Kiara Alexis receives Corpsmember of the Year Award in Washington, DC

Civicorps’ Kiara Alexis was honored this week as one of six national Corpsmember of the Year award recipients at the Corps Network 2018 National Conference in Washington, DC.

Watch Kiara share her story in an inspiring speech. As a mother, an author, a recycling driver, and now a union apprentice with Waste Management, Kiara has become a role model to other women who want to enter this male-dominated field.

While in DC, Kiara has been meeting with other Corpsmembers and leaders from across the country as well as meeting our representatives like Congresswoman Barbara Lee!

From left to right: Brian Hickey, CFO; Alan Lessik, Executive Director;Congresswoman Barbara Lee, 13th District; Kiara Alexis; Yvette Arroyo-Agradano, Career Pathways Coordinator

Kiara’s Speech:

Growing up in Oakland, CA was pretty rough for me. My mother was a single parent raising four children on her own.  The neighborhood was corrupted by drugs, gangs and violence but this was no excuse for my siblings and I to fall short and become a product of our environment.  Although my mother worked, we had very little and it still amazes me how she managed to keep a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs.  Watching her work so hard, always putting her children first, instilled hard work and selflessness in my heart. Read more…


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A New Vision for Civicorps Students

“When people told me that I should go to college, I didn’t know what that meant. I thought that was just something that people said to young people. I didn’t realize at the time that it meant that they believed in me,” said Eduardo, a Civicorps alum and recent UC Berkeley Graduate.

Students come to Civicorps with an incredibly diverse range of academic experience. We’ve had students, such as Harris who went on to become Corpsmember of the Year, come to Civicorps after missing school for over a decade. We have other students, such as Xenia, who pass all of their exit exams on the first try and breeze through the requirements to graduate in under 9 months.

How do we, as educators, adapt to this enormous range in service and learning needs? How do we equip such diverse students for the rigors of college and a professional career?

I was brought on at Civicorps to foster a nascent culture change already taking root within our community. Rather than seeing ourselves as solely a pathway to family-sustaining careers, I want our students to see themselves as scholars and to know that college is within their reach.

The standard college level Intro to English class, whether you’re at a junior college or a UC, is to write over 30 pages in one semester. Some of our students arrive at Civicorps having been invisible in an inequitable public education system and have never had the opportunity to cultivate these skills.

With a reinvigorated push toward college preparation in mind, my vision for the 2017-2018 School Year includes three primary objectives:

The most effective way to address such a wide range of skills is a blended learning approach – which is a method of instruction that allows our teaching staff to work with students at their present academic levels by leveraging technology.

In math class, for example, an instructor might spend 20 minutes of the class teaching a new set of skills to the whole group, and then students would spend the remainder of the class working individually (or with an academic coach) at their current level. This personalized learning approach allows students to move through the program at a pace that works for them.

In addition to blended learning, Civicorps teachers use culturally responsive teaching methods in order to promote an equitable learning environment. This method of teaching uses collectivist cultural practices which increase engagement and retention. It allows teachers to shift the cognitive load from themselves to the students and encourages students to engage in productive struggle.

Since reading and writing tend to be areas that predominantly determine a student’s success in the first year of college, we have doubled our portfolio writing requirements so that students can gain these skills while in the supportive environment at Civicorps.

By showing students that college is not only an option for them, but the next stage of their trajectory, we will see a cultural change where students develop a college-going mindset.

We are already seeing the change take root. More and more of our students are seeing college as a step in achieving their goals. They are seeing that they’re as capable and every bit as deserving of a college education as anyone else.

We look forward to seeing our students rise to the new heights that we set in the coming year and preparing students for the challenges that lie ahead – academically and professionally.

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Recycling Driver Kiara Selected as Corpsmember of the Year

Every year, The Corps Network chooses 6 youth from 130 Service and Conservation Corps across the country for the national Corpsmember of the Year award. Civicorps’ star Recycling Driver, Kiara, was chosen as a Corpsmember of the Year for her exemplary success at Civicorps Recycling and for being a role model to other women as she advances to her Waste Management union apprenticeship in 2018. Congrats Kiara!

Click below to read more about Kiara!

Filed under: News, Student Spotlight

Civicorps student, alumna, and crew supervisor share their stories with East Bay Times

Civicorps was recently selected as a recipient for an annual holiday grant called Share the Spirit, which is sponsored by the Bay Area News Group and benefits needy residents of Alameda and Contra Costa counties by funding nonprofit holiday and outreach programs. As part of the grant, three current and former Civicorps corpsmembers were interviewed by the East Bay Times and shared their stories of strength and finding community at Civicorps.

Read the full story by clicking below!

