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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#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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Backpacking to Point Reyes

Friday morning, February 22nd, Corpsmembers and staff met at Civicorps for our first annual overnight backpacking camping trip. We assigned backpacks, sleeping bags and pads, hiking boots, tents, warm layers, and evenly distributed food to pack into our 65 or 75 Liter backpacks. For most Corpsmembers and half the staff, this was their first time learning how to pack for a backpacking trip. (Thanks to Bay Area Wilderness Training for supplying all the gear!)

Our campsite, Coast Camp, was located at Point Reyes National Seashore, located in Northern California’s Marin County. Most of us hiked the 1.9 mile Fire Lane trail, while four Corpsmembers and staff hiked up to the peak of Mount Wittenberg, 6 miles to the Coast Campground. A steep and strenuous hike, Corpsmembers were not phased and took on the challenge by jogging the trail.

Upon arriving, we set up camp, assembled our tents and started on our dinner. Full of bean and corn soup, we built a campfire on the Santa Maria Beach, where we bonded over s’mores, stories, and epic endless rounds of Mafia!

“My favorite part of the trip was the bonfire and the hike, and having a raccoon steal my pants! But we found them!”Malajah, Corpsmember

 “My favorite part of the trip was hiking 6 miles, 9 by the end of the trip. I also ate vegan food!”Joshua, Corpsmember

 “Coming together as a community and having fun, playing Mafia on the beach, and having some giggles, that was fun!”Kevin, Corpsmember

The following morning, we woke up to a frost-covered campsite. Temperatures were in the 30s, but a nice hot pot of water helped warm our stomachs with coffee and tea, oatmeal, and for some, a cup of noddle soup. As the sun rose, we walked over to the beach, where many of us swam in the freezing waters of the Pacific Ocean. By noon, we were on our way back out 3 miles on the Coast Trail.

A beautiful trip, we enjoyed the sight of wildlife including an elephant seal, deer, and many wild birds. This weekend was a moment to destress, connect with nature, and allow for spiritual healing. This trip would not have been possible without Civicorps’ fierce leaders, Lauren, Civicorps’ Resource Specialist and Steven, Job Training Coordinator!

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Reconnecting Youth Campaign

Unleashing Limitless Potential

Yesterday, Civicorps Corpsmembers, alumni, staff, and community partners conducted a meeting at the Oakland offices of Congresswoman Barbara Lee. We were thrilled to help represent constituents of California’s 13th congressional district in legislative advocacy with the Reconnecting Youth Campaign. The RYC is a collaborative national campaign calling on Congress to invest in America’s future by funding 1 million pathways to education, training, national service and employment opportunities for youth ages 16-24 who are neither working nor in school.

We met with Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s District Director, Press Secretary and a Congressional Aide, and shared information about the opportunities Civicorps creates for youth. Corpsmembers and alumni shared their personal journeys of success and the benefits of programs like Civicorps.

For over 35 years, Civicorps has provided vital services to disconnected youth, by re-engaging young adults to earn their high school diploma, gain job skills, pursue college and embark on family sustaining careers.

One startling statistic we shared with the Congresswoman’s staff: in our Congressional district, 7,096 Opportunity Youth have been separated from pathways to productive adulthood. These young people seek opportunities to provide for themselves and their families, and their talents offer an untapped opportunity to contribute to our community and economy. Even more staggering to note: nationally, 4.6 million youth lack these pathways to success, and federal funding only reached about 350,000 youth in 2017-18.

Existing programs like Civicorps address the multiple barriers faced by Opportunity Youth and offer unique approaches and program models to reconnect them with education, job training skills and employment opportunities.

We’re grateful for Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s longstanding leadership on behalf of the youth of Oakland and Alameda County.  We’re delighted to be able to participate in the Reconnecting Youth Campaign, calling for increased funding for existing programs with demonstrated success.

Help spread the word, call or tweet at your Member of Congress and ask them to support funding for Opportunity Youth!

RYC_Oakland_Mont..01.9b Music/sound remix from Lowdownhaus / Thayer N. Walker on Vimeo.

The RYC interviewed our Corpsmembers for a forthcoming video about Opportunity Youth in this congressional district.  This video of alumni Samantha Vitti and Bethany Rivard (now a Civicorps staff member) is an example of more to come.

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Civicorps Ski Trip 2019

What do you get when you have a detective, an angel, 3 mafiosos, and a cabin full of Corpsmembers? Mafia! This party game of deception, intuition and storytelling was so much fun during this year’s Civicorps weekend ski trip.

This past weekend Corpsmembers partook in Civicorps’ annual ski trip. Six Corpsmembers, 4 staff including Civicorps’ Jesuit Volunteers, and 7 Environmental Traveling Companions Guides and volunteers shared a cabin in Arnold, CA, and cross country skied at Big Trees State Park. It was the first time Corpsmembers experienced the snow.

“My favorite part of the weekend was seeing snow. I’ve only seen snow on TV. I’ve also never skied and falling was my favorite part. Everyone kept a smile on their face as they tried their best. Thank you to the ETC staff and volunteers for making this possible.” – CP, Corpsmember

The weekend forecasted a winter storm, however the excitement of being in the outdoors did not prevent our Corpsmembers from staying indoors. We suited up in our ski gear and went out in the cold to experience something new.

“I’m really impressed with everyone’s attitude. This was a huge storm. Nine out of 10 groups ETC hosts would have stayed away. But everyone’s attitude was great, and we made it a great weekend with 3 feet of snow. My favorite moment was when we reached the split (halfway to our destination), and everyone wanted to keep going.” – Jake, ETC Winter Program Leader

“The ski lesson on the parking lot was my favorite moment. It was so hard, folks were crisscrossing their skis and falling. But people were smiling. Even when Jake kept recommending to take off the skis, [Corpsmembers] were determined to stay on them and learn.” – Naseem, ETC Winter Program Volunteer

After a long day of skiing, we returned to the cabin where we made dinner and engaged in fun activities like Mancala and Apples to Apples. One of the most popular games that everyone liked was Mafia. Folks were passionate and really got to share in their story telling abilities.

“My favorite moment of the weekend was meeting everyone and playing Mafia. That’s the best game I’ve ever played.” – Rakeem, Corpsmember

When Sunday morning came, we were snowed in and the power went out due to a falling tree on the highway. During that time, Corpsmembers went sledding, while staff and volunteers shoveled snow. We finally made it out and arrived safely back to Oakland. This weekend would not have been possible without the support of ETC’s volunteers and guides. We thank them for welcoming us to their cabin and making it a home for us. It’s always a pleasure bringing our Corpsmember out of the town and into the outdoors.

See more photos on our Facebook Page!

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