you know an environmentally-minded college student or soon-to-be college student interested in pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math, there might be a future for them at the Department of Natural Resources.

Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources are partnering to provide the Increasing Diversity in Environmental Careers Program.

The program would allow college students from diverse backgrounds to:

  • Get resources to ensure academic success.

  • Receive a yearly academic stipend.

  • Get hands-on experience through paid summer experiential learning and
    internships.

  • Learn more about environmental or natural resources careers.

  • Enhance personal and professional development.

  • Be a more competitive job applicant after graduation.

The program consists of three parts – a fellowship with stipends to ensure financial and academic success, a mentorship to connect students with professionals in the field, and an internship to ensure the students have experience in the field before graduation.

Applicants must be accepted to or enrolled in a two- or four-year full-time program at an accredited state, community, private or tribal college or university, be willing to commit to the full program, be in pursuit of a STEM major with a desire to work in a natural resources or environmental career after graduation, and authorized to work in the United States.

Preference will be given to racial or ethnic minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, individuals who face barriers to education and employment, first generation college students, first year college students and individuals demonstrating a strong financial need.

Application instructions and more information of the program can be found here: www.conservationcorps.org/idec The deadline to apply for entry into the program starting in September is July 26 or until the cohort is filled.

Please contact May Yang, Career Pathways Program Manager, for assistance or questions at may.yang@conservationcorps.org or call her office at 651-209-9900 x 16 or work cell phone at 651-785-6209.

Spring 2019 College & Career Day

5/16/2019

After a dark and dreary week, Youth Outdoors (YO) crews welcomed the most beautiful, sunny Spring day on Saturday, May 4th at the U of M’s College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural resource Sciences (CFANS). The “College and Career Day” is a biannual event that celebrates the environmental knowledge high school students have gained throughout the 11-week professional program and allows youth to explore new college classrooms, majors, and hands-on activities.

Teresa Butel, the College and Career Coordinator for Conservation Corps MN & IA (CCMI), kicked off the event with quotes from YO alumni who encouraged youth this Spring to:

“Try new things, you never know what you may end up loving.” 

and

“Start thinking – even though it may seem like college is a ways away. You don’t have to go to college necessarily, but you’ve got to do something.”

In the morning, youth created or updated their personal resumes and—thanks to volunteers from the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology program—explored the Bell Museums collections in the Ecology building on campus. For the first time, Conservation Corps MN & IA also included a Networking Fair where students were able to meet professionals from seven local organizations and learn about their career paths.

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Partners from the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, MN Dept of Natural Resources, Sierra Club, MN Zoo, College Possible, Genesys Works, Environmental Resources Management Inc, and College of Biological Sciences Conservatory engaged youth in thinking about the many possibilities ahead!

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In the afternoon, youth were able to interact with new technology and outdoor spaces through workshops on radio telemetry with the MN Zoo, GIS with CCMI, and conservation biology with the College of Biological Sciences Conservatory.

Radio Telemetry Hide-and-Seek

Radio Telemetry Hide-and-Seek

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GIS Games

GIS Games

CBS Conservatory Tour

CBS Conservatory Tour

House appropriations committee approves increase to national service funding

5-9-2019

Thank you to everyone who took the time to voice support for national service! A couple months ago the White House’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 recommend eliminating the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), including AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, for the third year in a row.

We asked for your help again to voice the importance of AmeriCorps programs in our communities, for young people, and for the environment.

Today we heard the great news that the House Appropriations Committee rejected the White House proposal to eliminate CNCS and that they approved a draft fiscal year 2020 spending bill that includes a $55 million increase above the FY19 enacted level. Within the total amount for CNCS, the bill includes increases for AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Volunteer Generation Fund.

For more information, read the recent CNCS legislative update.

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Get outside during Earth Week!

4/16/2019

Earth Day is coming up on Monday, April 22 and the week is full of opportunities to get outside and make a difference. While Conservation Corps MN & IA is involved in at least two clean-up events during Earth Week, there’s no shortage of other cleanup events throughout MN & IA. Here’s a list of a handful of opportunities. We hope to see you out there!

Make sure to share your photos with us by tagging @conservcorps.

