Richmond Terrace Houses resident Justin Baker, 22, was one of six young adults awarded the 2019 Corpsmember of the Year award from The Corps Network, the national association of service and conservation corps. Mr. Baker, a Green City Force Corps Member, was singled out for his commitment to service and community, personal growth, and outstanding leadership skills.
The Corps Network presents the award annually to young adults, veterans, and organizations from its membership of more than 130 corps across the country, who work with almost 25,000 young people. Green City Force (GCF) is an AmeriCorps program that provides NYCHA residents ages 18 to 24 with full-time service projects, training, and education on sustainability and green technologies. Winners were nominated by their corps and selected by The Corps Network. In 2017, Green City Force/Farms at NYCHA won an award for Project of the Year.
Mr. Baker received the award on February 13 at The Corps Network’s 2019 conference in Washington, DC. Among the GCF staff and others in attendance to congratulate him was Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.
Mr. Baker said he was speechless when he first found out he was one of the winners, but that “being acknowledged for something that’s bigger than myself is not something I’m used to. Receiving this award makes me feel extremely humbled and rewarded. I know this is not only honest work but necessary work.”
He became a GCF Corps Member in May 2018 after working in food services and inventory and earning OSHA 15 certification. He signed up after seeing a flyer about the program in his building. At an information session, he liked hearing about the successes of GCF graduates and how many entrepreneurs emerge from the green sector.
As a GCF Corps Member, one of his favorite things to do is farm-based learning with children from schools and community centers. At the end of a day together on one of NYCHA’s farms, the children gather in a circle and share what they learned during the day. He is always amazed at how much information the kids retain and believes their knowledge will benefit the community now and in the future.
He sees his work on Farms at NYCHA as a way of helping to foster unity at NYCHA developments: “There’s no better way to bring community together than through food – that’s the international language; everyone understands food.”
His GCF team leader Che Cooper said: “Justin takes initiative to get things done. There was this one time we were raking leaves, and next thing I know he got some wood and chicken wire and made a little leaf pen. He is a leader, he knows how to get people motivated, and he’s inspirational. He’s been a leader of his cohort since day one.”
After graduating from GCF, Justin aspires to manage the Mariners Harbor Houses Farm. He is currently taking advanced agricultural classes to gain the tools and knowledge necessary to step into that position.