A Statement from The Corps Network on the Domestic Terrorist Attack in Buffalo

“Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

A message from Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President & CEO of The Corps Network, 05/19/2022

My heart goes out to the friends and family of the victims of the hateful May 14 attack in Buffalo, NY. My heart goes out to all those feeling the reverberations of this event.

But what can I say? There really are no words to adequately capture how I am feeling, and I can’t imagine how so many Black people are feeling at this moment. Who am I to speak about any of this? I do know that I cannot be silent.

Silence is deafening and silence speaks volumes. Silence does not bring us any closer together or closer to healing. I think of the 2021 book by Stuart Lawrence, Silence is Not an Option: You Can Impact the World for Change.

In writing this, I also recall the words of Howard Beale, a fictional character from the 1976 film Network: “All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad…I’m as mad as hell.”

In order for us to heal, however, we need more than anger. Where we must start is by taking an honest examination of our current situation. As a white woman, I would not even begin to speak for Black people, but here are some of the realities of our times. The first anti-lynching bill was introduced in Congress in the year 1900. It is appalling that it took until the twentieth century for such a proposal to come forward; it is abhorrent that it took until 2022 for anti-lynching legislation to pass.

Today, in the 21st century, we are also still discussing voting rights. As of January of this year, legislators in at least 27 states had introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 250 bills with restrictive voting provisions. If enacted, most of these proposals would disproportionately impact communities of color.

These facts cut to the heart. And yet, in the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings for incoming Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sen. Cory Booker reflected, “[Black people] didn’t stop loving this country, even though this country didn’t love them back.”

There are so many actions we still need to take as a country to demonstrate that we value racial equity, but there are also so many smaller actions we can take as individuals. To my colleagues in the Corps world, I thank those who are working with intention to create safe spaces for Black and Brown young people to process, discuss, and grieve while feeling supported by their community.

As we sadly know all too well, while this latest act of white supremacist violence happened in Buffalo, it could have happened anywhere. This was not only an attack on the Black community of Buffalo, but on Black people. It is easy to stay quiet and want to look away, but we know this was not an isolated incident. We have a responsibility to examine and counteract the currents in our society that can drive people to such a place of hatred. We need words as well as action in order to heal and better prevent future senseless tragedies. It’s through actions that we can help honor the lives and legacies of the victims of this terrorism.

In challenging times, I look to the thousands of youth and young adults in our Corps. I remind myself, that our young people are a force for good. A force for change.

At our recent annual conference, we were honored to be joined by Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of UPROSE, the oldest Latino community-based organization in Brooklyn, NY. She highlighted how young people have always played a significant, leading role in fighting for justice for Black and Brown people. As we look to take action, we must turn to our young people. Go to the community, listen, and then do.

Resources for action and learning:

Filed under: Blog

Corpsmembers Reach New Career Heights

Judith hails from Hayward and wanted to work in and around nature.

“Working outdoors – I love nature. I see how more and more, we’re destroying the environment and I wanted to work in some capacity helping future generations. I wanted to know that I was doing something about it.”

– Judith V.

Combined with his desire to work outdoors, Union City native Jamarr likes to be able to look back at the end of day and see what he completed.

“Before [Civicorps], I was with the [California Conservation Corps]. All we did was conservation work, like fuel reduction, so I had been doing a whole bunch of conservation work for the past three years.”

– Jamarr M.

What do these two Corpsmembers have in common?  Drum roll, please! Civicorps is excited to announce that Judith and Jamarr will be joining EBMUD for a year-long internship, starting this week! These two spectacular young adults will be the inaugural interns for EBMUD’s Community Trainee Program positions.

These positions came to fruition after a year of conversation and planning with EBMUD management. Discussion began in March 2021, in a bid to explore how to build a stronger partnership, get Corpsmembers hired into great jobs, and how to build a pathway into employment with EBMUD.

Now, our unique partnership has resulted in the creation of two 1-year Community Trainee Program (CTP) internship positions in the Operations and Maintenance Department, allowing for a young person to transition beyond Civicorps and into working with one of the East Bay’s largest employers. The CPT will cycle through teams focused on grounds maintenance, paint and carpentry, giving them exposure to a variety of jobs and skills.