Earth Day/Week Events & Volunteer Opportunities
4/1-4/30: ISU's Earth Month Calendar (Ames, IA)
4/19 & 4/20: Earth Day Trash Bash 2019 (Des Moines, IA)
4/20: Earth Day at The Bell Museum (St. Paul, MN)
4/20: Earth Day Dog Park Clean Up (Minneapolis, MN)
4/20: Earth Day Clean Up (Fergus Falls, MN)
4/20: Minneapolis Citywide Cleanup (Minneapolis, MN)
4/20: Downtown Earth Day Tour (Des Moines, IA)
4/22: Earth Day Birthday (Council Bluffs, IA)
4/22 - 4/28: Rochester EarthFest (Rochester, MN)
4/23: Earth Day at Duluth Farmers Market (Duluth, MN)
4/28: Skyline Parkway Clean-Up (Duluth, MN)
4/27: Arts of the Earth Festival (Bemidji, MN)
4/27: Urban Roots Earth Day Event (St. Paul, MN)
4/27: St. Paul Citywide Clean Up (St. Paul, MN)
*Conservation Corps is hosting the Cherokee Park site during the St. Paul Citywide Cleanup. Conservation Corps crews will also be involved in the cleanup throughout the day and at various sites.
4/27:
RNeighbors Spring Tree Planting (Rochester, MN)
*Conservation Corps staff and crews will be involved with the Tree Planting in Rochester

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Conservation Corps MN & IA Responds to Iowa Flooding Disaster

4/15/2019

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa deployed a crew to Hamburg, Iowa in response to the flooding natural disaster. This 30-day deployment of 13 AmeriCorps members and two staff will assist Iowa community residents in Southwest Iowa of who are recovering from last month’s massive floods compounded by snow melt.

“I chose to participate in this natural disaster recovery because I know people who have been affected and live and work in the affected community,” said crew member Joseph Campbell. “To me, there is nothing more important for us to do with our time than to help our neighbors in need. It takes so many people, so many resources, and so much time to orchestrate everything and I am grateful to play my part in helping the community of Hamburg.” Joseph Campbell, from Avoca, Iowa, is deployed with Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa as part of his year-long AmeriCorps field-crew placement based in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Serving throughout southwest Iowa, AmeriCorps members are engaged in many types of response activities from survivor outreach and homeowner intake to residential services such as property assessments, mucking & gutting, and mold suppression. Members are also assisting with donations management and coordinating volunteers coming into the affected communities.

Click here to learn more and read our full press release.

21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act Passes in U.S. House and Senate, to be Signed into Law

The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act passed in the House and Senate. It’s expected to soon be signed into law. Read the full press release below from The Corps Network and learn how the 21CSC Act will help programs like Conservation Corps across the country engage more young people in national service and do more work to improve our public lands and communities.

Join us in thanking the Members of Congress who voted Yes on s. 47, the public lands bill that included the 21CSC Act:

·         See which members voted Yes on S.47: House Vote Results | Senate Vote Results

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Press release from The Corps Network.

21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act Passes in U.S. House and Senate, to be Signed into Law

02/28/2019

Legislation will help grow Service and Conservation Corps movement by expanding the Public Lands Corps authority to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), establishing an Indian Youth Service Corps initiative, and improving coordination between Corps and agencies under Public Lands Corps Authority

(WASHINGTON, DC) – The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act, or 21CSC Act, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 26 as part of the Natural Resources Management Act (S.47), a broad public lands package of more than 100 bills. The identical bill previously passed in the U.S. Senate on February 12 and is now expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump. The 21CSC Act assists the Service and Conservation Corps movement by allowing federal land and water management agencies to create formal, more flexible partnerships with Corps; ensuring better tracking of data and accomplishments; and increasing enrollment in Corps among Native American youth and veterans.

Under the 21CSC Act, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will join the Departments of Interior and Agriculture as part of the Public Lands Corps (PLC) Authority, giving NOAA and the Secretary of Commerce increased flexibility in partnering with qualified Corps to complete maintenance and improvement projects.

Among other provisions, the 21CSC Act also establishes an “Indian Youth Service Corps.” This will allow federal resource management agencies to enter into cooperative agreements with tribes or qualified Corps for the administration of Corps programs that primarily engage Native American young people.

Other key provisions of the legislation include a requirement that the resource management agencies under the PLC Authority each designate a coordinator to facilitate partnerships with qualified Corps; as well as a requirement that the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) report to Congress every two years with important data on Corps. This includes enrollment numbers and information about the types of service performed by Corpsmembers. Collecting this information will help demonstrate the impact and value of Corps.

“Service and Conservation Corps offer solutions. By engaging young people and veterans in service to our country, Corps improve our public lands and communities,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21CSC. “With the 21CSC Act now signed into law, we are excited about the possible opportunities to expand this movement and grateful to the champions in Congress who helped advance this bill. Thank you to Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski and to the original sponsors: the late Sen. John McCain, Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. McSally, and Rep. Moulton.”

