Empowering Our Future Conservation and Climate Stewards Virtual Event

Virtual event graphic
During National Park Week, join the National Park Service Youth Programs Division, The Corps Network, the National Park Foundation, and AmeriCorps for the virtual event, Then/Now/Tomorrow: Empowering Our Future Conservation and Climate Stewards on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, from 2:00pm-3:30pm ET. The National Park Service has a long history of collaborating with Service and Conservation Corps and other youth-serving organizations to engage teens and young adults in service projects and education in our parks. In this event, hear current and former Corps participants share their experience working and serving on public lands. We will discuss sustainability, accessibility, historic preservation, and climate change in parks, and explore how the next generation of stewards can get involved in helping to maintain and improve our public lands. With the recent launch of the American Climate Corps, this is an exciting time to learn about how parks and national service programs go hand-in-hand. Join us!

This event is open to the public. It will be recorded and an ASL interpreter will be available during the event. If you need a reasonable accommodation, please email us before the event. Follow us @NPSYouth and #NPSYouth & #NPSYoungAdults on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram. Feel free to also share the Facebook event page and LinkedIn event page too.

Scroll down to watch the event recording, or view it on YouTube!

Event Details



  • Nichole McHenry, Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion Program Manager, National Park Service


  • Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO, The Corps Network
  • Tracey Ritchie, Vice President of Education and Engagement, National Park Foundation
  • Yasmeen Shaheen-McConnell, Senior Advisor for Strategic Partnerships, AmeriCorps
  • Jamie Crispin, Youth Programs Manager for the Youth & Young Adult Programs Division, National Park Service

Panel Discussion

  • Jenna Miladin, PhD Student, Great Basin Institute (2024 Corpsmember of the Year)
  • Mason Bunker, Srategic Planning Coordinator, National Parks of Boston Climate Conservation Corps
  • Sara Vélez Galíndez, Field Coordinator, BoriCorps (2024 Corpsmember of the Year)
  • Sara Doty, Corpsmember, Student Conservation Association and GulfCorps
  • Wooju Chong, Birdability Intern, Environment for the Americas
  • Olivia Hall, Corpsmember from the Piikuni Lands Crew, a partnership between Montana Conservation Corps and the Blackfeet Nation

Q&A Session

  • Nicole Mason, Service-wide MAT Coordinator, National Park Service
  • George McDonald, Senior Advisor for Youth Programs, U.S. Department of the Interior
  • Sandy Scott, Senior Advisor for Office of Strategic Partnerships, AmeriCorps

Closing Remarks

Watch the Event Recording

A screenshot of panelists in Zoom
Screnshot from left to right: ASL interpreter Kelly, Nichole McHenry (Moderator - NPS), Sara Doty (SCA and GulfCorps), Jenna Miladin (Great Basin Institute), Wooju Chong (Environment for the Americas), Olivia Hall (Montana Conservation Corps), Mason Bunker (Stewards Individual Placements)

NPS Photo

Read the event recap! Have any questions? Please email us!

Learn More About Our Participating Partners

National Park Service Youth and Young Adult Programs: nps.gov/subjects/youthprograms

The Corps Network: corpsnetwork.org

National Park Foundation: nationalparks.org

Student Conservation Association: https://www.thesca.org/

AmeriCorps: https://americorps.gov/

Meet the Speakers and Panelists

A woman smiling indoors
Nichole McHenry smiling

Photo Courtesy of Nichole McHenry

Nichole McHenry (Moderator) is the Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion Program Manager for the National Park Service. Before taking her current position, she served as the Volunteer Program Manager for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, managing the volunteer program for the 3700-mile-long trail. At an early age, Nichole was encouraged to focus on public speaking. In 1992, Nichole started her career at Lincoln Home National Historic. She then spent the next summer at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Elverson, PA. In August 1994, Nichole became a permanent ranger at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. In 2004, she moved to Topeka, Kansas to serve as the lead park ranger at Brown v Board of Education National Historic Site. Nichole has served at the Acting Superintendent at William Howard Taft National Historic Site, Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site and Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park. Nichole is a 2014 graduate of the Generating Operational Advancement and Leadership Academy (GOAL). A native of the East Saint Louis, IL, Nichole earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. When she’s not working, she enjoys shopping, traveling, cooking, listening to music, checking out new restaurants and spending time with family and friends.

