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The benefits of Conservation Corps

Research About Corps 


(from The Corps Network )



While studies that determine the effectiveness of Corps programs are not as numerous as we would like, in recent years a growing body of research provides evidence that Corps are effective at achieving many of their goals. Below some of these studies are described as well as their key findings.

Additionally, a recent national survey revealed enormous support among American voters for youth corps in the context of national parks. Of those who responded, 86% were favorable to the idea of expanding the the use of citizen volunteerism and youth conservation corps in the parks.


2013 PLSC Evaluation


Mat Duerden, Michael Edwards, & Telyn Peterson 

Key Findings:  The purpose of the evaluation was to build upon previous corps-related evaluation efforts by assessing the impact of the corps experience on participants in terms of targeted outcomes (e.g., civic engagement, leadership, etc.), their intentions to pursue additional education, and their confidence to obtain employment. The evaluation also looked at the association between demographic and program characteristics with the experience on participants. Statistically significant increases were observed across all outcome measures in contrast to the general population comparison group (see Figure 1). The greatest growth occurred on the Teamwork, Community Engagement, Leadership, and Environmental Engagement measures. Results also indicated younger participants (under 18) experienced significantly more growth in Environmental Engagement, Teamwork, SelfResponsibility, Critical Thinking, and Communication than older participants. Participants were also asked about the overall importance they ascribed to various program components. On average, opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills were most important to corps participants. Opportunities to gain more education and the quality of provided equipment were perceived as less important. 


2012 PLSC Evaluation 


Mat Duerden, Michael Edwards, & Robin Lizzo 

Key Findings:The purpose of the evaluation was to build upon previous corps-related evaluation efforts by assessing the impact of the corps experience on participants in terms of targeted outcomes (e.g., civic engagement, leadership, etc.), their intentions to pursue natural resource education and career paths, and their intentions to participate in outdoor recreation activities. Significant increases were observed across all outcome measures in contrast to the general population comparison group. In terms of community and conservation efforts, participants reported significantly increased community engagement, positive attitudes toward public lands, and environmental activism. Corps participation was also associated with significantly increased developmental outcomes, with participants reporting increases in their ability to work in teams, leadership skills, self-responsibility, grit, and communication skills. While corps participants entered programs with higher intention to pursue education and careers related to natural resource management than non-participants did, corps participation intensified this commitment. Finally, participants were more likely to report intentions to engage in outdoor recreational activities and purchase related equipment and gear. 



2011 PLSC Evaluation  


Mat Duerden, Michael Edwards, & Robin Lizzo 

Key Findings:  The purpose of this study was to gauge the impact of a corps experience for outcomes like civic engagement and leadership, as well as in Corpsmembers’ intentions to pursue related career paths and participate in outdoor recreation activities. Current Corpsmembers were surveyed at their corps, and a comparison group was surveyed using an online pool.

Participants were more likely to report that they planned to participate in outdoor recreation in the future and were more likely to spend money on outdoor recreation gear. Corpsmembers were also more likely to have intentions of pursuing national resource management careers and education than the comparison group. Finally, participants saw statistically significant increases in all individual impacts like community engagement and attitudes towards public lands.



2012 Booz Allen Hamilton Conservation Corps Project Analysis 


Key Findings:  Commissioned by the National Park Service, researchers compared the cost of NPS projects from around the country. Corps crews were consistently the least expensive option compared to both NPS crews and private contractors. Using conservations corps instead of NPS crews saved, on average 65%; Using conservation corps instead of contractor crews had an average savings of 83%. For the 15 projects included in this study, Corps crews had an average savings of $50,000 per project over NPS crews.



A Consensual Qualitative Research Study of the Transformation from High School Dropout to Graduate:


Corpsmember Outcomes and Influencing Factors  

Jayne Smith, the former director of Urban Corps of San Diego’s Counseling Clinic, recently completed her doctoral dissertation on the kinds of outcomes Corpsmembers report experiencing after their service in a Corps program (specifically, Urban Corps of San Diego - UCO). Overall, Jayne found that the Corpsmembers in her study had very positive experiences; among other things, they largely reported having learned important skills, learned about themselves, and gained newfound confidence during their service in UCO. 

For her study, Jayne used a qualitative research approach and interviewed 15 former Urban Corps members who graduated between the fall of 2009 and the fall of 2010. This time range was selected to overlap with the time period during which Jayne was employed by UCO, and to allow Corpsmembers a period of time after their graduation to pursue jobs or educational opportunities and reflect on the Corps experience.