Corps are community-based programs that provide young adults and recent veterans the opportunity to serve our country, advance their education and obtain in-demand skills. Serving in crews or individual positions, Corpsmembers complete meaningful terms of service. Projects include addressing backlogged maintenance on public lands, various conservation and infrastructure concerns, wildfires and natural disasters, outdoor recreation access, and a range of other issues. During their service, Corps participants gain hands-on work experience and prepare for careers in the growing recreation, natural resource, and restoration economies.

The 21CSC is a national initiative to expand Corps to annually engage more young adults and veterans in outdoor work and national service, including service opportunities supported by AmeriCorps. The backbone of the 21CSC is a membership of more than 230 local and regional 21CSC organizations (Corps) across the country that collectively enroll more than 25,000 young people and veterans every year.

Through public-private partnerships between 21CSC organizations, resource management agencies, and the private sector, the 21CSC builds rural and urban economies by engaging young adults and veterans in service projects that increase access to public lands and enhance the natural resource infrastructure that supports our country’s $887 billion outdoor economy.

Corps have been authorized to partner with federal land management agencies through the PLC Authority, which was passed as part of the National and Community Trust Act of 1993. The 21CSC Act updates this authority to recognize the need for a new 21st Century Conservation Service Corps to address modern conservation, recreation, forestry, and infrastructure needs.

The bipartisan 21CSC Act was introduced in the United States Senate (S.1403) and House of Representatives (H.R.2987) on June 21, 2017. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sens. John McCain, Michael Bennet, Lamar Alexander and Tom Udall. It was introduced in the House by Reps. Martha McSally, Seth Moulton, Scott Tipton, and Raúl Grijalva. Additional co-sponsors joined in both the House and Senate. An earlier version of the 21CSC Act was introduced in the Senate in August 2015 (S.1993) by Sens. McCain and Bennet, and in the House in April 2016 (H.R.5114) by Reps. McSally and Moulton.

Click here to read the full press release from The Corps Network.

Project partner Craig Young of National Park Service selected as a 21CSC champion of the year

by Rachel Wagner, Development & Communications Specialist - 1/30/2019

Photo credit: The Corps Network and 21st Century Conservation Service Corps

Photo credit: The Corps Network and 21st Century Conservation Service Corps

Craig Young has recently been named as a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2019. This award recognizes individuals from agencies and organizations that partner with 21CSC programs to help engage the next generation of conservation and community leaders in service, education and training.

Craig is a Terrestrial Program Leader for the Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network at the National Park Service (NPS). He’s also a project partner of Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa working closely with our Iowa program staff. Here’s what Iowa Program Manager Mark Wilson had to say:

“Craig Young has been a fantastic project partner through his position with the National Park Service – Heartland Network Exotic Plant Management Team. Since 2010 he and his team have trained and worked alongside over 200 AmeriCorps members. He’s also chosen to host a dedicated crew for all the National Park Service sites in the Heartland Network and with his guidance many of these smaller NPS parks have been able to receive much needed ecosystem management that they would not have otherwise received. His dedication and passion for service has provided for an abundance of opportunities for our members and we extremely grateful for his continued partnership.”

In a Q & A with 21st Century Conservation Corps, Craig Young explained how his initial view of Conservation Corps has expanded beyond thinking of the Corps as a service provider. Craig said, “I now see Corps as able to form hard-working teams of young adults from many different educational and personal backgrounds. The experiences of working with land managers in national parks prepares members for numerous, yet unknown paths. All of this happens while meeting the objectives of important conservation projects on federal lands. This is a win-win.”

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa is fortunate to have dedicated and passionate project partners like Craig. As Mark Wilson said, “There’s no one more deserving of receiving this award!”

The 2019 honorees will be recognized in Washington, DC during the annual meeting of the partnership for the 21CSC, part of The Corps Network 2019 National Conference.

Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award – Click here.
Read a Q&A with Craig Young and 21CSC – Click here
Learn more about Craig – Click here.
Read The Corps Network’s press release - Click here.

Get Involved – Apply Today for the Alumni Advisory Council

12/18/2018

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Are you a Conservation Corps alum? Would you like to reconnect and network with fellow Conservation Corps alums? Are you seeking an opportunity to serve in a leadership capacity to advance your skills and experience?

Apply today to serve on Alumni Advisory Council for the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa.

Purpose

The Alumni Advisory Council supports Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa’s mission and goals by helping the organization strengthen their alumni network. Members will assist in developing alumni engagement strategies, help with planning events and activities, and provide input to Conservation Corps staff and board of directors on how to expand outreach to alumni.

Why Join?

Here are some of the reasons that members often cite when asked why they enjoy serving on the Alumni Advisory Council:

  • Outreach: Our members reach out to Corps members, past, present, and future. They attend events and participate in activities to spread the word about Corps opportunities.