“The idea of an internship was of course not new to EBMUD but the logistics are always tricky – funding, supervision, hiring process, job description, agreement from labor, etc.,” recalls Civicorps Executive Director Tessa Nicholas. “But, our extensive track record and over 35 year partnership provided a solid foundation to build on as we shared details on the training our Corpsmembers receive and the wrap-around support we provide.”

“Honestly, for me, being a woman, a lot of people I know were against what I was going to be doing – in me taking ‘a man’s role’ or me ‘not being strong enough,’” reflects Judith. “There was a point where I was listening to them. But now, I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I was thinking of quitting at the beginning, thinking I wasn’t going to make it, there was like so many things to learn. Now after being here for eight to nine months, I really know how to work power tools, I know how to troubleshoot them. I even know how to identify invasive plant species. I’m happy and proud that I haven’t been listening to the negative comments.”

Judith has worked on a range of projects such as the Pallet Partnership, which earned Civicorps (alongside fellow California corps LA Conservation Corps and San Jose Conservation Corps) 2022 Project of the Year by the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps. Judith also helped restore a habitat for local wildlife.

“I think I’m helping to break barriers, making a difference for future generations. I feel like for them, it’ll be easier seeing that there’s more women in the field.”

For Jamarr, no newbie to the conservation industry, Civicorps was a means to build his network among the organizations he had his eye on for employment: Waste Management, EBMUD, EBRPD, & the Port of Oakland.

Civicorps’ Support Services offers wrap-around support for plenty of Corpsmember needs. Among them includes career counseling, with workshops often happening every Friday. Jamarr appreciated the resume workshops, helping to hone and fine tune cover letters and the interview process.

“I built a lot of good relationships with the people [at Civicorps], [it] was a necessary stepping stone for my career.”

Without a doubt these stellar Corpsmembers brought their experience to the table and made these new roles happen for themselves. We cannot wait to see more of their accomplishments as they settle in their new roles!

Filed under: Blog, News

Into the Wild: Corpsmember Joins California Conservation Corps Backcountry Program

We’re excited to announce that Corpsmember Erica Bradley was accepted into California Conservation Corps’ Backcountry Trails Program (BCTP)!

In partnership with AmeriCorps, the Backcountry Program is an intensive, grueling, and off-the-grid adventure where crews traverse the wilderness for five months. They will maintain trails as well as learn about wilderness stewardship and exploration and environmental awareness. The program is renowned in the field and can be a jump off point for those wanting to pursue careers in conservation.

“I’m excited but a little nervous pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but I think that’s what I need to do to progress.”

And yet, Erica has been pushing outside her comfort zone since joining Civicorps in September 2021.

Before joining the Corps, Erica had been working retail and service positions. But Erica was no fan of working indoors. Through an online ad, Erica decided to apply.

“I like that it’s outdoors and saw that I would be using power tools, which I was interested in.”

And use power tools she did. Erica has earned her woodchipper, brushcutter, and chainsaw certifications, along with CPR & First Aid. With multiple “Hardest Hitter” awards recognition coming from her Crew Supervisor, Erica is no small fry when placed in a crew.

“In my opinion, Erica is in the running for the hardest working Corpsmember, period,” praises Conservation Crew Supervisor Ryan Waters. “Erica is someone who shows by example. She does her work with grace, has a wonderful attitude, and is an asset to any crew.”

Among the standout projects that she’s worked on was restoring a natural habitat for the snowy plover beside the Martin Luther King, Jr. Shoreline in the East Bay. In partnership with East Bay Regional Parks District, Erica constructed a space for the snowy plover’s mating season.

“When we did the habitat restoration, I didn’t’ even know [it was for] an endangered bird,” muses Erica.

It’s this go-getter attitude that Erica is known for at the Corps; she works hard and has a willingness to try new experiences.

“She is quiet, but is the person working last, who always volunteers without being asked. She’s incredibly insightful because she’s a good listener. People like to confide in her. I’ll be sad to see her go but very happy to see her grow,” says Ryan.

