From Eco-Friendly to Eco-Advocate

Jazmine earned her high school diploma and graduated in 2019 from Civicorps Academy.

When Jazmine contemplated her future after high school, she initially had hopes of becoming a social worker or a nurse. But thanks to career counseling and the Conservation Career Pathways program at Civicorps, she landed a paid internship with the City of Oakland as she completed her diploma. During her time as a Recycling Hotline Intern for the city, Jazmine’s focus turned towards environmentalism.

Now, Jazmine is an unabashed “eco-friendly tree hugger.”

“You can call me that,” she says. “It’s all I think about, especially when the pandemic hit. When people got skeptical and scared and wanted individually wrapped to-go food with plastic, it generated more plastic.”

As she learned more about the recycling process, Jazmine inched closer to the environmental division of the city. Jazmine transitioned from the Recycling Hotline to the Stewardship team, which focuses on beautifying Oakland. This work included replanting projects, advocating against illegal dumping, and managing “Adopt-A-Park” or “Adopt-A-Drain” programs. Through municipal programs, Jazmine was able to witness the breadth of green practices a city can do.

“When I was given the opportunity to work for the city, I didn’t think anything more about recycling. Eventually, it was a big eye opener for me. [The environment] is a big issue that needs to be talked about and dealt with.”

Jazmine first developed the confidence to pursue a professional path at Civicorps.

Seeing an ad on social media, Jazmine applied to Civicorps for a high school diploma. Soon, she found the organization had many free resources to develop her resume.

“Building your resume is the biggest one that we don’t think about while studying in school or working. You get opportunities for a CPR certification or using Microsoft Excel, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but actually looks good on your resume.

At Civicorps, I learned to take on any opportunities they throw at you, especially if it can help you in the long run. You can apply it to build your resume.”

And build she did. Jazmine recognized she did not have the strongest public speaking skills; she was shy.

“[I used to not] want to get help or ask for help but I learned from [Civicorps] not to be scared or to accept help when offered. It’s normal to seek help.”

Through her weekly classes, group projects and taking a public speaking workshop, Jazmine was exposed to public speaking opportunities. Jazmine found coaching, guidance, and repetition helped her to speak confidently.

She dazzled volunteers at Civicorps’ Mock Interview Panel workshop as she described her responsibilities as an intern for the Recycling Hotline. “I would hire her!” more than one volunteer commented.

Reflects Jazmine, “[Civicorps] is super encouraging. During my time there, no one was ever rejected or neglected. No one was pushed to the side. Civicorps is a family and it still feels like a family if I walk through the doors.”

Jazmine at center with the rest of her graduating class.

This determination and commitment to excellence are what Jazmine brings in her position at the City of Oakland. And, an open-mindedness to learn brought her a new passion: environmentalism.

Jazmine explains how she’ll show her bestie videos of caught fish being processed and treated poorly.

“Animals provide much more for us than we to them. I get emotional about it. I wasn’t into it before but now it’s been a huge eye opener. Anytime I can educate someone about it, I’m happy to. We just need to educate our people to understand its importance.”

We’re thrilled that Jazmine not only gained a deeper understanding of issues surrounding the environment, but that she’s also found a well-paid internship that has opened a new world of professional opportunities.

Do you share our vision for a world where all youth have the education and resources needed for college and career success?
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We Hosted a Famous Former Girl Scout (Mayor Libby Schaaf) at the Corps

On a recent rainy Thursday morning, a crew of Corpsmembers working at MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline Park welcomed a special visitor.  Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf stopped by! She chatted with East Bay Regional Park District staff, Civicorps Supervisors and Corpsmembers, observed their project site, and imparted a little wisdom.

The famously Oakland-born-and-raised Mayor asked questions about our work (fuel load reduction and brush clearing), commented on the importance of wildfire mitigation (last week marked the 30th anniversary of the Oakland Hills Fire, which destroyed 3,400 homes including her father’s) and welcomed questions in turn.  One Corpsmember asked her how she got her start in politics (through volunteering and community service, said the former Girl Scout and AmeriCorps Project YES alum). Another asked her a surprising (albeit very important) personal question: does she get enough sleep? The answer: no, but the Mayor took the opportunity posed by this query to discuss the virtues of self-care.