  • Leadership: The Alumni Advisory Council offers to a variety of leadership opportunities. Members often speak with current Corps members, promote Conservation Corps within the community, and assist staff in developing and implementing alumni engagement plans.

  • Service: The Council is an opportunity to pay it forward – giving back to an organization that provided you with meaningful experiences! Our members volunteer their time in service to the organization and its constituencies.

  • Community: Being part of a group of people dedicated to national service and environmental conservation is a wonderful way to meet new people and reconnect with friends.

How to Apply:

Read through the position description for an Alumni Advisory Council member. Learn about the backgrounds of our current Alumni Advisory Council members by visiting our website here. Then, if you are interested, please submit an application online by Tuesday, January 15, 2019. Contact Melissa Cuff at 651-209-9900 x26 with questions.

Fall 2018 College & Career Day

By Teresa Butel, College & Career Coordinator - 11/19/2018

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Leaving footprints in the first snowfall to make a lasting impression this Fall, Youth Outdoors crews filed into Green Hall on the U of M’s College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural resource Sciences (CFANS). On Saturday, Nov 10, the University of Minnesota welcomed 36 high school crew members, 18 AmeriCorps crew leaders, and a range of 12 natural resource professionals to an educational day of exploring college and career opportunities the emphasize STEM and outdoor fields.

Volunteers from many local environmental and community service organizations have donated their time, energy, and talents to College & Career Day over the last five years. This year, the Corps welcomed professionals from: MN Department of Natural Resources – National Park Service – U.S. Forest Service – CFANS Undergraduate Services – U-Spatial Technology – Ecology Club – Marine Biology Club.

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High school crew members were able to tour the Bell Collections, create or update their personal resume, attend a career panel, and participate in hands-on afternoon workshops: a drone demonstration, a GIS mapping scavenger hunt, and a marine touch tank activity. The College and Career Day builds on knowledge that crew members gain throughout their 11 week, seasonal term and gain confidence in what opportunities await them!

Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference 2018

By Caroline Fazzio, Individual Placement Program – 10/30/2018

On the 15th of October, over 700 people from as close as St. Paul to as far as Moscow convened in Rochester, Minnesota. Amidst copious construction projects and some ill-received early snow, these hundreds of individuals all found their way through the bustling streets and skyways to Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center. What brought so many strangers together at the primitive hour of 7 am?—the Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference.

Colloquially known as UMISC, the Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference is a bi-annual conference hosted by invasive species organizations across the upper Midwest. It brings together government agencies, tribal agencies, private companies, professionals, students, researchers, citizen-scientists, and more to discuss invasive species and share management and prevention strategies. This year the conference was even bigger, for it partnered with the North American Invasive Species Management Association (NAISMA), drawing new interest from across the continent and the world.

I attended the four-day conference along with many other members of the MN DNR and a number of folks from Conservation Corps MN & IA. I went on a field trip to the Prairie Island Indian Community to learn about invasive species management in cultural and heritage-significant lands, and sat in on a plethora of different speaker sessions discussing everything from fire management to restoration to new creative ways to combat invasive species. One particularly memorable presenter described his work in Hawaii using paint-guns and herbicide-filled paintballs shot from helicopters to treat invasive species along hard-to-reach coastal and volcanic cliffs.

Overall, I learned a lot from both the presentations as well as the interactions and methods of communication by the other attendees. While standing in the conference reception lobby, watching the intermingling of casual and professional interactions, it occurred to me that every moment of the day is an opportunity to learn. As valuable and informative as the content presentations were, I learned just as much from simply watching those around me. It’s a good reminder that every moment is a chance to observe the world around you and learn from what you witness.

AmeriCorps members travel to South Carolina to help with disaster relief efforts

By Anja Hogan, NW District Manager – 10/26/2018

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Almost a month after Hurricane Florence made landfall, Conservation Corps folks finally got the call to deploy to assist with current recovery efforts.

Although Hurricane Florence grew in strength as it tracked across the Atlantic, and reached Category 4 status twice in its journey, when it made landfall on 9/14/18 it was officially classified as a Category 1. This didn’t stop Florence from leaving a historically destructive legacy in its wake, ultimately dropping 35.93 inches of rain in some areas and setting records with rivers cresting well above historic flood stages. The storm also sparked enough atmospheric turbulence that a few tornadoes sprung up in its wake, causing trees to fall and electrical poles to be compromised. This prolonged rainfall and slow retreat of waters from flooded areas prevented many disaster relief groups from responding earlier.

