Oh, The Places You'll Go

A guest blog by Steven Addison, Job Training Coordinator at Civicorps

Sahsae (left) and Josh at the gateway of their new home

On Sunday, April 21, Civicorps said goodbye to Corpsmembers Sahsae Robertson and Josh Ballard as they took a leap of faith and joined the California Conservation Corps’ 40 year old Backcountry Trails Program (BCTP), a joint program with AmeriCorps.  Sunday was the perfect day to begin something new.  A clear blue morning and lush green hills lay ahead of us as we drove to the foothills of the Sierra Mountains to the CCC’s Placer Center.  Civicorps Lead Counselor Natasha Vinakor was the perfect co-pilot for this trip, because she assisted in navigating the excitement, anxiety and a wide range of emotions bubbling up for Sahsae, Josh and myself.

Sahsae (middle left), Josh (second from right) and Steven (right) meet two of the BCTP supervisors

As a former Backcountry Corpsmember, I too started my 5 ½ month journey in the mountains of Yosemite at the Placer Center.  21 years ago I set off on a life changing and career defining trip that led me to incredible sunrises, breath taking mountain lakes and some of the most physically demanding days of my life.

I can’t predict what exact adventures Sahsae and Josh are about to experience but I do know that neither will be the same if and when they return to Oakland.  They will each hike hundreds of miles, build countless early morning campfires, dip bone tired bodies in cool mountain creeks and lakes and make a crazy amount of sandwiches for lunch each day.  Both Josh and Sahsae will sit by a camp fire with their crew members late into the night talking, laughing and getting to know each other.  By no means will every day be great, some days they will have to drag themselves out of their warm sleeping bags into the cold and sometimes wet mornings, or haul their bodies that last 100 yards to get to the top of some god-forsaken trail.  Josh and Sahsae will cherish the letters and packages (we have addresses for both) delivered by the mule teams once a week along with the grocery order.  At some point they miss and crave home, friends, family and some specific food that will be out of reach.

Dr. Seuss wrote “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”.  For many reasons, we of the BCTP felt that he was speaking to us because of lines like “it’s opener there in the wide open air” and “ on and on you will hike, and I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are”. After dropping Josh and Sahsae off, I now know that Dr. Seuss was speaking to all who have attempted a season in the wilderness.

Special thanks to Dan Ramos at The North Face for hooking us up with much needed gear and clothing for this adventure, and to Sports Basement in Berkeley for the gift card.

 

Natasha strikes a pose with Sahsae and Josh

 

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Civicorps goes to Sacramento

They left Oakland at the crack of dawn outfitted in their Corps gear and prepped to tell their personal stories. They arrived in Sacramento early but bright-eyed, enjoyed the beauty of our state Capitol building and got ready to spend the day repping Civicorps.  Along with dozens of other Corpsmembers from around California, Blake Singletary, Monique Pena and Xiana Herrera confidently strode the halls of our state capitol yesterday on CALCC’s Government Ed Day.

Four lucky Civicorps staff – Tessa Nicholas, Joseph Billingsley, Rodney Dunn and Rachel Eisner – accompanied them and watched them shine throughout a dizzying array of meetings with legislative offices.  Thank you to the wonderful staff at the offices of Assemblymembers Tim Grayson, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, Jim Frazier, Buffy Wicks, Rob Bonta and Senators Nancy Skinner and Steve Glazer for warmly welcoming us and learning about our work.  And special thanks to the Assemblymember Kansen Chu himself for a terrific conversation along with our friends at the San Jose Conservation Corps.

Once a year, the 14 Corps represented by the California Association of Local Conservation Corps converge in Sacramento to spread the word about why CALCC is such an important part of transforming communities in California.  We are all so lucky to be part of a community that’s working on issues like conserving energy, finding cost-effective solutions to environmental concerns AND helping young people find alternatives to youth unemployment, incarceration and substance abuse.

Blake, Monique and Xiana powerfully represented what Civicorps offers to young adults by describing their individuals paths to our doors, and proudly listed their accomplishments in tool certifications, Honor Roll listings, and more.  As Xiana explained, “I was skeptical at first and thought this would be just another high school.  But I got told I had potential and it made me feel welcome.”  December 2018 graduate and current Food Program Intern Monique described how growing up in Oakland, she never felt the kind of support from schools or other institutions that she found here; “they want to see you thrive,” she said, “rather than put you behind bars.”  And Blake humorously described how he originally left our program after one week, but returned and is now poised to complete his requirements this year. “I have accomplished a lot that I wouldn’t have thought I could” at Civicorps.

We finished the marathon day of meetings with a fabulous photo op with all the Corpsmembers who traveled to Sacramento from up and down California.  The sun was shining, the friendships were blossoming, the #LocalCorpsStrength pride was bursting.  What a wonderful day!  It felt fantastic to spread our message about positively transforming our communities all over California.

 

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College and Career Fair 2019

Every spring, Civicorps holds a College and Career Fair to inspire and inform our Corpsmembers as they consider their futures after graduation.  We held our latest College and Career Fair on Friday, April 5.  During a series of presentations, students learned about new trades and certificated programs, asked questions, and had the opportunity to network with representatives from a number of Bay Area vocational and educational organizations. Many thanks to our partners who sent representatives to Civicorps to ignite our students’ imaginations about their future:

We also had the pleasure of learning from a panel of Civicorps alumni about their career pathways after graduation. Thank you to Effrey Jamal Simms, Class of 2013, independent graphic designer; Serena Saechao, Class of 2015, City of Oakland; and Roxanna Elias, Class of 2016, medical assistant. We are lucky to have received your valuable advice.

Our students are now on Spring Break, and we’ll be excited to welcome them back after a well-deserved respite.  We also look forward to meeting our newest group of Corpsmembers at our April 16 orientation.

