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Shawnee National Forest’s Kelly Pearson named Champion of the Year and Employee of the Quarter

Shawnee National Forest’s Kelly Pearson named Champion of the Year for her work to develop the next generation of resource professionals, outdoor enthusiasts and community leaders, says Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.

“This is the highlight of my career,” says Pearson, whose work has engaged thousands of people. She will be honored Feb. 12 at the annual Partnership for the 21CSC meeting in Washington, D.C.


“The fate of conservation is in the hands of innovators like Kelly who create opportunities for young people to connect with and learn about nature,” says Brendan Cain, the forest supervisor for Shawnee National Forest. “From Greencorps Chicago to college students looking for an alternative spring break, she is teaching people how to conserve our nation’s forests.”


Shawnee National Forest recently recognized Pearson’s achievement and her hard work by naming her the forest’s Employee of the Quarter.


People donate about 14,450 hours of their time each year through Shawnee Volunteer Corps, a program that Pearson created. Volunteers pick-up trash, identify and preserve historic sites, build and maintain trails, improve wildlife habitat and work to combat non-native, invasive species.


Pearson also developed the Master Trail Steward Program, a college-level training course with Shawnee Community College. It provides certificate-level training for people interested in the design, construction and maintenance of trails and trail systems in America’s forests and wilderness areas.



“The 21CSC is defined by people … who innovate and work tirelessly to engage young Americans across the nation on projects that build our rural and urban economies and strengthen America’s unique and vital natural assets,” says Amy Sovocool, co-CEO of Conservation Legacy and co-chair of Partnership for the 21CSC.


This is the fourth year the Partnership for the 21CSC will present the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award, which recognizes regional leaders.


Led by The Corps Network and Conservation Legacy, the Partnership for the 21CSC is an advisory group of federal, state, local and nonprofit leaders that supports the development and implementation of the 21CSC to reach its goal of being a preeminent strategy for addressing America’s most pressing conservation and disaster response needs.


“The young adults and veterans serving in 21CSC organizations engage in critically important projects. They help keep our parks accessible, maintain vital habitats, protect communities from floods and wildfires, and answer the call when disaster strikes,” says Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21CSC.


About the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps

The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps is a bold national effort to put thousands of young people and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing America’s great outdoors.


The 21CSC is based on public-private partnerships between federal resource management agencies and the private sector. The goal of these partnerships is to increase civilian national service positions on public lands and encourage the use of Corps to meet the maintenance needs of land and water management agencies at no additional cost to taxpayers. Learn more at


About Conservation Legacy

Conservation Legacy is a national organization dedicated to supporting locally based conservation service programs. It operates and supports programs that provide service and work opportunities for a diverse group of individuals to complete important conservation and community projects for the public benefit. Founded in 1998 to continue the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, Conservation Legacy programs include: Southwest Conservation Corps, Great Appalachian Valley Conservation Corps, Southeast Conservation Corps, Arizona Conservation Corps, Preserve America Youth Summit and BRIDGE Network.


About The Corps Network

Established in 1985, The Corps Network is the national association of service and conservation Corps. Its 30+ member Corps annually provide more than 25,000 youth and veteran Corpsmembers the opportunity to serve our country through work-based conservation, resource management, lands access, recreation and disaster response projects on public lands and in rural and urban communities. Through their service, Corpsmembers obtain in-demand skills and advance their education.

The Corps Network supports Corps by advocating on their behalf, providing access to funding and project opportunities, and by offering expertise in Corps operations and programming. Learn more at


About Shawnee National Forest

Administered by the USDA Forest Service, Shawnee National Forest is one of 155 national forests nationwide.As the only national forest in Illinois, the Shawnee offers numerous avenues for connecting with the natural world through its 280,000 acres of varied landscape. Whether your interests lie more in outdoor recreational activities, such as hiking or camping, or include learning about the unique natural and cultural heritage of southern Illinois, the fields, forests and streams of the Shawnee welcome you. To discover more about the Shawnee National Forest, visit Follow us on Twitter at and Facebook via


The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Forest Service’s Eastern Region includes 20 states in the Midwest and East, stretching from Maine, to Maryland, to Missouri, to Minnesota. There are 17 national forests and one national tallgrass prairie in the Eastern Region. For more information, visit


The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit