What's new at the Job Training Center?

A new parking lot!

Stop by and check out the new parking lot at our Job Training Center. We refurbished our parking lot, removing existing pavement and installing new asphalt, restriping new parking lines, and installing a 7′ high heavy grade iron fence and gate. This renovation project will improve safety and security for our trucks.

Brian Hickey, CFO/COO at Civicorps shared this about the project:

“Our new parking, fence and roof greatly improves the working environment, safety and security of our job training facility.  Our staff and Corpsmembers have raved about our old asphalt lot which was riddled with holes being replaced by new asphalt or even reinforced concrete in some areas.  Our old cyclone fence which was leaning and was topped by ominous barb wire has been replaced by a decorative iron fence.  Finally, our old roof which fared poorly in last winter’s downpours  has been replaced by a brand new metal fabricated roof which is both aesthetically pleasing and will be sure to prevent the significant leaks experienced in years past, which in turn protects our interior, prolonging the useful life of the structure.”

The Michaels Organization and Oakland Housing Investors were kind enough to donate the use of their Red Star Lot which is adjacent to the JTC on Mandela.  We used this lot for overnight parking of our job training and recycling vehicles as well as staff and Corpsmember parking during the day.  A huge shout out to them for lending us their property. Thanks for being great neighbors!

Funding for this project was not possible without the support of The Joseph and Vera Long Foundation and Proposition 68. Civicorps appreciates their continued support of our work.

Interested in a site visit and tour of our Job Training Center? Email the Development team at Civicorps at marketing@cvcorps.org!

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"Just Keep Doing You"

Like many of our current staff, Monique “Mo” Williams joined the Civicorps family as a Corpsmember (technically, she joined the East Bay Conservation Corps, as we were called in 1999 when Mo first came through our doors). Over the following 20 years, she left Civicorps twice – but both times she came back.  She’s worked on just about every crew and touched every part of our conservation work with our key partners around Alameda and Contra Costa counties: East Bay Regional Parks District, East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), Caltrans, the City of Oakland, the City of Berkeley and the list goes on.

During her time as a Corpsmember, Monique promoted to Crew Leader at the Job Training Center.  A string of promotions over a dozen years followed: Assistant Supervisor, then Supervisor, then Coordinator.  At a certain point, she decided to leave the Corps to try something new at one of our partner agencies, Alameda County Flood Control. It turns out her heart wasn’t in it, and Mo realized her passion was to help young adults.  As a result, she returned to Civicorps as Lead Supervisor, and a year later was moved up once again to Coordinator. In sum, Civicorps has spent 20 years valuing Monique’s enormous skills and expertise; in 2017, Civicorps recognized her as Staff Member of the Year.

Is your head spinning yet?  But wait, there’s more!

In July 2019, Civicorps promoted Monique yet again to JTC Coordinator.  There’s just a magic to Monique that’s hard to capture in words.  But we’re trying anyway!  We interviewed Mo to get a glimpse into her world….and for the world to get a glimmer of Mo.

Q: What’s your secret sauce?  How do you influence Corpsmembers? 

A: I tell Corpsmembers to keep going, don’t stop. Set your expectations, don’t let my expectations be yours. Make sure you keep striving.  A lot of these young adults are coming in with a lot of trauma, so you have to really motivate them and show them that it’s okay to be successful.  It’s okay to walk away, and it’s okay to be good; it’s okay to be great and to be positive. You don’t have to be this tough person or this “gangster” just to be fly. Just keep doing you.

Q: How would you describe your leadership?

A: I was born with it!  I’ve always been caring, caring for the well being of others, and very motherly.  I will stand for what is right. There is no favoritism, what is right is right. It’s what I believe in.

East Bay Regional Parks District and Doing Our Best

Q: Tell us about the most memorable project you worked on with our longtime partner, the East Bay Regional Parks District?

A: I worked on a crib wall in Sibley [Volcanic Regional Preserve]. It was challenging, that’s why I can still remember it. The trail was washed away and we had to haul these long poles. It was teamwork, we had to move together and pace ourselves to bring this material up to the site. After we got the material, we used a saw to dig into the earth and install them. It took us a week to finish, but the amount of energy and strength… oooh, I can still remember it and I was a Corpsmember, hard but memorable, and that was 20 years ago!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you like to give to Corpsmembers?

A: Be truthful to yourself, be truthful to your calling. We can all go out there and make more money, but be honest with yourself. The world is happening, and we need more people to be honest, caring, and wholesome. You don’t have to be angry, be all that you can be and do your best.

Lightning Question Round!

Q: Who’s your inspiration and why?

A: I’ve been at Civicorps for 20 years and I probably will be here as long as Cornelius [Shields] has been here [30 years!] I don’t see the light dimming any time soon. Cornelius handed me my application!  He is like Yoda, I’ve never seen him upset, never in a bad mood. Always greeting people with open arms. That is amazing to me.

Q: What’s your favorite East Bay bakery?

A: Me! I am the bakery. You’ve had my peach cobbler and banana pudding. I can bake many things, sweet potato pie, red velvet… I have a list because I can’t free style it: lemon cake, chocolate cake, carrot cake, cheesecakes, peanut butter pie, oatmeal raisin cookies. I am the bakery.