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Just Jobs for Waste Workers featuring Civicorps

If you live in California, you’re probably already used to the fact that the rest of the country follows our lead on innovations in everything from tech products to the entertainment industry to environmental policy.  We’re proud to say that Civicorps’ unique career pathway partnership with Waste Management is no different — it’s been noticed by an environmental and labor coalition in New York City and featured in their recent Just Jobs for Waste Workers report.

The Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition is dedicated to transforming New York City’s commercial trash industry to reduce waste and pollution, foster clean and healthy communities and create good jobs.  Enter Civicorps!  Former Civicorps Recycling driver Kiara Alexis, featured last year on KTVU Fox Channel 2’s “Bay Area People”, is recognized in the report as a trailblazer to emulate.  Her experience, illuminated on page 12, is lifted up as an example to cities to “prioritize hiring and job training for communities that are often excluded from good jobs.”
The entire report is aimed at recommendations for how sanitation policy in New York City, but applicable anywhere, “could make life better…while making the city safer and more sustainable.”

Congratulations to Kiara Alexis and to the two Corpsmembers featured on the front cover of the report, Jocelyn Hernandez and Jovante Jackson!  We are so proud your hard work has been recognized.

“The best part of my job is that a lot of women come up to me and feel inspired that I am a truck driver.” – Kiara Alexis, Teamster Apprentice at Waste Management

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#MadeinAmeriCorps

Crew 02 at Tilden Park, Snake Project, EBRP

While our Corpsmembers work in job training serving our community environmentally, they accumulate hours and money towards their AmeriCorps scholarships.

During job training, youth work on contracts for some of the largest employers in the East Bay such as Caltrans, EBMUD, East Bay Regional Parks, and more. This past year, Corpsmembers maintained over 36 miles of trails, cleared 42 miles of waterways, and reduced 438 acres of wildfire fuel load.

“East Bay Regional Parks District and Civicorps have worked together for over 30 years. Corpsmembers are focused, motivated and hardworking. It’s a pleasure working with them and we look forward to continuing this partnership as it has benefited our parks and East Bay residents.” – Brad Gallup, Captain, EBRPD Fire

Sharif pictured with Rep. Barbara Lee, MLK Day

AmeriCorps awarded $72,518 in college scholarships last year. And all Corpsmembers need to do to earn it is show up to work, commit to their service projects and volunteer with various community service actions including Martin Luther King Dr. Day of Service.

Once they are enrolled in college, they access their AmeriCorps funds. They use this money to assist them with paying for tuition, paying for books, and other academic expenses that support their future career.

“As a College Counselor, I am proud Civicorps is partnered with AmeriCorps because it gives our Corpsmembers not only the opportunity to be civic and to give back, but they are rewarded with an educational stipend to further their education.” – Deneah Murphy, College Counselor, Civicorps

Ann, Civicorps Class of 2018

Since 2012, Civicorps has built an organization-wide, college-going culture that begins the minute students walk in the door. Now, Civicorps students are testing into credit-bearing college courses, using their hard-earned AmeriCorps scholarship more effectively, and are better-equipped to persevere and succeed.

“I am currently taking classes at Merritt College in radiology. I really want to become a medical assistant and perform ultrasounds. I am grateful I have AmeriCorps to help pay for some of my costs. Even as I conclude my internship with Oakland Housing Authority, I am excited for the next steps in my education and career.” Ann Hernandez – Civicorps Class of 2018

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Welcoming our new Executive Director

The Board of Directors of Civicorps is thrilled to announce the appointment of our next Executive Director, Tessa Nicholas, effective Friday, March 1, 2019.

With nearly 25 years committed to youth and community development, Tessa has spent her career in alternative education and nonprofit program management.

Through her work with organizations such as the Student Conservation Association, Girl Guides of Jamaica and oneLondon Ltd, she has witnessed the beauty of young people seizing the chance to engage with their learning and to be inspired to reach for their dreams.  Tessa continues to listen, learn, and seek new ways to best address the inequity of opportunity impacting young adults in under resourced communities.

A Coro Youth Development Fellow and a Return Peace Corps Volunteer, Tessa brings an academic understanding and real-world experience of how systemic racism impacts people and their ability to live their best life.  By continuing to create and support relevant education and training programs, Tessa believes we can make a difference in the lives of young people and their families while also addressing our biased systems. 

Tessa is a veteran Civicorps staff member with a lengthy history of service to the organization, and is deeply familiar with every facet of our work.  Most recently, Tessa served as Civicorps’ Deputy Director.  In this role, she gained broad exposure to all aspects of operations at Civicorps.  During her 18 year tenure at Civicorps, she variously worked directly with our Job Training, Academy and Recycling Departments, giving her deep and granular knowledge of how we function across every department.  As such, Tessa enjoys broad support from staff throughout the organization.  Tessa holds a BA in Social Science from Chapman University, and an MA in International Service from Roehampton University of London.

Civicorps is proud of our successful history of assisting young adults, particularly youth of color, transform their lives through education and job training.  As Tessa herself reflects, “while at Civicorps I have learned that we all deserve a safe space to learn, grow, and connect with others who believe in the power of our dreams.” 

The Board of Directors is committed to excellence and intends to amplify our successes as we enter this new phase of institutional leadership and vision with Tessa at the helm. Tessa’s capacity, commitment and positive energy speaks for itself. We are confident that she is an excellent match for this position and will be a strong asset to Civicorps in this role.

We invite you to actively participate in realizing the potential of every young adult who steps through our doors, and we look forward to your continued partnership. Please join us in warmly welcoming Tessa Nicholas as Civicorps’ new Executive Director.

Nita Kirby,

President, Civicorps Board of Directors

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