As soon as weather stations start tracking storms with the potential for landfall in the US, our staff and members are preparing for service. Many members join the Conservation Corps because they want to help, they want to give back and they want to make a difference in the world. Assisting with recovery after a natural disaster is one form of service that our mission takes.

After weeks of waiting for conditions to improve enough for us to gain access and provide meaningful assistance, we received the go-ahead from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). AmeriCorps members gathered in Saint Paul for a briefing on the situation and a final round-up of equipment to be prepared for activities that could include: mucking and gutting homes that had been flooded, mold suppression, clearing fallen trees and debris, volunteer and donations management, among other things.

After a two- and half-day journey, our 10 AmeriCorps members arrived in Dillon, SC where they tied in with other AmeriCorps-Disaster Response Teams (A-DRT) from Washington Conservation Corps, Southeast Conservation Corps, Conservation Corps New Mexico, and Montana Conservation Corps to begin organizing and planning the recovery work that needs to be done.

Two Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa Individual Placements, two Central District Corpsmembers, and four Northwest District Corpsmembers have been serving on Strike Teams completing muck and gut in homes and canvassing in neighborhoods to assess need. Corpsmembers on the Strike Teams say they’ve been happy to help homeowners and that one of the homeowners has even made them lunch twice.

Two Northwest District Corpsmembers have been assisting in the Planning Section which stays up-to-date on information and available resources to create daily Incident Action Plans and to work in the field with the Strike Teams.

Updates from South Carolina

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“Homeowner Robert Douglas, Jr. lives alone, but his little sister lives next door, and his cousin lives down the alley. All three had work done on their houses today. They all consented to media being present during the event today. Because they were so open to AmeriCorps, United Way, Lowes and the Carolina Panthers coming into their homes, the entire neighborhood turned out to see what all the fuss was about. Young boys met a football icon and role model, people got a free hot meal provided by Bojangles, and they learned more about AmeriCorps and our mission to help survivors. There is a lot of work left to be done on these and many other houses, but today was very inspiring. Seeing a community so devastated be able to come together and laugh with each other was amazing.” - Rebecca Schrupp, NW District Crew Member & A-DRT Florence Planning Section Member

A Northwest District Field Specialist has been serving as the Volunteer Manager who assisted with organizing an event and volunteers on 10/23 and said:

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“I helped organize a volunteer event with Lowe's and the Carolina Panthers NFL team. We had almost 30 volunteers turn out for the event, including Julius Peppers, defensive end for the Panthers. These volunteers worked with our muck and gut teams to help people whose homes had been badly flooded after Hurricane Florence. Representatives from FEMA, Marlboro County school district, and our Cadre from CNCS were also present at the event.” – Alex Courneya, NW District Field Specialist & A-DRT Florence Volunteer Manager

As of Thursday, October 24th, the A-DRT programs stationed in South Carolina assisting with Hurricane Florence recovery have completed 41 damage assessments of homes, mucked and gutted four homes from flood damages, and cleared 120 cubic yards of debris. Great work!

We’re thankful to have amazing AmeriCorps members that want to help others in their time of need and look forward to more updates and amazing accomplishments from them in the future.

Thank Congress for saving AmeriCorps

Bipartisan Support for National Service!

10/1/2018

Congress has passed and President Trump has signed a FY19 spending bill that not only rejects the administration’s budget proposal to shut down the Corporation for National and Community Service—it increases funding for CNCS, AmeriCorps, and Senior Corps. Join us in thanking Congress for investing in national service. This funding ensures that we are able to continue supporting our hundreds of AmeriCorps members who help to conserve natural resources and respond to natural disasters every year.

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Excited about the future: a Q&A with the Board Chair and new Executive Director

By Rachel Wagner, Development and Communications Specialist – 9/28/2018

Mark Murphy officially joined Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa as executive director on September 4. The Board of Directors announced their decision in August after a comprehensive national search. Mark is a seasoned business and non-profit professional with a passion for mobilizing organizations to tackle environmental, social, and economic challenges.

Although you can read Mark’s bio on our website, we thought you’d like to take a deeper dive with us and hear from both Mark and our Board Chair, Jill Mahon Johnson, about why they are excited about the future of Conservation Corps.

Board Chair, Jill Mahon Johnson

Board Chair, Jill Mahon Johnson

Rachel: Jill, share with us why you are excited about the future of Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa?

Jill: Easy one. We have talented staff, insightful board members, and an enthusiastic Alumni Council. And there is so much positive energy from partners about continuing our legacy. Now, with Mark on board as executive director, we are well-positioned to increase our capacity and impact. It’s a wonderful time to be part of this organization!

Rachel: Where do you see Conservation Corps in five years?

