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#IamACE | Stephanie Emery

Today we launch a new blog series titled “I am ACE” (#IamACE), which aims to highlight the individual stories of ACE’s corps members and interns.

Our corps members and interns come from culturally diverse backgrounds across the United States and each has a unique story to tell. Common to all is the passion for our natural environment, and a desire to develop into a future land steward.

In the first of our #IamACE series we introduce you to Stephanie Emery, and ACE EPIC intern currently serving with the Bureau of Land Management in Ironwood Forest National Monument in southern Arizona.
We are excited to share Stephanie’s story.

Stephanie Emery

[ACE] What is your background? Where are you from?
[SE] I am 22 years old. I’m born and raised in Seattle, Washington. I went to the University of Washington there. I just graduated last winter and studied environmental science, and focused on conservation.

What motivated you to be in conservation?
I am Native American–from Alaska. I grew up learning to be in tune with the land and with nature, and that motivated me to want to conserve our landscape. Growing up I really saw how people have been negatively impacting nature, and I really want to make a positive impact and try to restore our lands.

How did you find ACE?
I did an internship with AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) who shares a similar mission with ACE. I met Hannah Wendel (ACE/EPIC internship Program Manager and Recruitment Specialist) through that position and she informed me about this internship, so I applied.

Can you tell me about the responsibilities you have for your internship?
We do a lot of trash pickup along the border. We monitor wildlife using cameras, and coordinate volunteers for different events. We install wash barriers to prevent people from driving off-road and causing erosion, install informative and regulatory signs, and also repair fences on the monument.

Stephanie Emery

Stephanie and fellow intern Alex Hreha check up on a barrel cactus that was relocated off of the path of an access road. The cactus was replanted safely off the road site and has been growing steadily and healthily since its relocation

What has been one highlight and one challenge of your internship?
The highlight has been working outdoors. We see a lot of wildlife and Native American artifacts. We’ve seen lots of bighorn sheep, some foxes, lots of animals. I love being out here.
The volunteer coordinating can be challenging. We are facilitators in that setting, so we take on a lot of responsibilities. The volunteers often come in with their own ideas, so we have to work with them. They often ask us why we’re doing a project, so we have to reassess our reasoning and back it up. This can be a positive experience though, because if we were just given an assignment we may not even think about the reasoning behind it, whereas when we coordinate the volunteer events we really have to know what we’re doing and why.

What are your plans after this position? Goals for the future?
I took the GRE and I’m planning on going to graduate school for either Rangeland Ecology or Fire Ecology. Eventually I hope to end up with a full time position with the BLM, who I currently intern for. That’s one of the major organizations that I’ve aligned myself with.

So do you think this internship has helped you to prepare for that career?
Definitely, yeah. This internship has given me the long term experience that I need for my resume, compared to some of the other internships which I’ve done that have been much shorter. This internship is 9 months long. One of the benefits of this work is that it has given me close to a year of experience that I need for my resume to prove that I’m committed.

What do you feel sets ACE apart from other organizations?
ACE’s staff seems more closely connected and more helpful than what I’ve experience with other internships. During some internships I never even met any of the staff and no one contacted me throughout the time I was working. ACE’s staff is readily available. The internship durations are better, and they have more cooperation with different organizations like NPS and BLM, which is great for career moves.

So do you think it’s helped you professionally?
Yes it has, in that I’ve gained a lot of good connections within the BLM, who I want to get a career with them in the future. It’s also helped me with graduate school, because it brought me from Phoenix to Tucson and helped introduce me to people from the University of Arizona where I can hopefully study someday.

Any advice you’d give to someone considering a career in conservation?
ACE is a good starting point. I think I’d advise people to start by volunteering (I did a lot of volunteering which I felt helped me get in with ACE) then short internships, build up to longer term internships, and that can help you build the framework for a career in conservation.

Stephanie Emery

Stephanie and Ryan Scot Gillespie install a sign to notify the public to refrain from entering a certain area in order to protect the bighorn sheep who are entering their lambing season.

