Backpacking and Camping in Point Reyes

By David Jaeger

Jesuit Volunteer, David Jaeger, had the opportunity to co-lead an outdoor trip with 8 Corpsmembers to Point Reyes National Seashore.

I will quickly admit that I am not the best driver in the world. After receiving this warning, six Corpsmembers confirmed my self-evaluation shortly after hopping into a van headed northwest from our West Oakland academy site. After a few rough turns out of the parking lot and onto the highway, the driving went much more smoothly, and about an hour later, we arrived at the Bear Valley Welcome Center (all in one piece, as we’d hoped). When on the trail, there is a Civicorps tradition of using “wilderness names.” So, after we stopped for a sandwich break, we swapped our ordinary names for new monikers, did some stretching, and had a short team ritual to take us away from the mindsets we normally inhabit and towards an attunement to the trails. Now prepared, we set off on an hour’s hike towards our camping spot in the coastal valley for what would be a short but memorable backpacking trip.

Our group of 8 Corpsmembers and 5 staff, pitched tents at our campsite by the trail and quickly trotted down to the beach path just in time to see the sun setting and giving way to a beautiful near-full-moon. Osa* and Socks* even (bravely and enthusiastically) fully immersed themselves in the frigid ocean before we made the short trek back to our campsite. As things would have it, the fire would be a bit tricky for us this weekend- two of our three camping stoves weren’t working well at all. Nevertheless, we were still able to enjoy our pot of spaghetti and cooked vegetables. After we had some warm food in our stomachs, we headed back to the beach to try our hands at making a bonfire.

Our second attempt at a fire was stubborn and meek at first, but with enough kindling and about half an hour of effort, we had a fire worthy of s’more-making and were more than warm enough to become engrossed in several games of Mafia. After the game, we began the proverbial campfire ghost stories and we were quickly engrossed in Ya-you’s* tales of haunted hotel rooms and stealthy campsite visitors, followed by Bread’s* first venture into story-telling improvisation (regrettably cut short). After a few hours of our bonfire circle, the flames died down and in the quiet night we slept, for the most part peacefully, until dawn.

All of us spent the next windy morning on the beach, where we enjoyed the feeling of ocean waves on our flesh, let our feet dig into the sand, and explored or reclined while taking in the view of the coast and open sky. As we walked back and neared our vans, someone in our group astutely pointed to a clearing in the woods- and lo, there was a group of six elk grazing in the distance. We would have loved to have spent many more hours in Point Reyes, for there were many trails and sights that we did not have the chance to tread, but perhaps in the future, Corpsmembers and staff will take another trip to explore its beauty.

Before heading out, we ate our lunch at a trailhead and as a group, we transitioned back into our everyday names and roles. In our closing circle, we noted that almost all of us appreciated the opportunity to get away from the hustle of the city, to learn more about each other’s histories, to reflect, and attune ourselves to life on the trail, if only for a day. So, don’t let our appearances fool you. Everyone on this trip, whether it was their first time camping or the 300th time, transformed in some way or another, immersed with a new appreciation for each other and with new insights into ourselves and to this vast world we find ourselves in.

*Wilderness Name

Tervell: Big Steak
Roderick: Bread
Autumn: Wildlife Autumn
Keyone: Devon
Damario: Birdbox
Anthony: Bucko
Rosalinda: Osa
Jesus: Oso

Lauren: Ya-you
Eli: Moth
David: Stinging Nettle
Carl: Socks
Danny: Lil Steak

P.S. The driving went much more smoothly on the way back to Oakland also, just so you know.

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Skiing: Have fun falling!

“I’m scared of falling… what if it’s freezing… no Wi-Fi… no showers?!?” These were some of the complaints you heard Corpsmembers worry about weeks prior to our annual ski trip.  But at Civicorps, our attitude is that life is an adventure, you don’t know what it’s like until you try something. So 7 Corpsmembers, finally checked skiing off their bucket list, spending a weekend in Bear Valley and Calaveras Big Trees State Park.  And those complaints became affirmations of accomplishment, triumph, and joy!