A young woman smiles in a selfie
Sara smiling in front of a monument

Photo Courtesy of Sara Vélez Galíndez

Sara Velez Galindez has an educational background in archaeology from the University of Puerto Rico. She has served with BoriCorps/AmeriCorps from 2021 to 2023 at the San Juan National Historic Site. During her service, she participated in different projects, including turf restoration and trail maintenance. She also worked on short tasks focused on historic preservation and turf maintenance. Sara is one of the 2024 Corpsmembers of the Year.
A woman backpacking
Jenna smiling and working on a project

Photo Courtesy of Jenna Miladin

Jenna Miladin is a first-year PhD student at the University of Arkansas in the Department of Biological Sciences, which is advised by Dr. Maribeth Latvis. Her research aims to understand evolutionary drivers of rarity in the plant genus Silene and applies evolutionary biology methods in a conservation context. She completed her undergraduate and master's degree at Christopher Newport University, which was advised by Dr. Janet Steven. During this time, she began her journey with Americorps and the Great Basin Institute. She worked as a botany technician monitoring federally-listed species and worked on large-scale restoration projects for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Capitol Reef National Park, which helped develop research ideas she is currently exploring. Jenna is one of the 2024 Corpsmmebers of the Year.
A male wearing a beanie hat is smiling with water in the background
Mason Bunker smiling in uniform

Photo Courtesy of Mason Bunker

Mason Bunker began his journey into conservation and environmental research during his undergraduate years at Bates College, majoring in environmental studies. He focused on carbon sequestration, where he explored the potential benefits of carbon storage through mineralization and researched salt marshes as natural carbon sinks. His passion for the outdoors was nurtured from a young age and was inspired by visits to see his family in downeast Maine and Acadia, which drove his aspiration to work for the National Park Service. His professional journey led him to stewardship work at Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, where he honed his skills in conservation, interpretation, volunteer engagement, geographic informtion systems (GIS) mapping, and invasive plant monitoring. During his academic and professional journey, Mason has also delved into the critical realms of climate and environmental justice, recognizing the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental factors in shaping our world.

Now, Mason serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA and Strategic Planning Coordinator for the National Parks of Boston Climate Conservation Corps, a Conservation Legacy Stewards Individual Placements Program. Mason thrives in his role, engaging with program stakeholders across multiple disciplines of climate response. He develops strategic plans for program growth, purpose, and logistics, curating promotional materials for the Climate Conservation Corps, and supporting pilot year projects.
A woman smiling with clouds in the background
Sara smiling outside

Photo Courtesy of Sara Doty

Sara Doty’s love for nature was nurtured by a childhood spent in the gorgeous landscape of South Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, and from an integral three years spent living in Vermont. She has a bachelor of science in biology from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. During her time at university, she spent three years preparing all the materials and chemicals needed for biochemistry and organic chemistry labs. She participated in an internship at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. This internship opened her up to the world of conservation and led to her joining the Student Conservation Asociation's GulfCorps Conservation Crew based in South Texas from 2023-2024. At the beginning of term, she spent six weeks participating in longleaf pine restoration efforts at Big Thicket National Preserve. Since then, she has been traveling around South Texas, working on land restoration practices and invasive species management.
A woman smiling with leaves in the background
Wooju Chong outside in the fall

Photo courtesy of Wooju Chong

Wooju Chong is a graduate student at Stanford University. She is an accessibility intern working on-site at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. While she does not have any formal experience in birding, she was moved by Birdability’s mission of promoting inclusivity and awareness. She hopes to apply her lived experiences to further this mission of making the outdoors for everyone. She looks forward to engaging more with her local community and the lands that house said community. She also hopes to apply the lessons that she will learn through working alongside the Birdability staff to her ultimate goal of bolstering unheard voices and perspectives.
A woman smiling in front of a door
Olivia Hall outdoors

Photo Courtesy of Olivia Hall

Olivia Hall's passion for environmental science and resource conservation started at an early age while growing up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana. She received two associates degrees from the Blackfeet Community College, one in Environmental Science and the other in Hydrology. Her excitement and determination for the environment stems from her childhood spent outdoors on our reservation that borders Glacier National Park. She recently served as a crew leader for the Piikuni Lands crew, which is an all indigenous led conservation crew based on the Blackfeet Reservation. Our conservation projects consist of wildlife surveying, trail work, and invasive species monitoring all on the Blackfeet Reservation. The crew leader role has allowed her to practice her passion as an environmentalist specifically on her ancestral homelands and has also solidified her career in environmental science. Currently, she is an undergraduate student at the University of Montana studying environmental science and resource conservation. She has now taken on the role of the Piikuni Lands Crew Field Coordinator under the Montana Conservation Corps, which will further her knowledge and aspirations of being an environmental steward.
A woman smiling with logos in the background
Mary Ellen Sprenkel smiling

Photo Courtesy of Mary Ellen Sprenkel

Mary Ellen came to The Corps Network in March 2008 as Director of Government Relations, becoming CEO in 2012. During her tenure, Service and Conservation Corps have gained recognition among lawmakers and policymakers throughout the federal government. Legislation that would expand and bolster youth programs, including Service and Conservation Corps, has been routinely introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. In recent years, Mary Ellen served as a member of the Federal Advisory Committee tasked with providing recommendations to federal land management agencies on how to implement a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.

