The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps recently recognized a Forest Service employee as a 2015 "21CSC Champion of the Year" for her outstanding contributions in connecting people to the land.
Michelle Mitchell, a regional program leader for volunteer and service programs in the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region, was selected, along with two colleagues from across a range of government organizations, for tirelessly creating and enhancing programs that engage diverse groups of young people and veterans in conservation activities on America's public lands.
The award was presented February 10 at The Corps Network's annual national conference. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack headed the list of USDA Officials that included Under Secretary Robert Bonnie and Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon. It also included a cadre of national, state, and local leaders in the youth development, community service, and environment fields.
"I'm excited to see one of our top performers in the Forest Service recognized for her exceptional contributions to such important partnerships in conservation," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "Michelle and the rest of the nominees have exemplified the spirit of public service and have left positive impacts on the lives of others and on public lands."
In the past fiscal year, Mitchell helped manage approximately 127 Youth Conservation Corps participants across 13 states and Puerto Rico. She also cultivated relationships with 21CSC program operators including the Student Conservation Association, Southeast Conservation Corps, Community Training Works, Inc., Young American Conservation Corps, Greening Youth Foundation, Mt. Adams Institute, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Texas Conservation Corps. In the past year, she has served as a personal mentor for 13 young people working in the region, helping guide them toward success and future employment possibilities in the conservation field.
"The Southern Region is an easy place to do this work," said Mitchell. "Our leadership is committed to investing the internal resources necessary to make it happen, our people are committed to delivering high quality experiences for young people, and our partners have the passion and dedication to bring it all together. I feel really lucky to be a part of such an amazing team."
Mitchell's work reflects a more broad effort within the Southern Region's Youth Conservation Corps, Public Land Corps, and 21CSC, which engaged more than 400 young people and gained more than $1.3 million in support from other partners, which in turn supported the agency's broader accomplishments of engaging more than 11,000 youth and veterans and leveraged $19 million in partner funding in 2014.
Through participation on Forest Service projects, many 21CSC participants have become conservation stewards, developed job skills and prepared for future careers in conservation. Community-based crews create visible links between local citizens and the national forests and grasslands where they live, while individual placements expose participants to deep learning experiences and career development opportunities.
In addition to Mitchell, the Partnership for 21CSC recognized two champions from other agencies, to include Peter Mueller, a project director in southwest Colorado for The Nature Conservancy, and Jennifer Schneider, a National Park Service maintenance worker and youth coordinator at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana.
"The 21CSC Champions are invaluable advocates for expanding and improving 21CSC," said Harry Bruell, Co-Chair of the Partnership for 21CSC. "They serve as great leaders in forging innovative partnerships with conservation corps to expand opportunities for the next generation of leaders and environmental stewards. We are confident that all of our 21CSC Champion nominees will be invaluable resources and models of success for others to enhance their partnerships with conservation corps in the field."
For more information and a full list of the 168 member organizations, visit the partner-hosted website: www.21csc.org. Organizations interested in being recognized as a 21CSC member organization should submit a Letter of Interest to firstname.lastname@example.org