02/04/2013 03:23 pm ET Updated Apr 06, 2013

Where They Are Now: Charting the Careers of 6 Service and Conservation Corps Alumni

By Hannah Traverse, Communications Assistant, The Corps Network

Corps help young people gain the skills they need to become productive, successful adults. No two Corps programs are exactly alike, but all of them provide Corpsmembers with hands-on work experience. Depending on the Corps they join, a young man or woman might gain training in construction, firefighting, weatherization, emergency medical response, and a whole host of other occupations. All Corpsmembers also learn leadership skills.

You might be wondering, do Corpsmembers actually put all this instruction to use?

Yes! They absolutely do.

Here are just a few examples of former Corpsmembers who went on to pursue awesome careers.

Germain Castellanos
Youth development

Germain was unemployed and didn't have his high school diploma when he joined Youth Conservation Corps of Illinois at the age of 21. He had been involved with gang violence and drugs as a teenager, resulting in a misdemeanor conviction and his expulsion from school. As he got a little older, Germain began to look for ways to give back to the community he once hurt. He eventually turned to YCC. Through the Corps, Germain gained stability, he earned his GED, he gained confidence, and he learned valuable leadership skills. In 2008, Germain went back to the same high school from which he'd been expelled to launch a program that helps troubled teens graduate and go to college. Read his full story here.

Patricia Bohnwagner
National Guard Reservist/Postal employee, working toward a nursing degree

Patricia moved to California after her high school graduation so she could live with her sister and help care for her nephew. It would be an understatement to say the two sisters did not get along; at one point Patricia was kicked out of the house and forced to couch-surf for six months to avoid sleeping on the streets. Patricia needed to find some stability and make a plan for the future. She'd seen a newspaper ad for Urban Corps of San Diego and thought she might give the Corps a try. Little did Patricia know that she'd end up working for Urban Corps for the next seven years. Though she left the Corps in 2009, Patricia has continued to serve her community as a United States Postal Worker, and she serves her country as a medic in the California Army National Guard. Read her full story here.

Diony Gamoso
Environmental conservationist

After graduating from college, Diony Gamoso held a number of short-term internships and jobs related to his degree in wildlife biology. Diony loved nature, but he also discovered he had a passion for teaching. He eventually took a job as a Crewleader with Conservation Corps North Bay in Marin County, California; the job offered Diony a chance to learn more about conservation while also gaining experience working with young people. He ended up staying with the Corps for three years, leaving in 2006 to become a high school science teacher. However, after a year in the classroom, Diony realized he was happiest in the field. Diony now works to protect the Presidio in San Francisco, and he operates his own creek conservation group in Oakland. Through the group, Diony continues to teach kids and adults alike to be good environmental stewards. Read his full story here.

De'Andre Alexander

De'Andre Alexander says that in the past he was described by others as "cool, but also disloyal, dishonest, and disobedient." After committing an armed robbery in 2007, De'Andre was arrested and went to jail. After his release he joined Operation Fresh Start; a Corps in Madison, Wis., that's designed to help youth get back on their feet after involvement with the justice system. While in the Corps, De'Andre learned carpentry, completed a few college credits, and most importantly learned how to manage his anger. He says the Corps also helped him understand the importance of punctuality, reliability, and tolerance for others. Now De'Andre is involved in a year 4-year apprenticeship to become an ironworker. Read his full story here.

Afton McKusick
Chainsaw instructor

Afton loved nature and didn't want some boring summer job that forced her to stay inside all day. Fortunately, the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) in Flagstaff, Ariz., had just started a youth corps. Through the Corps, Afton realized that her love of the outdoors could translate into a Career. She spent the better part of the next nine years working for CREC as an Assistant Crew Leader, a Crew Leader, an Assistant Field Coordinator, and eventually as a staff member. Overlapping with her years at CREC, Afton earned her associate's degree in environmental science and worked for the National Forest Service. These days Afton works as a chainsaw instructor for the Arizona branch of American Conservation Experience (ACE). Read her full story here.

Christopher Thomas
Power lineman

Chris Thomas joined the United States Marine Corps not long after he came of age. During his four years of service, which included tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Chris was wounded twice. He received shrapnel in the chest and was stabbed once, leading to a medical discharge. It was soon after this that he joined the California Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC helped Chris transition from military-life to civilian-life; he continued to serve his country, but while also relearning how to work with people who didn't all share the same clothes, the same haircut, and the same Marine Corps values. He learned tolerance and patience. Chris went on to become a certified power lineman. Read his full story here.

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