#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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A glimpse at our December 2018 graduates

Join Civicorps’ December 13th Class of 2018 Graduation Ceremony at the Oakland Museum of California | RSVP

Moniqué 

By graduating, I am proving to myself that “si se puede, YES YOU CAN!”

Even though it’s taken me longer than planned, I am graduating, which is something that my parents and many of my family weren’t able to accomplish. I am grateful for the obstacles I’ve encountered because I have learned and grown from them to become independent, a better partner, and a leader. Having that diploma in my hand is a representation of my drive to succeed.

I am grateful for my partner Lamont. He and I started Civicorps together, and are graduating together. He is my rock as I am to his. Mr. Dunn (Dean of Students) has always said that we would be a distraction to each other, but that just fueled our want to succeed and prove him wrong. And we did it! For that I am also grateful for Mr. Dunn.

I plan to enroll in college, take business courses and dive into my entrepreneurial personality. I have dreams of getting my cosmetology certificate and a Bachelor degree in business administration. Then… embark in several of my start up ideas that includes a beauty skincare line… but for now, I want to enjoy the bliss of graduating, walk on stage wearing my high heels, glitter and make up!

 

Nuk

I first came to Civicorps in 2013, took a break in 2014 and came back in 2017. It’s been a journey to finally reach it to the end and receive my high school diploma.  I am grateful for the support I received at Civicorps and for finally seeing a best version of myself here.

One of my proudest moments while at Civicorps was when I won an award for an art piece I submitted to the ACLU. I love art, and have a talent for it. People know me as an artist, which at first, was hard for me to acknowledge. But when your passion is being recognized by others, it really makes you believe in it.

I am grateful today to have even been commissioned to do art work for others.  Who knows, maybe in the distant future I will have an art show. It’s all about perseverance, staying on track of your goals and fighting against your adversities. And that’s what I will continue to do.

I am setting an example to my family by crossing that stage and receiving my high school diploma. I want my son to know that his father will always work hard and will continue to achieve my dreams for him to be proud of.

Sandi

My oldest daughter came home from school one day and asked me if I went to college. It hurt me to say that I didn’t even graduate from high school. It was in this moment when I realized that I needed to be more of an example for my kids and show them that they should not settle for less.

I want opportunities to open up. I want to give them everything my parents didn’t give me. When I walk the stage to receive my high school diploma, I will tell my daughter that this diploma is for her. Going through Civicorps I have seen opportunities present themselves that I would have never seen staying at home. My education will continue, and I will not stop until I have achieved an Associate’s certification and a Bachelor’s degree.

I have two chainsaw certifications from Civicorps, not too many woman have earned that. I currently am a Customer Service Intern at Civicorps. From being in the field, to working behind a desk, I am capable of anything.

Tony

I am one of few Civicorps students that is graduating within a year, 10 months to be exact. That itself is something I am very proud of.

Growing up I was on track to graduate high school and go on to a 4 year university. But ever since 9th grade, I knew traditional school was not for me. I was bored, unmotivated, and felt unsupported. My parents always had the need to compare me to others. And it was these expectations that ultimately made me give up on myself.

Civicorps was my choice to try something new and on my own terms. It was here that I got to be independent and not have to feel like a failure. My teachers really believed in me and that’s what motivated me to begin thinking about the future and pursuing the things I want to do.

I am happy I will continue to remain part of this community as I complete a one year internship at Civicorps. In the fall of 2019, I will be enrolling in college studying biochemistry. My goal is to teach science and maybe become a science teacher at Civicorps. If I put my mind on it, stay focused, I know I can accomplish it.

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