Jill: With high education costs and workforce shortages, we offer valuable opportunities for young people and the partners we serve. The demand for STEM careers and green jobs is increasing so our work remains extremely relevant. We give young people the skills to successfully reach the next stage of their professional development…whether education or permanent employment. 

Rachel: Why is our work important right now?

 Jill: I see the Corps continuing our legacy of transforming lives of young people through skills training, outdoor experiences, and environmental stewardship. We will have the capacity and flexibility to meet the ever-changing needs of the communities and partners we serve.

Executive Director, Mark Murphy, saying a few words at the recent Mississippi Riverboat Cleanup

Executive Director, Mark Murphy, saying a few words at the recent Mississippi Riverboat Cleanup

Rachel: Mark, what drew you to this opportunity with Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa? Why is our work important right now and what are you most excited about?

Mark: Conservation Corps has a long history of working with young people who are committed to serving their communities, interested in building practical skills for their future, and intent on improving, conserving and protecting natural resources and the environment.   

This opportunity at Conservation Corps offers me a meaningful way to contribute and give back the skills and insights that I have been fortunate to absorb over my career as a leader in corporate responsibility and sustainability, philanthropy, and community advocacy and organizing.

The work of CCMI today is at the intersection of so many critical and relevant social, economic and environmental issues that we see in our communities.  I love getting up every day with the mission and task to embrace and tackle these opportunities and challenges. We are doing that at the ground-level at Conservation Corps.

Rachel: Share a glimpse of your vision for the organization and a bit about your leadership style.

Mark: My ambition is to help CCMI continue its legacy as an innovator and leader in working with national, state and local partners, to grow and adapt to meet a changing environment: workforce, economy, and climate.  I believe in the importance of collaboration and partnership. At CCMI, we have a great team already working with long-standing partners. Together, we can do more to develop and prepare young people, from diverse backgrounds, interested in STEM and Natural Resource-oriented careers, tackle opportunities in the emerging Green economy and meet increasing demands brought about by the changing climate and need for mitigating and responding to natural disasters.

Rachel: What do you hope to achieve in your first 100 days? First year? as the new executive director of Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa?

Mark: It may appear simple, but we must be patient as our first steps must be deliberate and sequenced. First, I must learn and explore what makes the Corps and its culture special. After all, I am not a former Corps member.  Second, fostering a collaborative environment, we need the team to keep building off solutions that are already in motion addressing some of our short-term fiscal and administrative priorities, while also preparing groundwork for where we want to set a future agenda. Lastly, we need input and alignment to set a new strategic plan for CCMI, and we must include the perspective of our many stakeholders as we set our course forward. The good news for me as I come on board is that CCMI is already on-the-move and its future is very bright!

Mark Murphy welcomed as new executive director

Nearly 60 people attended a welcome reception for Mark Murphy on Tuesday, September 25, 2018 including staff, board, partners, alumni, donors, and neighbors. If you were in attendance, thank you for stopping by! As our board chair Jill Johnson said, we have a bright future ahead. Thank you for supporting us and we look forward to sharing our future work with you.

Over 2 tons of trash removed during 27th Annual Mississippi Riverboat Cleanup

By Rachel Wagner, Development and Communications Specialist - September 24, 2018

After being rescheduled due to unsafe water levels from its original date in June, the Conservation Corps’ 27th Mississippi Riverboat Cleanup took place on Tuesday, September 18, 2018. The successful event mobilized 111 volunteers to remove 2.08 tons (4,160 pounds) of trash from the shores of the Mississippi River near Pig’s Eye Island. The volunteers found many sizable items such as a broken house boat, a 350-pound tractor tire as well as 25 vehicle tires. Also, many smaller items were removed that would otherwise harm wildlife habitat including hundreds of plastic bottles, straws, Styrofoam waste, and other plastics.

The Mayor of South Saint Paul James Francis thanked the volunteers and wished them well during the morning program by sharing, “We are grateful for your participation today and for your employer’s support in making this possible.”

Volunteers expressed their appreciation. Neil Hall of Van Wagenen Financial Services shared, “Thank you for such a cool and meaningful event yesterday on the river. I love what Conservation Corps does and appreciated being part of the Riverboat Cleanup effort. Keep up the magnificent work you all do!” Paul Nordell, Minnesota DNR retiree and volunteer, commented, “I’m grateful to Conservation Corps for continuing the Riverboat Cleanup, the annual tradition started by the DNR in 1992. This volunteer led event brings people to remote areas of the river where trash routinely accumulates. Over the years, thousands of volunteers have improved the health of our great river.”