ACE at The Corps Network Conference

Six ACE staff members are currently in Washington D.C. attending The Corps Network Conference. Representing ACE this year are Director of Utah, Jake Powell; Southeast Director, Adam Scherm; Director of California Operations, Eric Robertson; AmeriCorps Program Coordinator-California, Carolyn Getschow; National AmeriCorps Program Coordinator, Bradley Hunter; and National Restoration Program Manager, Afton Mckusick.The Corps Network National Conference is an annual gathering of national, state, and local leaders in the fields of youth development, community service, and the environment. Attendees include approximately 200 Directors and senior staff from Service and Conservation Corps across the country; officials from federal agencies; representatives from philanthropic foundations; and friends and supporters of the Corps movement.

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ACE is a proud partner of The Corps Network and a member of the 21CSC.

The first crew of 2016

ACE Arizona is so happy to welcome our first crew of 2016.

New GOYFF recruit Sarah Komisar uses a powerpoint to introduce herself to the rest of the new recruits.

New GOYFF recruit Sarah Komisar uses a powerpoint to introduce herself to the rest of the new recruits.

On Monday January 4th, 21 new recruits of ACE Arizona’s Leadership Development Program arrived at Intermountain headquarters in Flagstaff, AZ. These members have committed to a six month AmeriCorps program working on environmental service projects throughout the state of Arizona. These new recruits are volunteering in partnership with the State of Arizona’s Governors Office for Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF). This marks the 7th year ACE has partnered with the GOYFF to engage young adults in a service-learning environment.

Paul Beuchner, a Wilderness First Aid trainer from the National Outdoor Leadership School, explains how to safely move an injured person in order to transport them or administer further care.

Paul Beuchner, a Wilderness First Aid trainer from the National Outdoor Leadership School, explains how to safely move an injured person in order to transport them or administer further care.

During their first three months with ACE, our newest AmeriCorps corpsmembers they will work on a single project to help them utilize and develop proficiency in the skills they learn during their initial training. For their remaining three months in the program, the corpsmembers will operate on ACE’s traditional rotating project schedule, applying their newly gained knowledge over a wider variety of project types.

ACE corps members undergo Wilderness First Aid training as part of their term of service.

ACE corps members undergo Wilderness First Aid training as part of their term of service.

ACE provides educational opportunities by bringing in professional land managers and other industry experts that can expose members to the various career options that exist within the field of conservation, providing knowledge that will aid them in becoming the next generation of land management leaders. The members will also work to organize a volunteer service project event within the local Flagstaff community.

Emily Zastrow, a new GOYFF member, engages the other recruits in a short yoga session as a way to introduce herself.

Emily Zastrow, a new GOYFF member, engages the other recruits in a short yoga session as a way to introduce herself.

It’s been a busy few days, not only for our new members but for ACE’s dedicated Intermountain Staff and Trainers. Our newest ACE corps members are receiving training’s including sustainable trail construction, rock work, and Wilderness First Aid. Training will continue into next week when the recruits will embark on their first project.

Ranch Trail, Prescott National Forest

Yesterday, a crew began a project in Prescott National Forest brushing the corridor for a re-route of the Ranch Trail, which lies just 20 minutes outside of Prescott. ACE partnered with USFS for this project. The original trail alignment runs along a ridge and drops down in several areas in an un-sustainable fashion, and because of the steepness, normal drains cannot be installed–thus the need for the reroute.

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After the crews clear the corridor, Forest Service employees will then follow with a trail dozer to cut the tread. The plan for this 8 day hitch is to complete 3 miles of clearing, establishing a corridor 6 to 8 feet wide. The work involves multiple sawyers cutting scrub oak and other vegetation that is growing in the path of the proposed trail, and then several corps members following behind and moving the slash (cut vegetation) off trail and out of sight.

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The creation of this reroute will ensure that the trail is sustainable and can be used by the public for years to come.

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Arizona Trail Association Seeds of Stewardship

ACE staff and Corps Members recently attended a local community service project in Flagstaff, where they partnered with the Arizona Trails Association and the Coconino National Forest to teach a large group of 75 students from the local Mount Elden Middle School about the importance of trail work.

