Thomas L. Hark Selected by The Corps Network as 2017 Legacy Achievement Award Winner

December 22, 2016 | Award, Corps Network, Staff

Thomas HarkRichmond, Vermont (December 19, 2016)— Thomas L. Hark of Vermont Youth Conservation Corps has been selected by The Corps Network, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, as a winner of the 2017 Corps Legacy Achievement Award.

The Corps Network presents this prestigious award on an annual basis to at least one individual from their membership of over 130 Service and Conservation Corps across the country. Legacy Achievement Awardees must have at least 20 years of experience with Corps.

“Thomas is a leader in transformation at both the individual and the organizational level,” said Breck Knauft, Executive Director of Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. “At his core, he is a builder of people, programs and organizations.”

Mr. Hark has over 30 years of experience with Corps. He got his start in 1979 as a Crew Leader with the U.S. Forest Service Youth Conservation Corps in Young Harris, GA. It was an experience that changed his life.

A few years later, he was a summer camp director with Minnesota Conservation Corps. During this time, Mr. Hark was instrumental in bringing together two summer camps: one based at St. Croix State Park and one for deaf and hard-of-hearing members at Tettegouche State Park. Today, Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa’s Summer Youth Corps continues to be an integrated program; about 15 percent of participants are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

In 1985, with a one-dollar appropriation from the Vermont State Legislature, the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) was founded as a program of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. Mr. Hark was hired to be the fledgling organization’s Program Chief. He led with the firm belief that all people, regardless of background or experience, have the ability to make a difference in the world around them. Mr. Hark envisioned an organization where, through meaningful projects in the great outdoors, young people could learn the value of hard work, build self-reliance, develop job skills, improve critical thinking and forge lasting friendships.

Under Mr. Hark’s leadership, VYCC developed into a public-private partnership which has served more than 6,000 young people. After 30 years, VYCC has become a state-of-the-art, work-based learning organization operating year round across Vermont and beyond.

“All our member Corps and Corpsmembers make significant contributions to communities across the country,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, CEO of The Corps Network. “With the Legacy Achievement Award, we have the opportunity to celebrate extraordinary individuals and programs from our network and shed light on the vast capabilities of Corps; our awardees are symbols of the impact of national service. The Corps Network is humbled to represent such inspiring people as Thomas Hark.”

After 30 years at VYCC, serving in various capacities – including as Program Chief, Executive Director and President and CEO – Mr. Hark stepped down from the organization in 2015. VYCC recognized his contributions by naming the Thomas L. Hark Leadership Campus in his honor. Mr. Hark’s legacy continues in the programming and spirit at VYCC and the many young people and national service programs he influenced throughout this career.

Mr. Hark will be honored at a ceremony on February 15 in Washington, DC as part of The Corps Network’s 2017 national conference.