Conservation Corps partnered with 10 local employers that provided important resources for the Riverboat Cleanup. These included Wells Fargo, Boston Scientific, Highland Bank, Van Wagenen Financial Services, Timberland, Thompson Reuters, SAP Success Factors, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Refuge Friends, Inc., and Art Start. These employers encouraged employee registrations and provided a paid work day for their employees who volunteered. Volunteers of Friends of Upper Landing Park, located on Shepard Road near downtown Saint Paul, also participated.

Sponsors for this event included the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, and Boston Scientific Foundation. Padelford Riverboats provided transportation and lunch. Upper River Services provided dumpster delivery. Tennis Sanitation provided use of a dumpster. Living Lands and Waters donated t-shirts and gloves. Cub Foods donated cookies. National Parks Service and Minnesota DNR provided shuttle boats. Local organizations contributed door prizes: Park Square Theatre, Science Museum of MN, Timberland, and Art Start.

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Our efforts are making a difference, but as you can see there is still work to be done! If you want to get involved with Adopt-a-River efforts, visit our website and become an adopter! http://www.conservationcorps.org/adoptariver/

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Disaster Relief Recap

By Rachel Wagner, Development and Communications Specialist – August 31, 2018

This month, after a thirty-day deployment to Puerto Rico, our crew of six AmeriCorps members and three staff returned from assisting with ongoing disaster relief. Upon arriving in July, our Conservation Corps crew joined other AmeriCorps Disaster Response Teams (A-DRT) in Puerto Rico including Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC), AmeriCorps St. Louis, and St. Bernard Project. Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa took over operations as the other teams finished their deployments.

The goals of this deployment were to 1) return individuals and families back to safe, sanitary, and secure homes; and 2) support local organizations in their efforts to aid Puerto Rico. The team operated from a recovery office in Guaynabo and at Sacred Heart University in San Juan. Disaster relief activities included developing a registry for high priority cases, referring cases with unmet needs, developing and conducting trainings for local organizations, and providing outreach across the island.

Dillon Pride, a Corps member who returned recently from deployment, said “This is my 3rd deployment and it’s amazing to see how much the AmeriCorps members grow in 30 short days and what an impact we can make in communities. Not only do the people in distress get the help that they desperately need but the AmeriCorps members learn flexibility, teamwork, physical strength, and I believe it also provides an inner strength that pushes our members to strive for bigger and better things once their term is done.”

Take a closer look at some of the projects our crew worked on during their time in Puerto Rico:

Deployment Newsletter

One of our Iowa crew members, Audrey Lash, held the position of Public Information Officer for AmeriCorps Disaster Response Teams while deployed in Puerto Rico. Along with countless other responsibilities, she was tasked with creating the final edition of a newsletter that has been coming out monthly throughout the deployment. Check it out.

Beach Clean-up

On August 11th, six members of Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa, along with CNCS Disaster Cadre Member, Brie Owades, joined The Mission Continues and their Puerto Rico Service Platoon for a beach clean-up service event in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The Mission Continues is a nationwide non-profit that connects veterans who are adjusting to civilian life and empowers them to find purpose in their communities by providing opportunities for them to get involved. Around thirty total volunteers of all ages and backgrounds spent the day cleaning Playa la Guancha, a sea turtle nesting area, shoreline and surrounding trails. After four hours of service work, the group collected over ten large bags of various trash, including broken glass, litter, and assorted plastics. At the end of the clean-up, all volunteers ate and celebrated together in the nearby plaza.

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Volunteer Management for NGOs

Iowa crew member Audrey Lash, AmeriCorps Community Engagement Team Member, along with Andres Acosta, a FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaison, met with five different Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Maricao, Puerto Rico to teach them about volunteer management. Audrey presented the Hands on Connect program while Andres Acosta translated, since most of the NGOs only speak Spanish. Learning about volunteer management and the Hands on Connect platform was very important as it teaches NGOs how to track their volunteer hours, keep in contact with volunteers, and create events for their organization. Carolina Covington was onsite as well to answer any questions about the Voluntary Agencies Leading and Organizing Repair (VALOR) program. The VALOR program allows NGOs and local organizations to partner with FEMA to get needed supplies, materials and personnel to make temporary repairs that allows survivors to return to or continue to stay in their home after a natural disaster, like Hurricane Maria.

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Data Management

 The VALOR program (Voluntary Agencies Leading and Organizing Repair) provides Voluntary Agencies and NGOs with the means to make minor repairs on homes at no charge to the property owner. Sarah Klein, Data Management Specialist for the ACE Team, and Brian Owades, CNCS Disaster Cadre Member, worked on the AmeriCorps VALOR Tracking and Reporting Database while in Puerto Rico. Part of Sarah’s role was adding newly VALOR-vetted organizations to the database and reporting forms, which allowed organizations to self-report homes that were being or had been repaired through the program. Ultimately, the process allows them to see the how and where FEMA Material Request Form supplies are being utilized, which provides them with important feedback on the effectiveness of the VALOR program in assisting survivors and will help determine if this program is a viable option for future natural disasters.