I can say that I am not scared! I was racing with Rachel M. [Civicorps staff], she kept passing me and I was trying to go faster, it was so much fun! – Julisa

Skiing is exciting and tiring, but I am really enjoying it! It’s fun going downhill.” – Martha

Thanks to our partnership with Environmental Traveling Companions, Corpsmembers had their first ski lesson where they figured out how to put on skis and how to fall properly. You may ask yourself… “There’s a correct way to fall?” Dangerous falls can lead to concussions, sprained or broken bones. To prevent these injuries, Corpsmembers learned to balance their weight sideways. Crashing or falling is inevitable when learning to ski, so understanding how to fall is important to stay injury-free.

Estefany learning how to fall with her skis.

I kept falling and that itself was fun! They [ETC guides] teach you how to fall properly, so it’s not as scary and because now I know how, I wasn’t hurting myself. – Estefany

Soon after those lessons, Corpsmembers were taking off. It was a beautiful day to go skiing. The sun was out, the sky was clear, the temperature was just right. It was warm enough that folks started taking off layers. At one point, we had a Corpsmember go shirtless.

Corpsmembers participated in a snowball fight, made snow angels, and enjoyed the thrill of going downhill no matter how scary it felt. Check out these videos of Julisa and Anthony!

This is my first time skiing, it’s pretty cool. I really am enjoying the deep snow, it’s just so fantastic. Looking around, surrounded by the trees and mountains, it’s a nice getaway from the city. Even just being in the cabin has been great, we are chill’n playing games like hangman and cards, and it feels good. – Luis

It was a successful winter ski trip, one for the books! For most Corpsmembers, this was their first time seeing snow, but the first time for all to try something new like skiing. Civicorps is pleased to continue and support these outdoor opportunities for Corpsmembers who otherwise would never have these experiences presented to them. Yes, people complained at the beginning, but once we arrived at our destination and skied, the thrill of trying something new surmounted all fusses and fears. Check out more exciting photos and videos!

Anthony snow fighting with Nigel (ETC)
Group photos of Corpsmembers and ETC volunteers

 

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MLK 25th Annual Day of Service

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Across the country, thousands of Americans participated in service activities on January 20 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year marked the 25th anniversary of the MLK Day of Service which celebrates Dr. King’s vision of empowering individuals, strengthening communities, bridging barriers, and creating solutions to social problems. This specific federal holiday is the only holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer and improve their communities.

Civicorps had the honor to volunteer alongside Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo’s District 5’s Fruitvale Bart Area. Together, Corpsmembers, Civicorps staff and alumni helped clean up the streets. We picked up loose plastic, old furniture, recyclables, and unexpected items like a toilet. Collectively, along with other organizations including Playworks, California Waste Solutions, and Peace Starts with Me, we picked up truckloads of trash, a united community serving Oakland.

“It meant a lot to me because as we were getting done, I could see the difference we made. The streets looked better. Knowing that young kids will be able to walk down these clean streets gives me hope for my 3 year old son’s future. He being there present to witness this community effort was impactful and I am grateful for it. Plus, it was MLK Day, honoring this black historical leader made me feel good and I know he would have been proud of us doing this act of service.” – Imani Allen, Corpsmember and AmeriCorps Recipient, Civicorps

I am glad that Civicorps has the opportunity to be part of these activities honoring the legacy of MLK’s commitment to making our communities better and more equitable.” – Tessa Nicholas, Executive Director, Civicorps

In addition, a Civicorps crew was at the MLK Shoreline helping East Bay Regional Park District control traffic during their annual celebration honoring Dr. King.

“I made sure folks felt welcomed as they entered the parking lot to honor Martin Luther King Jr. This celebration brought so many people together, I was just glad to be there helping out.” – Ta-Ron Giddens, Conservation Intern and AmeriCorps Recipient, Civicorps

Even though MLK’s legacy is nationally recognized on this day every year, we are presently committed to working throughout the year to make our streets better for our communities. We were pleased to discover that Councilmember Noel Gallo’s team leads weekly clean ups that honor the spirit of community and service! So if you would like to help out and dedicate your time to volunteering, reach out to Civicorps staff and together we can serve Oakland!

