By Hadley Galbraith
Special to The SUN
The Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) took part in the national celebration of AmeriCorps Week, March 9-17, spotlighting the vital work done by AmeriCorps members and alumni in communities across Colorado and New Mexico since the national service program began 19 years ago.
Since 1994, more than 800,000 Americans have given more than 1 billion hours of service through AmeriCorps. Every year, more than 75,000 AmeriCorps members meet pressing community needs across the country — strengthening education, assisting veterans and military families, providing disaster services, fostering economic opportunity, expanding health services and preserving the environment. Serving at more 15,000 locations, AmeriCorps members recruited and managed more than four million volunteers last year, boosting the impact of the nonprofit and faith-based organizations they serve.
“AmeriCorps members are improving the lives of millions of citizens and making a powerful impact on the toughest challenges facing our nation,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps. “AmeriCorps Week is an opportunity to recognize their impact and thank them for their service. AmeriCorps members and the millions of volunteers they manage are an indispensable resource to our nation, and we are grateful for their dedicated service.”
On March 13, Hadley Galbraith, an Americorps VISTA member serving with the Southwest Conservation Corps, visited Pagosa High School to speak to students and counselors there about SCC’s High School Camping Crews program. The program, which runs in the summer, engages 16-18-year-olds in a summer service program. Youth members complete important conservation projects while living, working and exploring in the beautiful Four Corners region. Galbraith, whose VISTA role has been largely focused on developing a model for recruitment as well as an education curriculum for the High School Camping Crews, expressed enthusiasm for the program. “This is a wonderful opportunity for young people to learn a lot about themselves and others, be immersed in the outdoors, and gain work experience that will help propel them towards their goals.”
In addition to the service SCC’s AmeriCorps VISTA members contribute to the Southwest Colorado Community, members of the SCC Adult Conservation Crews, Veterans Fire Crews, as well as individual interns are all members of Americorps. In 2012, these numbers totaled 131. SCC crews and interns contribute much time and effort year-round to conservation projects in national and state parks, forests, and other scenic public lands in the Four Corners. These challenging yet rewarding projects include trail construction and maintenance, habitat improvement, hazardous fuels reduction, re-vegetation, local environmental service projects, and more. Crews of six to eight members and two leaders work, camp, eat and explore the outdoors together for up to 11 days at a time, in front and backcountry locations, forming a strong team and a tight-knit community.
AmeriCorps members typically remain actively engaged in their communities long after their service is complete. An AmeriCorps longitudinal study found that AmeriCorps alums are more attached to their communities, aware of community challenges, and significantly more likely to go into public service careers. AmeriCorps alums who have served with the Southwest Conservation Corps have gone on to secure jobs with federal land management agencies like the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Hopefully, after this event, we will inspire some youth to find careers as Research Scientists with the Rocky Mountain Research Station.
AmeriCorps Week is an annual event designed to salute AmeriCorps members and alums for their service, thank AmeriCorps’ community partners, and recognize AmeriCorps’ impact on communities and on the lives of those who serve. Hundreds of events are taking place across the United States — service projects, recruitment fairs, school presentations, alumni gatherings, awards ceremonies and more.
For more information, visit AmeriCorps.gov.