In addition, Sarah also worked with Carolina Covington and Briana Owades as part of the AmeriCorps Community Engagement (ACE) Team, which meant they met regularly with Voluntary Agencies to discuss the VALOR program, volunteer management, and the new reporting process. The team collected feedback, concerns, and questions about VALOR for FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaisons. They discussed those needs and came to an amicable solution for all organizations involved.

“My role as both an ACE Team member and Data Management Specialist gave me a deep appreciation for all the incredible people of Puerto Rico who have dedicated their time, money, and energy to helping their communities. It was truly inspiring to meet with person after person, organization after organization that were all working towards the same goal of helping survivors restore their homes and livelihoods." - Sarah Klein, ACE Team Member and Data Management Specialist
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 Service at a Local Elementary School

One Saturday during deployment, three Field Liaisons (Dillon Pride, Drew Evans, Cory Rhinehart) and the Operations Chief (Anja Hogan) for the deployment team went to Escuela Intermedia Rafael Martinez Nadal de Guaynabo, a local elementary school. Jonathan Ocasio, pastor at the local church Mar Azul, let AmeriCorps utilize a warehouse space for nine months, and in return all he asked for was help cleaning up some fallen trees and overgrown brush at the elementary school that had not been addressed since Hurricane Maria hit. "You all have the heart of what it means to be in service to others. We are so grateful that you are here today to help. And the four of you are doing the work of what we think forty would normally do," said Jonathan Ocasio. The school director hopes to have the school operational starting this school year. 

"It felt good to give back to somebody who was gracious enough to lend a warehouse space to AmeriCorps over the course of nine months. Our service meant the world to them, even though it was just a small gesture. It is going to be difficult to leave Puerto Rico knowing that there is still so much work to do." -Cory Rhinehart, ADRT Field Liaison
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Duluth event engages 60 volunteers to tackle Japanese Knotweed and other invasive species in Fairmount Park

August 31, 2018

Conservation Corps has a long history of restoring Minnesota’s natural resources in the northeast region of the state and along the North Shore. Our office for the Northeast District is located within the Fitger’s Building in Duluth’s downtown district. However, few projects occur within the heart of the city itself. To address this issue and elevate Conservation Corps’ local presence, we partnered with the City of Duluth and MN Power/ALLETE, Inc. to organize an invasive species restoration event. The event took place on Monday, August 13, 2018 in Fairmount Park located next to the Lake Superior Zoo. Over 60 volunteers attended including Summer Youth Corps members, Young Adult AmeriCorps members, Corps alumni, and ALLETE employees. It was fun to see these groups working side by side cutting Japanese knotweed and buckthorn while pulling other invasive species such as tansy and honeysuckle, despite record-breaking heat. Read more about our RESTORE Duluth event in the Duluth News Tribune article below. 

•    Nisson, Jack, “Volunteers bank together, root out invasive species in Duluth,” Duluth News Tribune, August 13, 2018

Click through the gallery below to see images from the event.

Announcing our new Executive Director

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August 14, 2018

Dear Friends of the Corps,

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I am thrilled to inform you that, after a comprehensive national search, we have selected Mark Murphy as the new Executive Director of Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa. 
 
Mark is a visionary leader and nonprofit professional with a passion for environmental conservation, youth development, and workforce preparedness. You can read his bio here.
 
Mark is committed to collaborating with the Board and staff to identify and execute a common vision for Conservation Corps’ future. With input from supporters like you, he will work to implement strategic priorities that sustain the success we have had over so many years. He will oversee Corps operations and foster growth in the most valuable resources of our organization.
 
Mark will officially start on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. Please join our staff and board members in welcoming him. We would love to introduce you personally and are hosting a Welcome Reception on Tuesday, September 25th from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
 
Finally, please take a moment to review the 2017 Annual Report, which is a wonderful summary of the successes we have achieved together over the past year. As we transition to Mark’s leadership, we look forward to your continued partnership in restoring resources and changing lives of young people in the communities we serve. It is a privilege and honor to work alongside you as partners in this important work of providing hands-on environmental stewardship.
 
Thank you for all you have done to help us succeed. We greatly appreciate your generosity and dedicated support. 

Best regards,

Jill Mahon Johnson Chair, Board of Directors

Jill Mahon Johnson
Chair, Board of Directors