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Going with the flow: a field trip

A guest blog by Katy Avila, Research, Health/Wellness Teacher/Curriculum Specialist at Civicorps

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. It was our last day of the term and we planned a field trip for our Health & Wellness class to the Tilden Little Farm to spend some time in nature and feed the animals. In our class we learned that getting outside and connecting with the natural world is good for our health.

We left the school around 9am, and drove 20 minutes from downtown Oakland to the Tilden Little Farm. Julissa was our navigator and DJ for the car ride. We drove on windy roads deeper and deeper into the hills, where the forest grew thick with trees all around us. We were all having a great time until we pulled up to the parking lot and saw a big sign with blinking lights that said: “PARK IS CLOSED; FIRE DANGER.

Suddenly we had a dilemma: what are we going to do with our time now?

Without a plan, we drove through the Oakland Hills. It hardly looked like Oakland at all anymore. We reached roads that gave us a glimpse of the flat, golden plains beyond the hills into Contra Costa County. We reached peaks so high that we had to pull over to witness the amazing view of the bay (and have a mini-Instagram photo shoot in front of it). Then, with the skyline of the city in the distance, we knew what to do next; we would drive all the way into San Francisco.

We sat in the inevitable traffic on the Bay Bridge and found ourselves at Fisherman’s Wharf. It was hotter on this side of the bay, and we walked in the sunshine through shops that sell seashells and props for magic tricks. We ate cookies and then saw a sign for Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze. Curiosity piqued, we walked up the stairs to find ourselves at the entrance of a neon colored room booming with loud music. We all looked at each other and said, “Let’s do it!”

The maze was disorienting. We ran into mirrors and stayed close to one another so we wouldn’t get lost. We took pictures inside the maze, and had so much fun we went through it a second time. At one point we legitimately did not know how to get out and started to panic. With each other’s help we finally escaped, dizzy from all the wrong turns and bright lights. We took a quick walk down to Pier 39 to see the sea lions, and then it was time to head back to school.

As a teacher, I’m always thrilled to have new experiences with the students to get to know one another better. The Corpsmembers are often teaching me lessons without knowing it. This trip taught me how to be flexible, spontaneous and curious—and how to turn a disappointment into an exciting adventure.

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Journey to Graduation - Civicorps Grads December 2019

Join Civicorps’ December 12th Class of 2019 Graduation Ceremony at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts | RSVP

Xiana 

I really hope I don’t trip on stage when I receive my high school diploma. It’s been a journey to finally accomplish it. For me growing up, I didn’t think this would have been possible. I clearly remember my 6th grade teacher telling me that if I don’t complete my homework I wouldn’t graduate, so I believed that. I was never good at school and struggled to finish assignments. There came a time in my senior year where I knew I couldn’t finish my credits, so I stopped going to school.

Civicorps has been that second chance opportunity I needed. It was here where I took my learning into my own hands. I was able to study and grow in my education at my own individual pace. I wasn’t restrained by homework assignments and the teachers made sure I understood the material. The counselors and support staff were here for me. If I wasn’t feeling well and missed school, Aaron or Natasha (case counselors at Civicorps), would call me and check in on me. They showed they care and I loved that. It helped me believe in my abilities and to feel accomplished as I was passing my classes.

And as I walk proudly on that stage to receive my high school diploma, I proudly march off to the next chapter in my life. I will be going to community college where I hope to transfer to my dream school, UC Davis, and study polymer fiber science. I dream of incorporating my degree, love for textile and fashion and start a business producing workout clothes. So while my goals may or may not change, having goals is key because no matter what, I will always be aiming to accomplish them!

 

Rakeem

Being at Civicorps, I have been able to be more confident in myself. I have found a place where I truly felt support. When my mentor saw an ad about Civicorps, I hesitated to apply… because for me high school was like a prison. But in the first few weeks of being here, I got to meet and connect with my peers who I could relate to. I liked that. I wasn’t the only one who had struggles, and seeing them work hard for their education, along with the academic support, was the push I needed to believe in my abilities to learn.