Q: What’s your favorite piece of Civicorps swag?  Is it a Civicorps hat? Tote bag?  A t-shirt?  A coffee mug? 

A: I love Civicorps’ culture. It never changes. People can leave and come back and not much has changed. We will continue to work hard towards the community. That’s the swag!

We think you’ll agree Mo’s last answer encapsulates why she is so well loved and respected by her co-workers and Corpsmembers alike.  Monique, Civicorps loves you back.  We have been extraordinarily lucky to have you in the family for 20 years.  Here’s to the next 20!!

 

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#NoFilter, Just Nature

“This is beyond me!” Mani* shouts as she realizes how tough carrying a 65L backpack is while hiking up a mountain. Corpsmembers ahead of her would hear her and shout back, “but you’re doing it!” The support and encouragement to move forward was the highlight of this year’s week-long backpacking trip in the Tahoe National Forest.

Backpacking is not an easy feat, it requires physical and mental strength that for some, proved to be challenging. But as a group, Corpsmembers persisted. On our first day, Corpsmembers hiked 1.1 miles to Island Lake. We encountered a friendly camper, Johnny, who showed Radio* how to start a campfire. Radio really enjoyed this so much that he proclaimed himself the “pyro starter” and started all our campfires for the rest of the week.

By next morning, we set foot on the trail to Glacier Lake. This was the toughest trail in the whole trip, this 5.1 hike was moderately difficult, ending with a very stiff climb on a rocky mountain top. But at the top of the mountain was Glacier Lake, which nestles at the base of the Black Buttes in the Grouse Ridge. A site for the heavens. Corpsmembers swam in its deep clear water, freezing to the touch, but refreshing to the soul.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover, everything is a new experience and you don’t know what you like until you experience it.” – Bucko*

Bringing our Corpsmembers to the wilderness allows them to escape and unplug themselves from society.  We find solace in nature, its beauty and sound permits each and every one of us to connect with ourselves. We learn to silence the noises in our heads and meditate to the wind blowing in the distance, the croaking frogs on the other side of the lake, the Black-capped Chickadees singing their pure chickadee-dee-dee call. At night, the cold wind breezes over the warm waters of Rock Lake, causing mist to rise under the bright half-moon. Nature is therapy.

“It was soothing it made you think about life, it cleared your head and gave you free space to think about things in your own life.”   – T*

Around the campfire we made s’mores, played rounds of the game Mafia, and shared scary stories. While we laughed over jokes, we also cried. In this moment of escape, we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable. We held each other’s hands to fight through our own personal challenges in the real world, knowing we had one another for support.

As we approached the end of our backpacking adventure, we felt accomplished. We hiked over 18 miles, visited and swam in 6 lakes, encountered various species of flora and fauna native to this region. The site of Golden-mantled ground squirrels, Brown Bullhead catfishes in the lake, and an abundance of butterflies and bees only reminded us of how powerful nature is to our bodies.

At times of anxiety, we were able to be happy. On a challenging hike, we worked together and encouraged each other to fight through the pain in our legs.  Together we persevered, only to prove how resilient we all can be in different environments. We learned to live in the moment, “#nofilter, just nature.”

*Before we set on our adventure, we gave each other trail names. Mani, Bucko, T, Mo, Radio, Dolfo, and Rosie were the chosen names of our Corpsmembers, Jesus, C-9, and Ya-You were staff and volunteer’s trail names. 

Enjoy more photos below!

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Got E-waste?

Got E-waste?

Are you an Oakland resident?

Come to Oakland’s Bulky Block Party on the last Saturday of each month, where you’ll find Civicorps Recycling collecting all your E-waste. This partnership with the City of Oakland allows residents to remove E-waste responsibly and easily. By disposing of E-waste responsibly, we prevent toxic metals and chemicals from seeping into the soil and bodies of water. E-waste is the most dangerous material dumped in landfills, so if you have a broken tv or computer, don’t think twice, bring it to Civicorps Recycling!

And if you are not an Oakland resident, Civicorps Recycling can also be found working with the City of Newark and CSU East Bay. These new collaborative partnerships with cities and universities help reduce pollution all while helping Civicorps youth with paid job training that is practical and highly transferable to  job opportunities.

To even further our impact in ensuring that E-waste is recycled responsibly, we have partnered with Oakland Unified School District, West Contra Costa Unified School District and Amethod Public Schools, where we have E-waste pickup collections. These collections allow us to work with Tech Exchange to refurbish and redistribute technology to support digital equity for low income communities.

 “The partnership with Civicorps and Tech Exchange is an example of how two nonprofits can work together to address climate goals and workforce development. Civicorps Recycling recycles our IT assets from East Bay industries. And by hosting two Civicorps interns, we equip them with IT skills. We look forward to continuing this exciting and ongoing partnership!” – Joel Peña, Director of Sales and Support, Tech Exchange

Tech Exchange, as well as Tri-Valley Recycling, conduct E-waste removal that supply the expertise in refurbishing and reselling or donating electronics, and Civicorps Recycling provides collection services that have the added benefit of training participants for high-demand careers.

