July 31, 2017

How HOPE Crew Equips Members for Real Opportunity

Dorell Boyd speaks at Fort Monroe

photo by: Brian Palmer

Terry Brown, superintendent of Fort Monroe, with Dorell Boyd, who is holding a plaque from one of the Fort's historic trees.

Just three years after its inception, HOPE Crew recently launched its 100th project, in which crew members from the Student Conservation Association will rehabilitate Fort Monroe National Monument's historic quarters. While the number and types of projects across the country is impressive, the people involved with HOPE Crew are even more so.

Dorell Boyd, a former Citizen Conservation Corps of West Virginia (WVCCC) and HOPE Crew member, was hired full-time in 2016 by the National Park Service’s Prince William Forest Park in Virginia as a maintenance worker. As the first HOPE Crew member to be officially hired by the Park Service to work in a park, Boyd is pioneering what will hopefully be a path for more young people in preservation and related fields. (To date, several others from the NPS's Historic Preservation Training Center have also been hired by the Park Service, suggesting a positive trend towards engaging youth in historic preservation trades.)

Boyd’s story began with the WVCCC in 2014, where he helped remove overgrown vegetation at Manassas Battlefield Park. In 2015 the CCC partnered with HOPE Crew at Prince William Forest Park. The projects Boyd worked on taught him how to repair chimneys and fireboxes, reglaze historic windows, and complete masonry work in accordance with preservation practices.

“The windows and chimney work were the most challenging,” Boyd admitted. His preference is masonry because it’s “hard work, and it’s just fun being on top of the roof [when a project requires it].”

Boyd’s enthusiasm and work ethic did not go unnoticed. Scott Shea, Boyd's supervisor, explains that he appreciated Dorell's willingness to learn new skills, no matter how difficult. "After working on two HOPE Crew and WVCCC projects," he says, "it became clear to me that Dorell was very interested in having a career at the NPS."

After one year with HOPE Crew, Boyd was invited back for a second year, this time as a Supervisor in Training. In his new position he worked on several projects at the NPS’s Prince William Forest Park. In 2016, the NPS offered him a full-time job at the Park.

Boyd’s upward trajectory in his work was buoyed by the national partnership between the Trust’s HOPE Crew and The Corps Network, which has a network of about 100 youth and service conservation corps across the country.

The Youth Corps provides its members excellent training for soft skills required in the professional world. HOPE Crew balances what the Corps provides with hard skills, like the specialized labor required for the projects.

HOPE Crew - How it works

“HOPE Crew provides a strategic way to address the gap between the individuals who have the skills to maintain historic stock and those that don’t,” explains Monica Rhodes, who leads the HOPE Crew program at the National Trust. This is especially relevant today, as organizations like the Park Service are experiencing high retirement numbers. Getting young people into these places now will ensure a strong future in the preservation of buildings and places.

Vidal Martinez, Prince William Forest Park's former superintendent, agrees, noting that the park "realizes the importance of engaging youth in historic preservation. HOPE Crew supports and helps train youth in historic preservation crafts, such as carpentry and masonry. These technical skills are necessary for the specialized work required to preserve historic resources and help us maintain and protect historic cultural sites within the NPS."

“I’m over the moon and excited for Dorell for taking advantage of this opportunity, and to the Park for providing an opportunity like this,” Rhodes says.

Former HOPE Crew members at the Senate building. Credit: Monica Rhodes

Monica Rhodes stands with former HOPE Crew members Saminda Francis, Dorell Boyd, and Curtis Ward at the Russell Senate Office Building after their presentation to the ACHP.

Her words echo the importance of collaboration between the National Trust, Youth Corps, and the NPS for providing a way for young people to become involved in preservation. The collaboration could be seen in July 2017. Dorell Boyd, along with former HOPE Crew participants and two NPS employees, presented to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) on ways to engage millennials in trades training.

Boyd’s parting advice for current and future HOPE Crew members illustrates why he has succeeded.

“Put 110 percent in whatever you do and never give up—just keep working,” he says. “If you don’t know how to do something, ask somebody. You will learn something new every day.”

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Meghan White is a historic preservationist and a former assistant editor for Preservation magazine. She has a penchant for historic stables, absorbing stories of the past, and one day rehabilitating a Charleston single house.

Now accepting nominations for the 2024 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places! Letters of Intent are due September 29, 2023.

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