 In fact, being at the Corps has exposed Erica to learn about the different opportunities out there.

[Conservation Program Manager] Steven was talking about [the Backcountry Program], I heard ‘camping in the wilderness’ and it stuck out to me. I thought to myself, I want to do that. I had only done camping once for three days. I don’t get many chances to go out into the woods like that.”

Beyond the physical labor, the BCTP engages in community and personal development. When asked what she wanted to accomplish during her time with Civicorps, Erica responded: “Give me a sense of direction.”

With her next direction set, and the wilderness calling her name, Erica will have the time and space to reflect somewhere deep in the California backwoods. And with an open-mindedness to new opportunities, backed by her great work ethic, we have no doubt she’ll succeed in what she aims to do in the future!

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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Filed under: Blog, Student Spotlight

Conservation Crew Supervisors: Guiding Corpsmembers on their Path

Aaron Sims is the newest Conservation Crew Supervisor to join Civicorps. With no previous experience in conservation, Aaron only had an interest in being in the outdoors as his motivation.

As part of the interview process, candidates shadow a conservation crew at a work site for the whole day. It was during this ride-along that convinced Aaron to join Civicorps, the “vibe” he felt in getting to know the people and the work environment.

The first few months found Aaron shadowing most of the supervisors.

“Every day, they sent me somewhere new. I’ve been to every single project so far – I’ve been all over the place,” recounts Aaron.

Luckily, Aaron has a built-in community from which to get guidance.

Fellow supervisor and longtime veteran, Ryan Waters has been very helpful: “[Ryan] will pull me to the side and explain how you do this, how you do that – a lot of supervisors do that – they’ll pin point things for me. Every time I ask questions, there’s no judgment. They’ve been helpful and help me a lot.”

A Conservation Crew Supervisor directs a handful of young adults in their land management work at project sites throughout the East Bay. They not only juggle the multiple personalities of different Corpsmembers on their crew (while providing teaching opportunities to Corpsmembers at the same time), but supervisors also manage the completion of a project and the expectations of sponsor agencies.

“[Aaron has] a great disposition, very mellow, with feathers that don’t ruffle easily. He’s doing a great job on one of the hardest projects, Alameda County Flood Control, because they work around homeowners and the public, and he’s gotten no complaints from sponsors,” expresses Steven Addison, Conservation Program Manager.

Civicorps’ Support Services includes Counselors on-site at the corps to act as resources for Corpsmembers, should they need guidance. But often times, given that they spend most of their time on the field with Corpsmembers, Supervisors can be a de facto ear to hear Corpsmembers out.

“It does help being closer to [their] age [since] they can relate to me more, talk to me about their situations, and I can talk about my situation and try to give advice. I feel that helps a lot. I tell them I’m your supervisor, but I’m here to work alongside you.”

Now, after weeks of training and certifications, Aaron runs a limited crew. He’s still partnered with different supervisors, but he has his own group of Corpsmembers where he can develop his own leadership style.

“He’s a fast learner and Corpsmembers seem to like him. When they work with him they feel like they’re part of a family,” says supervisor Marisela Saeturn.

Civicorps helps young adults embark on their own personal journey to find sustaining careers. From college and career counseling to paid job training, the many resources Civicorps offers help to support Corpsmembers and their goals. Supervisors such as Aaron, are an added factor in helping to build Corpsmembers up.

When asked how he views his new role at the corps, Aaron simply answered: “I want to help them achieve their goals, whatever they want to accomplish.”

For Aaron, who will now be helping to shape these young people’s paths, his journey too is just beginning.

Do you share our vision for a world where all youth have the education and resources needed for college and career success?
Join us! Add your name to our list here.

Filed under: Blog

Civicorps Participant Earns Corpsmember of the Year Award!

We are beyond excited to announce that our very own Martha Alva Velásquez, a current Conservation Intern and Crew Leader, will be recognized by The Corps Network, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, as a 2022 Corpsmember of the Year!

This prestigious award is only being given to four Corpsmembers across the entire country this year.  An exceptional young woman, we featured Martha’s Conservation Career Pathway in our FY21 Annual Report.