So if you’ve got E-waste, help your community by disposing of it responsibly. Take pride in knowing that you are supporting a cleaner environment and job training for East Bay youth. Follow us on Facebook to know when the next E-waste pick up will be hosted!

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Another Grad Goes Wild

It’s exciting to introduce a new guest blogger, Civicorps’ Lead Counselor Natasha Vinakor, who shares another story about the backcountry:

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Road Trip to the Eastern Sierras

It was a great road trip. I tagged along with Job Training Coordinator Steven Addison as he delivered Shaniya Burks to her summer job with the Eastern Sierra Conservation Corps. Neither Shaniya nor I had ever been to the Eastern side of the Sierras, and it is spectacular. Snowcapped peaks over high mountain desert. Hot springs scattered around, as well as small to medium sized towns.  Going over the Sierras, we wound back down the other side on roads that only recently re-opened after a very snowy winter. We drove by raging rivers and the extra mineral filled Mono Lake.

It was supposed to be a 6 and a half hour trip, but we stopped for food and supplies, to take pictures, and to touch snow. We didn’t roll into her camp until 9 pm. Shaniya met her Crew Leader Valerie, who gave her a briefing and showed her new home for 8 weeks: her tent.  Shaniya’s crew had already set up her tent for her!  She was nervous and then less nervous, and then excited. Steven and I camped nearby for the night and said goodbye to her over breakfast with her new community. They were shy with each other at first, but quickly started to bond. Shaniya is going to have a great summer.

Shaniya’s Journey

Shaniya came to Civicorps in February of 2017 when she was 18 years old.  She made the Honor Roll, and earned numerous awards such as Crewmember of the Month and Hardest Hitter in English and Science classes. As a Conservation Intern at our Job Training Center, she earned a promotion to become a Crew Leader. Throughout her time at Civicorps, she took advantage of an array of extracurricular activities.  In December 2018, she earned her high school diploma.  Now 20, she has grown from a shy and reserved young person into a leader and an explorer.

When I was the same age as Shaniya, I was a Corpsmember in the Montana Conservation Corps — big sky country — and fell in love with big mountains. Steven has put in many years with the California Conservation Corps, as a Corpsmember then as a Crew Leader and Supervisor for Backcountry crews.  Steven’s friend Agnes Vianzon started the Eastern Sierra Corps with the mission to bring more women of color into wilderness jobs.  Steven started recruiting after getting word that they needed folks for the summer.  It felt awesome to be bringing Shaniya out there to this beautiful location. We can’t wait to see what’s ahead for her!  It’s good when life feels full circle.

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A Backcountry Graduation party

The Klamath Crew Celebrates One of Their Own

Earlier this month, we saluted our Spring 2019 graduates as they prepared to walk the stage to receive their high school diplomas.

Here’s a little secret we’ve been keeping: while 19 students graduated on June 6, only 18 walked the stage.

The 19th was working on the Klamath Crew in the Shasta-Trinity Forest. Busy clearing downed trees and widening trail corridors, he missed the graduation ceremony.  He loves to chop firewood during chore time and go on weekend backpacking trips to explore his majestic surroundings. Back in April, we said farewell to this mystery man as he departed for the California Conservation Corps‘ prestigious Backcountry Trails Program. He is none other than Sahsae Robertson, of course!

Though he was physically far from the graduation ceremony, Sahsae was most definitely with us in spirit.  Last Friday, Civicorps’ Job Training Coordinator extraordinaire Steven Addison paid Sahsae a visit to present him with his high school diploma.

The Big Flats Campground Party Zone

The Big Flats Campground at Coffee Creek turned into a festive backcountry graduation party with hamburgers, cake & cookies and rootbeer soda on the menu.  According to Steven, Sahsae’s crew made sure a good time was had by all. Their camp is in a lovely location with a beautiful meadow and surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Steven says Sahsae was “all smiles during his party, playing Coffee Pong and stuffing himself with all the treats folks sent him” via a hand-delivered care package.  His last view of Sashae was of him hiking away at 6 a.m. with his crewmembers for a weekend backpacking trip.  In sum, the man is a happy camper.

What’s the Backcountry Trails Program Like, Anyway?

Lest you think the Backcountry Trails program is ….ahem…a walk in the park, note that Corpsmembers perform physically demanding manual labor in spartan living conditions.  There are no modern conveniences or luxuries (e.g. warm showers, beds, laundry machines, indoor bathrooms and plumbing). Personal electronics are not permitted while in the program.  While in the BCTP, Corpsmembers live and work in remote, isolated settings and personal communication with people outside of the program is extremely limited and infrequent.  In addition to trail work, Corpsmembers participate in regular camp chores, position-related trainings, physical training, daily curriculum and education, environmental awareness, cooperative living skills, and exploration of surrounding wilderness areas. In short, it’s an extraordinary experience, and it’s one during which a graduation party with an outside visitor is a rare treat!

Sahsae will continue serving in the Backcountry Trails Program until late September.  We’re so proud of him, and we can’t wait to see what new adventures he’ll embark upon with his diploma in hand!

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