36 Young Adults Graduate From Maryland Conservation Corps

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36 Young Adults Graduate From Maryland Conservation Corps Annapolis — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources recognized 36 young adults graduating from the Maryland Conservation Corps (MCC) on Thursday at Assateague Island State Park in Worcester County. Each corps member was commended for completing more than 1,700 hours of community service for Maryland state parks.

“The dedication of these young adults is truly exemplary,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Their service in teaching others about our environment and hands-on work to maintain and improve our state parks benefit not only every Marylander, but also our land, waters, and wildlife. They should each be very proud of their great contributions and I thank them for their hard work.”

Aged 17 to 25, the 2008 graduating class of Maryland Conservation Corps hail from Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Caroline, Carroll, Charles, Garrett, Harford, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Wicomico counties, as well as other states across the country. Over the last year, corps members led environmental education programs for thousands of youth, maintained trails and natural areas, and completed improvement and shoreline restoration projects at parks across the state.

“As a member of the MCC, I had the opportunity to be involved in really challenging and interesting activities within Maryland’s parks, like teaching workshops to children and planting native wildlife along the Potomac shoreline,” said Tyler Bledsoe of Denton, Md., a graduate of the Tuckahoe State Park MCC crew. “I’m kind of sad to leave because I’ve made some really great friendships with the people on my crew. It’s been a cool experience and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to get involved with the parks.”

MCC crews planted native wildlife along the Potomac River shoreline and at Blackwater Refuge in Cambridge. Five corps members were dispatched this year to help fight wildfires in California and other western states. This summer, MCC corps members also helped manage the new Civic Justice Corps created by Governor Martin O’Malley last April. On August 8, Governor O’Malley will speak at the CJC graduation. The MCC crew serving at Patapsco Valley State Park helped prepare the new Nature Center for a grand opening slated for next year.

“My favorite part of the program this year was the stream waders activity, in which we collected water samples from 13 different streams around the state, testing for water quality and for the presence of invertebrates,” said Jennifer Miller of Finger Lakes, NY, a graduate of Southern Maryland MCC crew. “Helping out around the park was one of the most rewarding jobs.”

At the graduation ceremony, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Eric Schwaab praised the positive impact of the MCC members on the state’s public lands and people who visit them, “The Maryland Conservation Corps helps to usher in a new era in which people recognize state parks as a place where they can reconnect with nature, and that as Marylanders, we have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to care for our environment.”

The MCC is accepting applications through Sept. 30 for the 2008-2009 program year. The MCC is an award-winning AmeriCorps program that engages young adults in extensive natural resource management and park conservation projects. Managed by the Maryland Park Service since 1984, MCC provides members with opportunities for skill development and personal growth through a supportive, team-based environment, emphasizing the satisfaction of completing projects that benefit Maryland’s natural resources.

The MCC recently received the prestigious national ECO-Corps honors from The Corps Network. The Excellence in Corps Operations recognition highlighted the unique and successful elements of the Maryland Conservation Corps, including supportive stakeholder partnerships, high-quality projects, strong corps team and staff leadership, successful budget management and entrepreneurial operation style.

For more information about the Maryland Conservation Corps, visit http://www.dnr.maryland.state.gov/mcc.