Mt. Adams Institute (MAI) attended The Corps Network 2019 National Conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. This conference is a yearly gathering of over 200 attendees including staff, partners, and advocates of corps organizations from all over the country. What is a corps you might ask? Corps are locally-based organizations that engage young adults and veterans in service projects that address recreation, conservation, disaster response, and community needs. At MAI, our VetsWork Environment, GreenCorps, and Public Lands Stewards programs are considered corps programs.
Hosted by The Corps Network, a national association of service and conservation corps, the theme of this year’s conference was resilience. Through service programs and projects, corps organizations build resilient leaders and communities. Corps must be resilient to adapt to the changing needs of our country. The work of corps bolsters infrastructure, restores habitats, enhances school systems, supports community programs, and much more. Through that work, corpsmembers complete trainings, earn certifications, achieve confidence, and gain hands-on experiences that help them be successful throughout their lives.
Throughout the conference, MAI staff attended workshops and plenaries that addressed important topics like diversity, equity, and inclusion, alumni engagement, navigating the Public Lands Hiring Authority, and staff support and development. Our executive director, Brendan Norman, co-lead a workshop about apprenticeships. Our VetsWork Environment program is one of the first corps programs to be recognized as an apprenticeship by the Department of Labor and the Department of Veterans Affairs. This allows our veteran participants the ability to access their G.I. Bill benefits during their service term, to supplement their housing stipend. This is often the deciding factor that allows veterans to participate in the program while supporting their families.
Our very own VetsWork alum Elamon White was recognized at the conference as a 2019 Corpsmember of the Year for her outstanding work building a volunteer program on the Andrew Pickens Ranger District on the Sumter National Forest. You can view her acceptance speech here. On the last day of the conference, attendees traveled to Capitol Hill to speak to members of Congress about the impact corps programs have on communities across the country. MAI staff and Elamon met with senator Tim Scott, and staff from the office of Senator Lindsey Graham, both from South Carolina where Elamon served her AmeriCorps terms.
“The Corps Network conference was a unique and inspiring experience. Connecting and collaborating with other corps gave me a deep sense of community and empowered me to take what I learned back to Mt. Adams Institute to begin working towards building a stronger, more resilient organization,” said Erica Bingham, Mt. Adams Institute’s communication and outreach coordinator.