Women Who Wield Chainsaws

We were proud to introduce the Mayor to our fabulous Conservation Supervisors Jeff Chilcott and Ryan Waters, and to our amazing Corpsmembers: Crew Leader Anthony Silva, Dennis Turner, Erica Bradley and Josiah Crochet. Mayor Schaaf was especially impressed with the women on the crew, Crew Leader Martha Alva Velasquez and Nicole Smith, both of whom flexxed their chainsaw skills (the Mayor wanted to be sure she stood next to a chainsaw-wielding woman in the group photo!)  And we were very happy to demonstrate the conservation work we do to keep Oakland safe and beautiful. In fact, we work around the greater East Bay to engage young people through paid job training on critical conservation projects.

Mayor Schaaf, we welcome you to visit any of our projects anytime (though we can’t let you use a chainsaw without proper training and PPE.)  See you at the next project site!

Want to continue reading about what our Corpsmembers are up to? We’ll be thrilled to share. Add your name to our list here.


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We're Featured on The Corps Network Blog!

We’re excited to be featured on The Corps Network’s blog this month in a great piece, Preparing the Bay Area for Fire; Preparing Young Workers for Careers. The Corps Network is, of course, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, of which Civicorps is a proud affiliate.

Read on for The Corps Network’s “Corps Story” about the Corpsmembers at Civicorps working hard to keep the East Bay safe through fuel reduction and fire mitigation.


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Tackling Homelessness One Tiny Home at a Time

Now, our Corpsmembers are joining the City of Oakland’s efforts to shelter our unhoused neighbors.

Thanks to the Oakland City Council and Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas’ tenacious efforts, a new “co-governed encampment” is being built at an empty lot on East 12th Street.  Our Corpsmembers are helping to construct “tiny home” small shelters designed to be a stepping stone out of crisis and into stability.  The shelters are provided by Pallet, a social purpose company on a mission to build equal opportunity access to housing and employment.

We were very excited to welcome Council President Bas to the tiny home site this week to see the fruits of her labor. And we’re so pleased to be part of a coalition of city partners, longtime neighborhood advocates, and the Housing Consortium of the East Bay helping to transition our neighbors into dignified shelter. We’re honored to support Oakland’s health and vitality, and proud to engage Corpsmembers in this critically important community work.

Our Corpsmembers’ typical day involves heading out with a crew to work as Conservation or Recycling Interns.  They’re out in the field doing fuel load reduction, trail maintenance, running recycling routes, collecting E-waste, learning the trade and earning tool certifications along the way.

Every now and then, a different type of project comes along that allows Corpsmembers to step into special service opportunities. During the spring and summer of 2020, for example, Civicorps answered Governor Newsom’s call for volunteers to respond to the dire increase in food insecurity around the Bay Area. Corpsmembers worked at food banks in Alameda and Santa Clara counties, helping to produce nearly 2 millions pounds of food in the first few months of the pandemic.

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Summer 2021 Corpsmember of the Quarter: Naji Lockett

Civicorps is proud to announce the Summer 2021 Corpsmember of the Quarter: Naji Lockett!

Naji has made incredible strides in the last few months in his leadership capabilities, becoming a Crew Leader 2.

“The first time Naji went out for Crew Leader Training he didn’t get it. But that didn’t discourage him. The very next Crew Leader Academy took place and he did unbelievable. He took that time and perfected his craft,’” said Monique Williams, Conservation Program Coordinator who runs the Conservation Crew Leader Academy.

Whether interacting with sponsors, driving Civicorps vehicles or rallying his crew of fellow Corpsmembers, Naji has stepped into his CL2 role with courage. His willingness to take on more responsibility while remaining humble among his peers is a rare combination.

Naji is a prime example of what a successful journey as a Corpsmember looks like.  We’re excited to see Naji continue to grow and thrive!

What is Corpsmember of the Quarter?

Every quarter, staff vote on a Corpsmember who demonstrates personal growth and program success to receive this prestigious award. At the end of the year, one among the Corpsmembers of the Quarter are nominated for Corpsmember of the Year with the Corps Network, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps.

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A Tuba in One Hand, A Saw in the Other

When Operations Intern Bryan comes into Civicorps’ Job Training Center at West Oakland in the early mornings, he has a routine: open the parking lot gates, open the warehouse doors, and essentially get everything ready for the incoming Corpsmembers to head out for the day.

