Written by Kate Hagner, SCA’s AmeriCorps Program and Evaluation manager, in celebration of AmeriCorps week, March 9 -17th.
SCA and AmeriCorps share a common history: President Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). During the Great Depression the CCC provided opportunities for unemployed young men to engage in meaningful work, mostly on conservation projects in the nation’s public lands.
In the 1950’s SCA’s founder, Elizabeth Cushman, modeled the original student conservation corps on the CCC, based on the idea that the hard work of young people could solve some of the most critical challenges facing our nation’s public lands.
Over the next forty years SCA became part of a movement of national service in America that included the creation of the Peace Corps, VISTA, and Youth Conservation Corps, and eventually, in 1994, this national service program that we know as AmeriCorps. Both SCA and AmeriCorps can trace their roots back to the CCC and that original, brilliant idea that regular Americans can help our country do amazing things through service.
Every year around 75,000 Americans enroll in AmeriCorps, serving with non-profits and community organizations like SCA and doing all kinds of work – everything from supporting veterans’ families to responding to floods and forest fires to tutoring students to restoring parks and protecting watersheds.
At SCA more than 1,500 of our members enroll in AmeriCorps. What ties all of these members together – and what ties SCA’s AmeriCorps members to AmeriCorps members serving with other organizations – is a common commitment to strengthening communities and the environment through service.
One of the greatest benefits of AmeriCorps is the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which has helped thousands of SCA alums pay for college or pay back student loans. It’s a partnership that helps SCA do more of what we do best: build the next generation of conservation leaders.
This year’s theme for AmeriCorps Week (March 9-17), AmeriCorps Works, reflects AmeriCorps’ triple bottom line return on investment -- for the recipients of service, the people who serve, and the larger community and nation. AmeriCorps improves lives, strengthens communities, expands economic opportunity, bolsters civic and faith-based organizations, and engages millions of Americans in taking responsibility for solving problems in their communities.
SCA is proud to be a partner of the AmeriCorps national service network. Please join us in celebrating AmeriCorps week.
Learn more about SCA positions that are AmeriCorps eligible.
Join our online AmeriCorps group on jointhesca.org.
Help support AmeriCorps week by sharing stories and photos with hashtags #ACweek, #AmeriCorpsWorks, and #MadeinAmeriCorps. You can also check in with AmeriCorps on Facebook for fresh badges and graphics every day this week.
FIELD TRIPS ARE OFTEN the highlight of any student's day, but many schools can no longer afford them. So, SCA takes the field trip back to the classroom. In Manchester, NH, intern Scott Baumwald enters a fourth grade class with a small sandbox, a watering can, and a large stone covered in mud. He instructs one student to roll the rock while another showers it with water. The stone leaves a mix of soil and pebbles in its path, "just like the glaciers, thousands of years ago," Scott explains. As other pupils blow on the sand to illustrate erosion, he asks what the puddle in the corner of the sandbox might represent. One boy's eyes widen as his right hand shoots high the air. "A lake!" he shouts.
Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
This is the sort of imaginative, interactive lesson that SCA interns have provided to every Manchester fourth grader since 1994—an entire generation of school children, more than 12,000 students in all. "There is no doubt that my kids learn from the lessons," says Carolyn Tartsa, a teacher at Webster Elementary, "but more importantly, the SCA members are role models in the truest sense—young persons the children can respect, admire, and aspire to be."
SCA interns also host an after-class servicelearning program for high school students. Those who do well go on to assist their instructors when the SCA NH Corps turns to repairing trails and campgrounds in state parks over the summer. The more these teen learn, the more they do: serving in SCA internships, majoring in environmental studies, and entering in green careers.
"What you're seeing here is a microcosm of the SCA program continuum," says intern Tyler Laue. "We're putting these students on a path to lifelong stewardship."
ALASKA IS HOME TO HALF this nation's wilderness, yet for many Native youth it remains The Last Frontier. "Until SCA, I'd never been out in the wilderness," admits Teshonda Thomas, an Alutiiq and Inupiaq high school senior in Anchorage.
SCA is reconnecting Alaska Native youth with their culture and heritage by forging youth-focused networks of government agencies, Alaska Native corporations, and local organizations.
A powerful job-training partnership with Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI), Cook Inlet Tribal Council, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and others last year contributed to a four-fold increase in the number of Alaska Native teens participating in habitat protection, trail construction, and historic restoration. "I've not only learned how to overcome the physical challenge of hard work, but I've also learned how to become a leader," states Teshonda. "I am proud to say that I have done something positive that will inspire nature lovers and give back to CIRI land."
SCA is also collaborating with Alaska Geographic, an educational nonprofit, to create new opportunities for young women and men in Chugach National Forest, and the trails built by SCA members in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough are strengthening the local environment as well as the borough economy. SCA crew leader Nathan Bolton notes while the impact on the land is significant, it's even greater on the students. "A lot of transformation takes place in just one month," he says. "It's spectacular to see."
Our agency partners agree and are quick to take advantage. "I have at least four people on my staff who started their careers in conservation with SCA," states Ann Rap¬poport, a field supervisor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage. "SCA is a way for us to hire more youth and access better diversity. These young people inspire us and remind us why we're here."
"A lot of our folks are retiring," adds FWS Volunteer Coordinator Kristen Gilbert. "A lot of institutional knowledge is going to be lost, and we don't have a lot of young people coming in. SCA is helping us fill this need."
Thank you for partnering with SCA to ensure the future of conservation, for believing that young people can change the world, and for supporting SCA.
SCA will continue to do what we've always done: empowering young people so that they will become the future stewards of our land and the next generation of conservation leaders that our planet so desperately deserves. Our mission is more relevant now than ever before. Although our task is formidable, I believe that by working together we can truly make a difference for the future of conservation.
Please take a moment to watch this short video to see the impact that your support has on thousands of young people and to conservation of our land.