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Four Soon-to-be-Grads Share Stories of Their Success


“At Civicorps I found the stability I craved – plus a place where I could show off my talents and excel.”

When I first came to Civicorps and went through orientation, we did an activity where we had to talk about our feelings in front of everybody. I was so used to shutting my emotions off that I couldn’t handle it, so I said I wasn’t going to do it and walked out.

Later on I realized I might not have this opportunity again, so I came back the next day and asked for another chance. When they let me back into the program, I decided I was going to do things right this time around.

Growing up, I had a lot of instability in my life. I was just a kid, but I had to move from one relative’s house to another because I had nowhere to stay long-term. That sort of life makes you grow up real fast.

At Civicorps I finally found the stability I craved – plus a place where I could show off my talents and excel. I went from not feeling motivated to wake up early, to having perfect attendance, making Honor Society multiple terms, and being awarded Corpsmember of the Quarter.

When I cross that stage it’s going to feel great to finally hold my diploma, but I know I’m not finished yet. I’m going to college to study business and psychology. The future used to seem uncertain, but at Civicorps I found a sense of myself that I can take with me everywhere.


“I can’t wait to walk the stage, receive my diploma and show my daughter, Gabriella, that there are no limits to what she can achieve once she sets her mind to it.”

My parents separated when I was younger and our family split apart. I remember spending a lot of time on my own growing up – feeling like if nobody else cared about whether I was in school, why should I?

I didn’t have the support of a family to keep me grounded when I was younger, but when my daughter came along, all of that changed. Suddenly I had a family – and a reason to go back to school. It was then that I decided that I would do whatever it takes to be the best mother and role model for her.

Being a part of the Civicorps family has been by far one of the best experiences of my life. Even though it’s not a typical high school, it gave me a glimpse of the high school experience that I missed out on. Plus the added benefits receiving counseling from the support staff and sharing classes with other moms who were also trying to make a change for their kids.

I’m proud to say that in the spring I will be a college student, and once I’m finished, a Registered Nurse. I can’t wait to walk the stage, receive my diploma and show my daughter, Gabriella, that there are no limits to what she can achieve once she sets her mind to it.


“Civicorps promised the opportunity to find a career path while I was in school – and it lived up to that promise. Now I know I want to pursue a career in IT and computer engineering.”

My mom and her sisters immigrated by boat from Laos to the United States. I’m the first generation in my family to be born here. Although I have six other siblings, I’m the oldest boy, and my mom expected me to set an example for my siblings.

Growing up in Oakland it was a challenge to stay out of trouble. When everyone you know is living the street life, you begin to think that’s the only way to make a living. Seeing someone close to me go to prison and another person die as a result of that life, I decided to make a change.

Civicorps promised the opportunity to find a career path while I was in school – and it lived up to that promise. Now I know I want to pursue a career in IT and computer engineering. After I graduate, I plan on enrolling in a Hack the Hood program to learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and after that, college!

Out of seven kids, I will be the third person in the family to finish high school and the first boy to cross that graduation stage. My mom is a single parent and sacrificed so much for us. Now I feel like I can give something back to her by graduating and being successful in my career.


“Going through what I’ve been through and then completing this program has shown me how resilient I am.”

Growing up I lost a lot of people close to me due to violence. I don’t think there was a year that went by that I didn’t lose somebody. It made the thought of going to school seem pointless, so I just stopped going.

When I had my two baby boys, I suddenly had a renewed motivation to finish school. Once they were old enough to be in school during the day, I was determined to get my diploma so that I could provide a good life for them.

Everyone comes to Civicorps with their own challenges and I had mine, but the support at Civicorps is huge. The counseling I received from staff and teachers helped me get to where I wanted to be. Coming to Civicorps and completing this program after everything I’ve been through has shown me how resilient I am.

This experience inspired me to think about how I can help others in similar situations. After graduation, I want to take psychology classes at Merritt College and become a therapist. Everything I needed in my youth and everything I got at Civicorps – I want to be that resource for others.

Join us to cheer on all of our graduates as they cross the stage to receive their diplomas! 

Filed under: News, Student Spotlight

Taking a Look at Homelessness and Working in the Bay Area

A story about working and homelessness recently re-aired on KQED’s Forum radio show, featuring Civicorps graduate Daeshane.The story has been part of KQED’s ongoing coverage of the working homeless in the Bay Area – an issue that continues to grow as the cost of living rises.

Click here to listen to the story.

Another Civicorps student, Andrew, was also featured on KQED’s Newsroom in an episode discussing the same issue. In 2016-17, 38% of Civicorps students were experiencing homelessness while attending school and job training. Watch the clip from the Newsroom discussion below:

Filed under: News