ACE were awarded a plaque recognizing their exceptional commitment to the community and continued support of the Coconino National Forest Trails Program

ACE were awarded a plaque recognizing their exceptional commitment to the community and continued support of the Coconino National Forest Trails Program

The students arrived in the morning and gathered at the Little Elden trail head for an introduction from Coconino National Forest’s Trails and Wilderness Coordinator Sean Murphy. At this time, ACE was presented with a plaque recognizing our exceptional commitment to the community and continued support of the Coconino National Forest Trails Program. Sean also conducted a safety briefing, and demonstrated the tools that the students would be using which included Mcleods, shovels, and pick mattocks.

Tools in hand, the students hike to work led by an ACE leader

Tools in hand, the students hike to work led by an ACE leader

Th​e ​students were split up into groups of four and assigned a leader, either an ACE​ Corps Member or an Arizona Trail Steward. The groups began digging drains and check dams to direct the flow of rainwater off the trail and to make it more sustainable. “It’s important to get kids invested in the structures that they use for fun, and to teach them that trails don’t just happen–it takes a lot of hard work,” said Sean Murphy. “They will feel a little more ownership for the trails they use after this project.” The students spent a half day (about 4 hours including a lunch break) at the Little Elden Trail, alternating between working and participating in educational hikes in the area.

A.J. Conrad demonstrates techniques to the students

A.J. Conrad demonstrates techniques to the students

The event was part of the Arizona Trail Association’s Seeds of Stewardship initiative, a youth outreach, education, and stewardship program that aims to encourage youth participation in the Arizona Trail through experience, education, and service learning. “I think it’s important for younger people like myself and other ACE Corps Member to help teach these kids because we can relate to them and connect with them on a more personal level,” explained Gavin Monson, ACE Crew Leader. “I think it’s crucial to instill these conservation goals in the minds of these children. They’ll be in charge someday. If we can show them that this kind of work is important, we can help make a difference for the future.”

Students learn about tool use

Students learn about tool use

The students were enthusiastic about the work, and it was evident that they truly cared about the impression they were making on the land. “I like this kind of work because I like being outdoors,” said student Corbin Cuff. “I think it’s important because we can help the environment.” Corbin went on to explain that he would certainly be interested in doing more trail work in his future. It has been said that we will conserve only what we love, and we love only what we understand.

Everyone at ACE thoroughly enjoyed the event and we hope to participate in future events.

Sunset Crater National Monument

An ACE Arizona crew has just completed a four day hitch working at Sunset Crater National Monument in Flagstaff. Crews have been working alongside National Park Service employees at the Flagstaff Area Monuments throughout the summer. This particular project at Sunset Crater has been ongoing for the past few months. Crews have been creating a new trail on Lenox Crater, a smaller crater that lies just east of the monument’s main attraction, Sunset Crater.

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The previous Lennox Crater trail was very wide, steep, and unsustainable. Its replacement was necessary to minimize the number of social trails that visitors were creating to make the hike easier.

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The crew recently completed the trail, and moved on to conceal and restore the original path. They used a grip hoist to tension a highline rope in order to move buckets of volcanic cinders up the steep slope. This process began with several ACE corps members filling buckets with cinders. These buckets were then loaded into a nylon sling which was attached to a snatch block, basically a large hook. One corps member operated the grip hoist downslope, while three others corps members utilized a ‘fireline’ technique to haul the load uphill. They deposited the cinders over the old path to conceal it and match it to the surrounding landscape.

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Finally, a corps member would drag the snatch block back downhill and the process would start over. The ACE crew worked directly with NPS employees, including Dale Thomas, who is a member of the ACE alumni. The project will be beneficial to visitors of the monument, creating a more pleasant trail, but it will also help to preserve the landscape for years to come.

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Congaree National Park

We recently posted about our ACE Southeast crew that were busy clearing 14 miles of the popular Cedar Creek Canoe Trail in Congaree National Park. We’re delighted to announce that due to the hard work of corps members the crew completed Phase I of the project after just 6 weeks.

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As a result, the crew found themselves back on land, assisting NPS staff with maintenance of the park’s 30+ miles of trails. The first task was to remove unwanted vegetation from campgrounds and roads with hand tools and brush cutters.

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Next up, the crew tackled a huge fallen log that was blocking a hiking trail. Here they used the grip hoist and crosscut saw to remove the obstruction.