As part of Operations, Bryan helps to maintain all equipment and facilities used by the Corps at the Job Training Center, led by Sergio, Civicorps’ Operations Coordinator. Bryan is one of two Operations Interns, each of whom is personally selected by Sergio on a rotating basis for the role. 

For this newest incarnation of this pair, Bryan and fellow intern (and new Civicorps Academy grad) Victor, support Sergio in his work.

Like the producers of a film set, the Operations team at Civicorps helps to make things happen at the Corps. A broken tool needs fixing? Need the materials to build a community garden?

The Ops Team has you covered.

A Dependable Jack of All Trades

Much like at the Job Training Center, at home, Bryan is very handy.

“I do a lot of carpentry projects. My dad gets side gigs like making fences and that’s what got me into that. I also like building furniture. It’s more of a hobby. Whenever my siblings ask me for something, if I can make it, I’ll try it.”

When asked where he got this interest from: “I started with Legos.”

Last thing Bryan built for his siblings: a bookshelf.

Helping collect dumped tires throughout the East Bay and bringing it back to the Job Training Center for pickup.

Helping collect dumped tires throughout the East Bay and bringing it back to the Job Training Center for pickup.

Favorite tool to use: chainsaw, particularly preparing the chain for the chainsaw.

At 19 years old, Bryan is just beginning his professional journey. And yet, Bryan brings with him a willingness to learn and explore.

Having seen an ad online for Civicorps, Bryan applied. In no time, Bryan was wearing a red hat, signaling his position as a Conservation Intern.

During the Conservation Program’s orientation, Bryan learned about the Operations department and inquired. Sergio advised Bryan to stick with the crews at their project sites to learn more about the organization and see if the interest was still there after some time.

After a couple of months, and impressed by the work Bryan put in, Sergio promoted him.

“He’s one of those Corpsmembers with perfect attendance, shows up early, and works hard. [Bryan] demonstrated through his behavior and actions that he could work in Operations and the promotion happened naturally,” remembers Sergio.

Because the Operations team takes care of every tool, vehicle, equipment and room in our Conservation Program, the role requires someone reliable and resourceful. One day you can be re-chaining a chainsaw, the next you’re building furniture for a new office space.

Bryan seems to fit all these molds.

“[Operations] pretty much runs the shop and does anything that needs to get done in order to facilitate the crews’ work,” says Bryan. “I also like taking out tires. It’s pretty cool since I’ve been to places in Oakland that I’ve never been to [before].”

The Musical Influences of Sinaloa

Having a creative mind is helpful when finding solutions to different tasks at the Job Training Center. What’s more, Bryan’s hobbies extend beyond creating furniture.

Growing up, Bryan enjoyed learning new instruments and making music. Starting as part of a church band, he eventually joined the marching and jazz bands in high school.

“I enjoy putting myself through the challenge of learning an instrument. The tuba was the most challenging,” recounts Bryan.

What is banda sinaloense?

This type of brass, woodwind, and percussion band hails from the Sinaloa region of Mexico.

On his free time, Bryan makes music as part of a banda sinaloense.

“In the banda, I play the tuba. But I can play the drums and trumpet. “

Bryan was connected to his current banda through mutual connections. Playing most of the time during the weekends, Bryan gets to be at different venues.

“Most hours we get to play during weekend are for quincinearas. We do still play night clubs every weekend and on Cinco de Mayo we play at a festival in Richmond. For the Day of Dead, we play Oakland,” tells Bryan. “The point of our music is to get people hyped up and get them to dance.”

And where does he enjoy playing the most?

“I enjoy playing at festivals in Richmond because that’s where I’m from and the people I know see me play every year.”

Ever the enterpriser, Bryan wants to go into metalwork. Bryan’s curiosity and originality will no doubt find him reaching new heights.

“I plan to go to San Francisco Ironworkers Union, I want to do that apprenticeship soon.”

As for the Job Training Center, the work that Bryan and the Operations team do at the Corps is pivotal to making their fellow Corpsmembers’ journey happen. Providing young participants opportunities for family sustaining careers would not be possible were it not for bright Corpsmembers like Bryan whose work is essential to keeping our Conservation Program up and running.

Sergio himself sums it up best:  “Operations is responsible for all material items that make the Corpsmember experience. Without Operations doing their business, there is no Corpsmember business.”

Do you share our vision for a world where all youth have the education and resources needed for college and career success?

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