EarthCorps: Celebrating AmeriCorps Week by actualizing equity in action 

As an AmeriCorps grantee, Seattle-based environmental nonprofit EarthCorps is proud to align with AmeriCorps’ equity initiatives by leading a movement that reduces barriers to program entry and celebrates our Corps Members.  

EarthCorps’ 2024 Corps Cohort at Wallace Swamp Creek Park in Kenmore, WA.

AmeriCorps, a federal agency for community service, has a rich history of improving lives, strengthening communities, and fostering civic engagement through service and volunteering – and, for the last 30 years, AmeriCorps members have tirelessly contributed to an ecosystem that has empowered communities across the country. 

Environmental nonprofit EarthCorps is an AmeriCorps grantee that welcomes young environmentalists from across the United States to Seattle, WA, for a hands-on training program. Colloquially known as Corps Members, participants learn technical skills in restoration by developing and supporting long-term sustainability plans throughout the region. EarthCorps’ Corps Members are tomorrow’s leaders, change makers, and environmentalists, but historically, inequities have created additional obstacles for low-income BIPOC youth.  

A crew protects native salmon habitat by removing non-native invasive English Ivy in Tacoma, WA

In January of 2022, EarthCorps welcomed Evlyn Andrade, a new executive director who recognized two challenges – first, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation; and second, low-income youth and youth of color face more barriers to environmental pathways and careers. That year, Andrade launched a three-year strategic plan that centered equity and environmental justice at the forefront of EarthCorps’ mission and work. With that shift, EarthCorps committed to serving frontline communities and ensuring equitable opportunities for all youth invested in tackling the climate crises. 

That same year, AmeriCorps released its four-year strategic plan. Recognizing that “race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity of members and volunteers [does not represent] the demographic diversity of those we serve”, AmeriCorps established a plan to “reduce barriers to recruiting members and volunteers with a greater understanding of the communities being served” by “increasing the member living allowance.”  

In support of these young environmental leaders, I am committed to pushing equity initiatives forward, so all people can participate in these life-changing programs.

– EarthCorps Executive Director Evlyn Andrade

As a long-term partner and grantee, EarthCorps is proud to align with AmeriCorps’ initiatives – to celebrate and recognize each Corps Member’s impact and to actualize a more equitable model. In past years, members had provided feedback that the low living stipends created challenges. In response to feedback and in line with the strategic plan, EarthCorps examined its programming and advocated for higher living wages. 

A crew partners with USFS to clear high water lake deposited debris from trails at Lake Quinault in the Olympic National Forest

This year, EarthCorps announced that all Corps Members will receive a minimum hourly stipend of USD 17.50 and USD 19 – raising the allowance from USD 11.87 and USD 13.89 and reaching the maximum wage allowed under AmeriCorps’ rules. Additionally, with support from the newly formed Washington Climate Corps Network (WCCN), all Corps Members receive a USD 430 housing stipend each month to support the rising cost of living in Seattle, WA.

Program Director Elizabeth White shares: “With these new equity initiatives, EarthCorps had over double the number of applicants from the previous year and saw a waiting list within the applicant pool, which is incredibly inspiring. With the accelerating climate crises and escalating feelings of climate anxiety, we are seeing young adults who want to get involved in a bigger way. EarthCorps is walking the walk (and talking the talk) when it comes to bringing more accessible programming and opportunities to the people who want to get involved.” 

Andrade adds: “Today, and every day, EarthCorps is humbled and grateful for our Corps Members who choose to serve their community and advance environmental justice across the globe. Their impact inspires hope and a belief that there can and will be change. In support of these young environmental leaders, I am committed to pushing equity initiatives forward, so all people can participate in these life-changing programs.”