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Field Operations Manager Josh Burt explained some of the differences of working in the East, compared to ACE’s desert heartlands: “Working in the East has positive and negative aspects. From an invasive species management perspective, there is a lot of work to do, a lot to combat. But, in doing trail work, we have some advantages…For example, we’re removing this log from the trail by dragging it over the land. In this environment the marks made by this movement will soon be unnoticeable, whereas wouldn’t do that in the deserts of Arizona; the marks on the landscape would last for many years. So although some challenges are much greater there are more options available for how to deal with them.”

The ACE Southeast crew will continue to assist NPS staff and will return to work on Cedar Creek in the weeks to come.

Hazard Tree Removal in Los Alamos, NM

A crew of 5 ACE sawyers just returned from a project removing 2 miles of hazard tress which posed a risk to ski trails around the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in New Mexico. This area had been affected by the 2011 Las Conchas Fire which burned 150,000 acres and threatened the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the nearby town of Los Alamos. After five days of burning it became the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history, although this record was broken in 2012 and the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire.

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So what makes a tree a ‘hazard tree’? The US Forest Service describes a hazard tree as ‘…a tree with structural defects likely to cause failure of all or part of the tree…” Effectively, hazard trees are dead but remain standing. They pose a danger to the public as they can fall without warning. It is therefore important to remove them from the vicinity of the trail, or ski run, to ensure the safety of the public.

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ACE sawyers are selected for Hazard Tree Felling based upon several criteria: Positive feedback from project partners and ACE Crew Leaders, demonstrating that they are interested and capable of progressing their saw skills, and, most importantly, having ample experience with the saw so that they can complete hazard tree cutting techniques safely and efficiently.

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The hazard tree training includes a review of different tree species that they may find, tree fiber structures and their effects on the felling of a tree, how to size up a complex tree, advanced cutting techniques and cuts, cut selection, and advanced wedging techniques. It’s also important the sawyers know a ‘walk away situation’ – a tree that cannot be safely felled at that time.

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At the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area the ACE sawyers felled a total of 109 hazard trees over 9 days, helping to secure the area in advance of the 2015 ski season.

Hazard Tree Crew

Hazard Tree Crew

Mesa Verde Crew

Today we welcome back a crew returning from Mesa Verde National Park in Southwest Colorado who for the past week the crew has focused on eliminating the highly invasive species Russian Knapweed from along the Mancos River within the park.

The Mesa Verde crew

The Mesa Verde crew

On the first day of the hitch, however, the river was swollen with monsoon rains. Since it was therefore unsafe to work by the river the crew worked with NPS staff to eradicate invasive musk thistle in a different location in the park.

Removing Musk Thistle

Removing Musk Thistle

Corps members removed the blooms from the musk thistle plants by either pulling them by hand or snipping with pruners. They cut the stalks to waist level height so other corps members came through and sprayed the stalks with Milestone herbicide to prevent the regrowth of the invasive.

Pruning the musk thistle

Pruning the musk thistle

The musk thistle can spread extremely rapidly because of the high seed production–almost 120,000 per plant!

Spraying the musk thistle

Spraying the musk thistle

Ecological restoration is something ACE corps members dedicate themselves to during their term of service. Part of restoring a native plant community to its original state is the removal of invasive, destructive species followed by the planting of native species.

The fruits of labor

The fruits of labor

Corps to Career: Veteran and ACE Alum Dale Thomas

American Conservation Experience is proud to showcase a former AmeriCorps member, Crew Leader, and United States Veteran, Dale Thomas.

Dale has had a long history of service. Not only in serving his community through volunteerism, but also serving his country. For 7 years Dale served with the Arizona Army National Guard, 819th Engineer Company. Joining the National Guard was the way he was going to help pay for his college tuition and do something meaningful with his life.

Dale Thomas serving military

Dale Thomas serving in the military

Serving our country while attending college at Northern Arizona University showed Dale’s dedication not only to the homeland but also to his education. While studying Parks and Recreation Management and Park Protection he was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. School was put on hold while he served.

“Our mission was Route Clearance, where we helped a lot of people by clearing IED’s (improvised explosive devices) from both paved and dirt roads to allow our own NATO forces, Afghan army and police, and local public to safely travel the roads. After this year long adventure, I returned to finish out school.”

After he returned from his deployment in Afghanistan Dale completed a final internship and a Wilderness First Responder course in order to receive his degree. Through NAU Dale found American Conservation Experience. Although Dale would have to travel with ACE, and be away from his wife and family, he decided it would help him meet his goal of working towards improving our natural resources.

Dale in ACE

Dale when serving as a Crew Leader with ACE

“ACE sounded like a really cool opportunity so I went for it. It was definitely worth it! In the beginning of my term I had fairly minimal experience in any of the tasks I performed in ACE. Through the service learning model I was trained in trail design, layout, construction, and maintenance; dry and wet stone masonry; archaeological ruin preservation, fencing construction and repair, and greatly improved my knowledge and skills with a chainsaw. Dry masonry and fencing turned out to be my favorite projects along with sawing. I also made quite a few connections. Once I was a crew leader, I had a lot of contact with different project partners. Many of them gave me their information and offered to be references and even offered some jobs. Which is how I got where I am now. Working for the National Park Service”

Dale spent quite a bit of his time with ACE working at the National Park Service, Flagstaff Area Monuments (Walnut Canyon National Monument, Sunset Crater National Monument, and Wupatki National Monument) and was able to make professional connections with the staff and management at these parks. Securing a position with NPS, Flagstaff Area Monuments, Dale is now a Maintenance Worker at the park. His tasks include working on trails such as the new Lenox Crater Trail at Sunset Crater NM, and doing general maintenance work such as repairing the Walnut Canyon visitor center.

When asked to speak to the next generation of corps members who may be interested in volunteerism and the conservation corps movement, Dale has some great advice:

“Be diligent and keep a good eye out for opportunities. Seek and utilize opportunities for training. These will improve your skill and knowledge base. Practice being calm, cool, and collected and rely upon your training as this is what your mind will revert to in split second decisions. Don’t give up on what you want. Finally, learn and employ techniques of resiliency; don’t let setbacks keep you down. ACE was a great place to do these things and I felt like I was fulfilling those goals of mine.”

We are proud to feature ACE Alumnus, Dale Thomas. We feel honored that ACE played a role in his service-learning experience, and helped him achieve his goal of turning his corps experience into the career of his dreams.

For more information on ACE Alumni
Contact susie@usaconservation.org

Catching up with EPIC Interns

Although our conservation corps is centralized in the intermountain region of Utah, Arizona, and North Carolina, and in California, ACE also has an Emerging Professional Internship Corps (EPIC) whose geographic scope spans across the entire country. This past week our photojournalist caught up with the three interpretation interns who work between the National Monuments in the Verde Valley of Arizona: Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, and Tuzigoot.

ACE EPIC Interns at Northern Arizona's National Monuments

ACE EPIC Interns at Montezuma Well National Monument

The ACE interns work alongside National Park Service employees each day. They act as the front line representatives of the National Monuments by interacting one-on-one with visitors; answering questions, selling park passes, and roving the trails. During their internship each individual is required to develop a unique personal program to deliver to visitors.

EPIC Intern engages the monument's visitors

EPIC Intern Dana Henze engages the monument’s visitors

“There’s so much history here,” said Dana Henze, who has been an intern at the monuments for 2 months. “And it’s a great learning opportunity. It is a great way to get a foot in the door and learn about the ins and outs of the Park Service. I hope to become a wildlife biologist for the National Park Service someday, and I feel that this internship is helping to prepare me for that career,” she explained.

Dana Henze

EPIC Intern Dana Henze

The EPIC internship program allows youth to explore, connect, and preserve America’s natural and cultural resources as they gain professional skills and cultivate their careers in the resource management field. For further details, including how to apply, visit EPIC’s dedicated program pages.

ACE Crews @ Grand Canyon National Park

Every year, ACE crews have the privilege to work in arguably one of the most beautiful National Parks in the country—the Grand Canyon. ACE’s summer work season always begins with work on the north rim of the canyon, and once complete, crews move to the south rim.

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They perform routine maintenance including cleaning water bars and check steps, re-dirting the trail where necessary, and clearing out irrigation ditches. They focus on the three main historic corridor trails: North and South Kaibab, and Bright Angel.

