The Trail Ahead: Learning for the Future at the Annual Corps Network Conference in Washington D.C.
By Melissa Cuff
In February 2018, The Corps Network (TCN) Annual Conference brought 275 people to Washington D.C. for five-days in order to share best practices, promote innovative approaches, and build relationships with others across the movement. The Conference theme, The Trail Ahead, helped us to envision the next chapter for America’s Corps.
The Corps Network supports over 130 of America’s Service and Conservation Corps, providing critical leadership to the movement. Every year, The Corp Network’s efforts enable over 24,000 diverse young people, ages 16-25, to strengthen communities, improve the environment and transform their lives through service in Corps programs. Ultimately, this work harnesses the power of young people to tackle some of America’s greatest challenges.
Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa was well-represented at the TCN Conference with six staff members attending from the areas of programs, administration, and development. Each of us played a unique role in the conference experience. Program Director Hollis Emery presented for the workshop, Translating the Corps Experience into Career and Educational Success, explaining how school partnerships and career exploration are woven into the fabric of the Youth Outdoors program. Data Systems Administrator Nicole Zyvoloski presented for the workshop, Improving Efficiency by Optimizing Data Accessibility and Management, where she explained our implementation of the Sales Force customer relationship management (CRM) platform. As our leader in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Board/Executive Administrator Garnetta Lowman participated in all sessions of the Moving Forward Initiative conference track. Member Experience Coordinator Carrie Danner served as our TCN Education Award Program (EAP) representative attending conference sessions related to the EAP AmeriCorps grant. Program Director Brian Miller leveraged his 14 years with the Corps by engaging in critical conversations with colleagues and government agency partners across the movement including the Public Lands Service Coalition in-person meeting. Finally, my role as the newest team member was to learn from others across the movement. I also represented us at the Voices for National Service Annual Steering Committee.
Conference plenaries and workshops left us feeling inspired and motivated! Some of my favorite conference moments were those that helped me envision the future. Dr. Dorceta Taylor provided an overview of her research to create a more diverse environmental movement. The session on GIS Story Mapping showed us the power of images to capture how we are restoring our natural resources. The partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps meeting, with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, explained how the initiative provided thousands of America’s young people and veterans the opportunity to build urban and rural economies through national service.
At the Voices for National Service Awards event on February 13, Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa was featured in U.S. Representative Billy Long’s award video. He was honored with the Congressional Award for his support of national service in Missouri.
On the final day of our trip to Washington D.C. several of us visited with our elected officials to communicate the importance of our projects in Minnesota and Iowa. We enjoyed our time with staff of Minnesota’s U.S. House Representatives Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, and Tim Walz along with U.S. Senator Tina Smith. We also had the opportunity to personally meet with Iowa U.S. House Representative David Young.
On behalf of the staff who attended The Corps Network Conference in 2018, we want to thank the Board of Directors and Interim Executive Director Renae Oswald-Anderson for investing in our professional development. We are so grateful for this privilege and look forward to opportunities to implement what we learned during the upcoming year.