6 Places in SCA History

After 60 years of conserving America’s public lands, SCA’s place in history is assured. Here are 6 places in SCA’s history that played key roles during the passage of time. 

1. Vassar College

If you’re familiar with the SCA saga, you know why Vassar tops the list: this is where Liz Putnam wrote her senior thesis on “A Proposed Student Conservation Corps,” where she was encouraged to breathe life into the concept, and where she paired with fellow Vassar alumna Martha “Marty” Hayne Talbot to change the course of conservation.

SCA Founder Liz Putnam (third from right) at Vassar College

2. Grand Teton National Park

One of two original SCA sites, the Tetons hosted approximately 25 SCA volunteers in 1957. The park had planned to welcome SCA members in the summer of ’56, but reassigned the SCA volunteers at the last minute, from fieldwork to landscaping for a new park lodge. Liz insisted these activities strayed outside SCA’s mission of meaningful stewardship and courageously cancelled the program.

3. Olympic National Park

This was SCA’s other original partner in 1957, and today Olympic holds the distinction of being the ONLY park to deploy SCA volunteers in each off the past 60 years. Many never leave – more than 25% of the Olympic staff are SCA alumni.

4. Yellowstone National Park

Following massive wildfires that blackened more than a third of America’s first national park in 1988, SCA mounted a three-year recovery effort to combat erosion and invasive species and rebuild burned-out trails, bridges and campsites. That effort positioned SCA as the go-to volunteer solution for natural disaster response.

5. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

In 1977, SCA partnered with the School Without Walls to specifically offer young people of color with local, hands-on conservation opportunities. In this first-of-its-kind program, groups of up to 12 students repaired trails and restored historic structures along the C&O Canal through 1979, when SCA launched similar youth teams in Atlanta, Denver, and San Francisco. In 1983, SCA reestablished its Washington, DC crew program, a commitment that remains in place to this day and which formed the foundation for today’s SCA urban initiatives.


The first urban crew, at the C&O Canal in 1977.

6. Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

On April 21, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act into law, expanding national service opportunities in the U.S. To underscore the moment (and get an early start on Earth Day, April 22nd), Mr. Obama then jumped into a motorcade to plant trees with SCA volunteers at Kenilworth Gardens. He brought with him President Bill Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. For security reasons, the president and vice president rarely attend the same event outside the White House, making this occasion all the more unique. Read our recap here.

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