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These trails are the most popular in the park, and have a very high volume of pedestrian and mule traffic. “Trails at the Grand Canyon are so different,” explained crew leader Evan Thibodeau. “The trails drainages are on the inslope, which is opposite of most trails. The work we are doing is an effort to help prevent erosion from the outside of the trail.”

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The work that ACE crews do in Grand Canyon National Park is imperative to prepare the trails for the onslaught of traffic and monsoon rains that they will sustain this summer.

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Tents for Nepal Appeal Update

ACE Founder and President Chris Baker leading efforts to prepare the tents for shipment to Nepal

ACE Founder and President Chris Baker leading efforts to prepare the tents for shipment to Nepal

Last week ACE Founder and President Chris Baker, the ACE Santa Cruz office staff, and AmeriCorps members began preparing the tents donated to the Tents for Nepal for shipment to Nepal. Due to the generosity of ACE’s followers, members of the public, and Sport Chalet/Eastern Mountain Sports, the Santa Cruz office was overwhelmed with tents, and preparing the shipment was a large undertaking!

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ACE CA Staff and Americorps members after packing a UHaul truck with tents

ACE CA Staff and Americorps members after packing a UHaul truck with tents

We are delighted to announce that earlier this week the first shipment of tents arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal. Furthermore the second shipment is departing on Thursday May 21st, with a third larger shipment scheduled for departure during the last week in May.

Some of the first tents to arrive in Nepal, outside the Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness (ECCA) main office in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Some of the first tents to arrive in Nepal, outside the Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness (ECCA) main office in Kathmandu, Nepal.

We have also received some pictures of the tents arriving with families in areas hard hit by the two recent earthquakes.

Until the arrival of the donated tents this lady and 13 others had been living under the blue tarp. Now an alternative has arrived (below).

Until the arrival of the donated tents this lady and 13 others were living under the blue tarp.

Local Nepalese constructing a donated tent. The family who will utilize these tents were up until this point living under a tarp (above).

Local Nepalese constructing a donated tent. Up until this point they had been living under a tarp with more than 10 other people

ACE would like to thank all of the generous donors to the Tents for Nepal appeal, and the volunteers and AmeriCorps members who helped prepare the shipment in our Santa Cruz office. This appeal is ongoing and we will continue to provide updates from Nepal as we receive them.

8 things you didn’t know about…

…AmeriCorps.

Next week, March 9 – 13 2015, is AmeriCorps Week, a time when the commitment of AmeriCorps members and alums, and the extraordinary impact AmeriCorps makes across our nation every day, is highlighted and recongized.

With AmeriCorps Week just a few days away we thought it was time for an education on AC. So here were present ‘8 things you did not know about AmeriCorps’. Thanks to Ben Pohl, our AmeriCorps Program Supervisor in Salt Lake City, for sharing his knowledge and experience of the AmeriCorps program!

  1. You can join AmeriCorps Alums BEFORE you finish up your program and reap the benefits of the group such as networking with 10s of thousands of AmeriCorps members, receive free online tax prep, and utilizes their free online resources. Click here to find out more and join!
  2. AmeriCorps was formed with a bipartisan effort from former Republican President George Bush Senior and former Democratic President Bill Clinton.
  3. There are over 75,000 AmeriCorps members each year and more than 900,000 thousand AmeriCorps members have contributed over 1.2 billion service hours
  4. AmeriCorps serve on projects in the issue areas of environmental stewardship, disaster services, economic opportunity, education, healthy futures, and veterans and military families.
  5. Some schools will match your Eli Segal education award! Click here to see a list of schools that will match your award. Contact the school directly for more details.
  6. If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new specialized skill, your Ed award can help pay for the classes towards your new hobby. Alums have previously used their ed award towards specialized classes, such as photography, EMT training, and even SCUBA certification. With all of these options, make sure to check with your education institution or student loan companies to see if they accept the Ed award as a form of payment.
  7. You can wait to use your education award until 7 years. If it is cutting is close to the 7 years you can apply for an extension!
  8. The Eli Segal Education award can be transferred to your spouse or children. Click here to find out more information.

If you know of additional little-known facts of the AmeriCorps program please feel free to share them in the comments below.

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