As Jayne states, the goal of her study “…was to better understand the Corpsmember process of change and long-term outcomes from the perspective of UCO graduates.” Through collecting over 13 hours of interviews with the 15 graduates, Jayne developed a picture of what Corpsmembers thought about their service in UCO and what they perceived as the personal benefits of such service. Her research also looks at the factors that could potentially affect whether a Corpsmember reported having a positive Corps experience and positive outcomes. The study includes suggestion for ways to develop Corps programs that better serve Corpsmembers and help them attain these favorable results.

Click here to read the full Executive Summary of her dissertation, “A Consensual Qualitative Research Study of the Transformation from High School Dropout to Graduate: Corpsmember Outcomes and Influencing Factors.”

Here are a few of the study’s key findings:   

  • 100% reported learning academic and professional skills, with 14 out of the 15 participants reporting having used such skills post program

  • 93.33% reported “positive attitudinal and behavioral changes across time”

  • 80% reported being employed in at least temporary/part-time jobs

  • 14 out of 15 former Corpsmembers stated that they learned how to be more serious

  • 86.67% reported that they learned not to be afraid to try new things

  • Over 93.33% stated that the Corps staff, teachers and environment were “positive, supportive and caring”

  • “Issues with family, gangs, education, money, personal, education and specific academic organizationswere reported at a decreased frequency while Corpsmembers were in the program.”

  • Participants who compared their experience with UCO with their experience in traditional high schools all reported having more favorable experiences with UCO


Conservation Corps Boost Youth Leadership, Community Service and Outdoor Involvement According to 2011 Study


Young people who participate in Conservation Corps exhibit improved leadership skills, community engagement, and environmental stewardship according to a recent nationwide evaluation. The study, conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University, assessed participants from 10 member Corps of the Public Lands Service Coalition against a random comparison group.

Using data collected during the 2011 program season, researchers found that after a season of service, Corpsmembers displayed numerous developmental advantages. These include enhanced leadership and teamwork skills as well as a greater willingness to accept responsibility for personal actions. Intensified engagement with the land was evinced by stronger interest in outdoor recreation. Ninety-five percent of Corps alumni indicate they plan to go backpacking within the next year, versus just 23% of the comparison group. Another 91% of Corps participants plan to purchase outdoor recreation gear within the next year, and to spend substantially more than their nonparticipant peers.

In addition, Corps participants’ interest in natural resource management careers increased during their service, while non-participants’ interest in such jobs actually declined during the same time period.


2011 National Evaluation of Youth Corps Shows Positive Impact of Youth Corps on Education and Employment Levels of Youth


The results of a six year study evaluating the impact of Youth Corps indicate that Corps have a positive impact on employment levels and educational achievement for the young people who enroll. According to the study,“National Evaluation of Youth Corps: Findings at Follow Up,” which was funded by the Corporation for National & Community Service and conducted by Abt Associates Inc., educational enrollment and employment by corpsmembers increased from 50% to 67% over the course of the study.

In addition, the percentage of Corpsmembers possessing a High School Diploma or GED increased from 57 to 82 percent. In other words, 58 percent of those Corpsmembers that enrolled without a high school credential obtained one during their tenure in a Corps. Nearly two thirds of program participants (63.9 percent) said that their participation in a Corps helped them secure a job, and three out of four (77.1 percent) said the Youth Corps experience gave them a job-hunting advantage. Program participants reported extraordinarily high satisfaction rates with nearly 90 percent claiming to be “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the youth Corps experience.


1997 Abt Associates/ Brandeis University Random Assignment Study


Concluded that Youth Service and Conservation Corps are an Invaluable Resource for Young People

According to the study, Corps generate a positive return on investment and the youth involved were positively affected by joining a Corps. The report documents that:

• Significant employment and earnings gains accrue to young people who join a Corps;
• Positive outcomes are particularly striking for African-American men;
• Arrest rates drop by one third among all Corpsmembers; and
• Out-of-wedlock pregnancy rates drop among female Corpsmembers.

Abt Associates documents several factors to which the effectiveness of Corps is attributed:
• Comprehensiveness of services;
• Supportive and dedicated program staff;
• Quality of the service projects;
• Intensity of the service experience; and
• Corpsmembers have access to an expanded social network


Our land managers are our partners, that's why we ensure quality project management.

Corpsmember development is our priority, so we collaborate with national service experts.

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