A year ago I truly believed I didn’t need school. But going through it all, I was able to become stronger mentally and spiritually. I have become a better person, my confidence has improved a lot. I can talk to anybody and not be nervous. Civicorps has definitely allowed me to come out of my shell. My vocabulary has improved so much that I can think outside of the box. This has allowed me to explore my creative side and discover my love for performing and writing rap lyrics.

My dream is to become one of the biggest rappers in the world. I want to make an impact through my music. (Follow my YouTube channel: HAZBANGER). And well, as I graduate this week, I look forward to continue working hard and staying focused on my music career.

Marquise

Prior to Civicorps I was working security, but with not having a high school diploma, I was deterred from advancing. Years were going by where I supported my son financially, but I was not accomplishing my goals. I needed to go back to school. So I finally made the decision to start Civicorps in the summer of 2018.

When I did start Civicorps, I suffered the loss of my brother. But his spirit kept me motivated to continue to achieve my dreams. I am grateful Civicorps’ counselors were there to provide me support as I went through this tough ordeal. Since then, I have moved away from negative energies and focused on positive outcomes. I turned my pain into motivation for success. When I took my NWEA math exam, I felt the presence of my brother next to me. It was an overwhelming feeling of relief and success knowing he was guiding me.

This December 12th I will receive my high school diploma, I will walk that stage feeling proud of finally accomplishing this goal. I don’t regret taking my time. At my own pace, I was able to understand life and I am grateful for the teachers and staff at Civicorps who guided my path to success. I will be enrolling at Merritt College where I hope to begin my nursing career.

Ruben

I was in my car scrolling though Instagram when I saw an ad for Civicorps. In that moment I made a decision that I needed to change the direction of my life. I must admit that I was never the best student. In high school I was getting into fights, I was distracted and unfocused. No one in my family had graduated from high school, so I didn’t think I would be the exception.

Coming to Civicorps, I found structure. I found a support system that believes in my abilities. I’ve never learned so much in my entire life until coming here. I passed tests, a feat I never thought I could do. I would come in early to study and leave late to learn more. There was just an honest support structure that allowed me to believe in myself. Even though studying was tough, if you work hard enough you can achieve it. I finally understood that.

I will be graduating with honors and breaking a cycle by becoming the first one in my family to graduate high school. I did this for me, for my mother, and for the future I hope to have.

I am the change I want to see for my life.

After Civicorps I plan to study at community college. I have an interest in business and real estate, and hope to transfer to a four year university like UC Davis, CSU East Bay, San Jose State or SF State. My options are limitless and I am ready to proceed forward!

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To participate or to really participate?

What is democratic participation and why is it important? That’s a question many of our students have when they see it listed on their graduation requirements. Simply put, it’s the participation in democracy. This graduation requirement permits Civicorps students to be actively and civically engaged in their community. Whether it’s speaking in front of City Council and/or being present in the audience, attending a town hall, and/or sitting in a Civicorps board meeting, they are engaged and involved in the decision making of policies that affects their community.

“I felt good standing up in front of City Council and talking about my goals from my start at Civicorps, to where I am now, and what is next to come.” – Kelvin Holmes, Corpsmember, Dec. 2019 Grad

Throughout the year, students have a multitude of opportunities to participate in democratic activities. Civicorps staff announce opportunities to complete this requirement at community meetings or are posted in our social media pages like Facebook and Twitter, #DemocraticParticipationOpportunity.

“We know that when people are civically engaged, when they understand what their rights are, when they understand that in a democracy you can challenge governments, you can challenge policymakers, and you can… actually shape and form future policy, I think it changes the perception that a lot of young people have about where power is.” Ilhan Omar, U.S. Representative

Kelvin Holmes shares his Civicorps journey to Oakland City Council ^

Enoc Peraza, Jesus Fernandez and Earnisha Thornton, Civicorps Dec. 2019 Grads; Tessa Nicholas, Executive Director; Rodney Dunn, Dean of Students, were among those who spoke to the Council for the City of Oakland on October 15, 2019 <

Photo Credit: Denisha DeLane

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