Prior to her time at The Corps Network, Mary Ellen spent 10 years on Capitol Hill, including two years on the House Committee on Education and Labor, handling postsecondary education, training, and life-long learning programs. She also worked for Representatives Matthew G. Martinez (D-CA) and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY). Mary Ellen also previously served as Vice President of Government Relations at the Education Finance Council, and spent two years as the Assistant to the President of the University of Montana.
Tracey Ritchie smiling
Tracey Ritchie smiling

Photo Courtesy of Tracey Ritchie

Tracey Ritchie joined the National Park Foundation team as the Vice President of Education and Engagement in August of 2021 and oversees all aspects of program management and grantmaking for the Connecting Audiences team. She also serves as a key liaison to the National Park Service Office of Interpretation, Education, & Volunteers and the Office of Workforce & Inclusion. Tracey works closely with the National Park Foundation leadership and philanthropy teams to raise funds from institutional funders, individual donors, and corporate partners to support the programmatic needs and growth of the Connecting Audiences portfolio.
George McDonald Bio Photo
George McDonald smiling

Photo Courtesy of George McDonald

George McDonald currently serves as the Senior Advisor for Youth Programs at the U.S.Department of the Interior and was the former Chief of the National Park Service Youth Programs Division for the National Park Service. In this role, George had led successful efforts to launch numerous programs designed to enhance and increase the number of underserved, minority and disadvantaged youth participating in park activities and engaging in employment and educational opportunities in parks. Significantly, he helped launch the National Park Service's Youth Intern Program in 2009 to provide youth and young adults an intellectually challenging experience and exposure to a range of NPS job opportunities.

George has partnered with numerous 21CSC organizations, helping to develop such programs as the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Internship in collaboration with the Greening Youth Foundation, the Latino Heritage Internship Program, and the Mosaics in Science Internship Program with Environment for the Americas. George has not only championed the 21CSC within NPS, but has taken time to write congressional responses and inform leaders across the Department of the Interior about the value of this initiative.
Yasmeen smiling outdoors
Yasmeen smiling outdoors

Photo Courtesy of Yasmeen Shaheen-McConnell

Yasmeen Shaheen-McConnell’s professional experience centers on making national service part of growing up in America. Most recently, she served as managing director of strategic partnerships at Service Year Alliance, where she led initiatives including the Serve America Together campaign, stakeholder engagement, and convenings for leaders inside and outside the national service network. Shaheen-McConnell helped start the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute, where she designed and ran a fellowship program for rising leaders across the country. She was a business development consultant with News Deeply, a new media and technology startup, and managed programs and the Arab American Census Information Center at the Arab American Institute and Foundation. Shaheen-McConnell is a proud AmeriCorps alumna, and served in 2008 with the Arab American Resource Corps in a community support and cultural resource position before becoming a supervisor for future members. She earned a bachelor's degree from George Washington University and a master's degree from Harvard Divinity School.
A man smiling with American flag in the background
Sandy smiling

Photo Courtesy of Sandy Scott

Sandy Scott is the Senior Advisor in the Office of Strategic Partnerships at AmeriCorps, Scott co-leads the agency’s climate change initiatives; develops interagency collaborations; and advises on policy, strategy, partnerships, and engagements. He has served at AmeriCorps since 1995 in a variety of positions, including Director of Public Affairs, State Commission Liaison, Press Secretary, Director of Government Relations, and Senior Writer. In 2020, he served on a year-long detail as Director of Government Affairs and External Relations at the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Prior to AmeriCorps, he worked on Capitol Hill for seven years as a professional staff member of the House Natural Resources Committee and as a legislative assistant for a Member of Congress from Minnesota. He has also worked at environmental and civic engagement organizations in Texas and California. Scott has a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor’s degree from Yale University.
A woman with sunglasses smiling outdoors
Jamie Crispin outdoors

Photo Courtesy of Jamie Crispin

Jamie Crispin is a proud product and advocate of national service. From serving as a Team Leader for AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) in Charleston, S.C. to being a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English as a foreign language in Ukraine, volunteering has always been a core value of hers. Jamie has worked on many sides of the national service family. As a Unit Leader, she was part of the team to open the AmeriCorps NCCC North Central Campus in Vinton, Iowa. Later, she managed an AmeriCorps Seniors Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) grant and supervised AmeriCorps VISTA members at a small nonprofit. She served as the Deputy Director at the Kansas Volunteer Commission, where she was instrumental in the state commission becoming the first Service Enterprise Initiative (SEI) organization in Kansas. More recently, she worked as a Senior Portfolio Manager with AmeriCorps where she managed over 110+ national service grants in both Missouri and Iowa. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Warwick in England. Originally from Erie, Penn., she lives in Blue Springs, MO with her two children, August and Abel. On most weekends, you can find her hiking with her dog, Roma.

Last updated: May 20, 2024