The Corps Network presents the Corpsmember of the Year Award on an annual basis to young adults chosen from among the approximately 25,000 individuals who serve in member organizations of The Corps Network every year. The Corpsmembers of the Year are young people who, through their term of service in a Corps, have demonstrated personal growth, outstanding leadership skills, and a sincere commitment to helping their community. All winners of the Corpsmember of the Year Award are nominated by their Corps.

We couldn’t be more proud of Martha’s achievements, and we are deeply honored that The Corps Network has recognized her leadership.  It’s a privilege to have Martha be part of the Civicorps family, to support her goal of becoming a Park Ranger, and to be motivated by her talent and dedication.  We’re thrilled to be able to celebrate Martha with the entire Corps family across the country. – Tessa Nicholas, Executive Director

Congratulations to all the Supervisors and mentors who supported Martha’s growth and accomplishments.  And most of all, FELICIDADES, MARTHA!

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Corpsmember of the 2021 Fall Quarter: Anthony Silva


We’re excited to announce our 2021 Fall Corpsmember of the Quarter, Anthony Silva!

Anthony demonstrates his leadership abilities every day, guiding his crewmembers and supporting his supervisors as well as attaining a high level of skills and tools certifications.

Notably, Anthony works on Civicorps’ Port of Oakland contract without a Job Training Supervisor managing his crew, indicating he has earned the trust of his Supervisor, Jeff.

“Anthony stands out because of his efforts to be the best he can be,” expresses Jeff. “He also engages with the sponsor, whichever agency we are working for, creating a positive work environment.”

Recently, Anthony led Civicorps’ 2022 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Service Project. Partnering with the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department of the City of Berkeley, Anthony and his crew beautified the historically underserved communities of South and West Berkeley.

“The staff [Civicorps] sent were very respectful, hardworking, and represented [the] agency very well.  I was so proud of them; so proud to be part of that Corps family!” said Melissa Marizette-Green, Acting Senior Landscape Gardener Supervisor of the City of Berkeley Parks Operations.

Having heard about Civicorps from his brother (and fellow Corpsmember of the Quarter winner, Milton!) and encouraged by his family, Anthony joined the Corps to develop his soft skills: leadership, communication, and problem solving.

“I feel I’m already gaining those skills and sharpening and honing them, especially in the Crew Leader position where I can work on leadership and outspokenness in communicating. I like leading a group, it’s fun seeing the results you get based on leading, which is pretty gratifying.”

Anthony also has a range of interests from skateboarding to boxing. But when it comes to his work, he finds more interest in being outdoors than in.

Anthony (far right), with his crew members Erica and Santino, speaking with Melissa Marizette-Green, Acting Senior Landscape Gardener Supervisor of the City of Berkeley Parks Operations.

Anthony (bottom, far right) with his fellow blue hats, i.e., Crew Leaders.

“I like looking at nature, it’s one of the perks of this job. There are all the different views and scenery that we can see [at the project sites]. Like at Berkeley, working in the hills, you can see the city.”

Already accomplished, Anthony completed his Conservation Intern Investment Program (CIIP) Checklist, which tracks a Corpsmembers’ progress in career readiness, job performance, community participation, and skill development. To become a Crew Leader, Anthony was accepted into Civicorps’ competitive Crew Leader Academy, which occurs twice a year.

When asked about his future goals, Anthony expressed an interest in pursuing higher education. Currently, he is taking courses at Las Positas College.

“I don’t see myself doing something else anytime soon besides continuing my education. I’m interested in sociology, studying people – I like to help people. I felt like it’d be a good fit for me to find something [I] love to do, that’s when the job doesn’t feel like a job. Like here at Civicorps, when I’m working, it doesn’t feel like I’m working but we’re getting a lot of work done and having fun doing it.”

In recognition of Anthony’s stellar work ethic, reliability and leadership, the Corpsmember of the Quarter award is well-deserved. We’re sure he will no doubt keep up the amazing work!

Do you share our vision for a world where all youth have the education and resources needed for college and career success?
Join us! Add your name to our list here.

Filed under: Blog, News, Student Spotlight