Committed to Conservation: Steven Addison, Job Training Coordinator

Civicorps is very proud to announce that our very own Job Training Coordinator Steven Addison was recently appointed as a board member for both the Eastern Sierra Conservation Corps (ESCC) and the California Invasive Plant Council (CAL-IPC).

As Job Training Coordinator, Steven’s main focus is to help facilitate Corpsmembers’ experience and growth while at Civicorps.  Steven draws a lot of insight from his extensive backcountry experience from his time with the California Conservation Corps (CCC), the Backcountry Trails Program (BCTP) and working on National Park Service’s trail crews in Yosemite and Big Bend National Park.

Steven met the now Executive Director of ESCC, Agnes Vianzon, when they were both BCTP supervisors for the CCC.  While working together, they had many conversations concerning the nature of leadership, stewardship of the wilderness and how best to engage a more diverse population, usually late into the night over a pint or two.

Back then, she talked about starting a conservation corps. Coming full circle a decade later, Agnes invited Steven to join the ESCC board.

At ESCC, the youth benefit from an immersive opportunity to live and work in remote wilderness locations throughout California on their WILDlands and SEKI Crews.

“Within her corps, Agnes is trying to produce the next generation of leaders for the CCC, local corps like Civicorps, and state and federal agencies,” explains Steven, “by developing leadership and hard technical skills and a sense of wilderness stewardship.  She’s also trying to make the wilderness more accessible to women with programs like WIW.  Agnes is working with agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, N.P.S. and CA State Parks to commit to expanding their own staff to be more inclusive.”

For Steven, with his years of work with different crews in the outdoors, he sees the importance of giving opportunities to diverse groups. Even during his short time on the ESCC Board he has learned that ESCC is trying to provide equity, diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces.

“It’s important, but not in the tokenism sense. I represent someone coming from a multi-ethnic urban experience who happened to fall in love with the mountains because of random opportunities.  Opportunities that Agnes and ESCC are trying to make less random.  I feel that Agnes understands this, as a queer woman of color, she represents her own unique perspective and experience in this space and she is trying to open the door wider for people like her and me.”

Growing Up, Naturally

Steven understands the importance of access and opportunity on a personal level. He grew up in the Bay Area spending many hours outside playing and working in local parks and exploring creeks. His love for the natural world blossomed during a multi-week high school experience in the Six Rivers National Forest, which sent him on a path of working closely with the land.

Three months after graduating high school, Steven joined the CCC at the Del Norte Center, located at the Mouth of the Klamath River. His favorite projects were salmon restoration and trail work.  As a Backcountry Corpsmember to eventual Backcountry Supervisor, Steven spent many seasons working with crews.

“The mountains are magic, is what an old supervisor of mine would say, and they are.  However, it’s the people in those mountains that drew me back year after year.  The stories, laughter and the daily struggles.  Don’t get me wrong the amazing adventures together were also a part of the experience, whether climbing a 12,000 ft. peak or star-gazing in the desert it was all magical.

“It was all about community, I suggest people check out the podcast ‘This American Life’, episode 727: Boulder vs. Hill.  It features a CCC crew working at a fire camp. The laughter, the connectedness and raw energy can be heard listening to the crewmembers, those same things can be heard with our crews, here at Civicorps.”

Putting Community and Connectivity in Action

It’s this community and connection that drew Steven to his second board position with CAL-IPC.

Steven attended an invasive species training in southern California before the pandemic. The training provided ways to identify invasive plant species, their proper removal, and also introduced him to a new community of land managers.  This led Steven to work with CAL-IPC to host a series of training for Civicorps’ supervisors and crewleaders last spring.

 

Beyond a general interest in carnivorous plants, Steven hopes to learn more about invasive species and how CAL-IPC can further partner with the work Civicorps and local corps all over the state do.

When asked what he would like to say to someone interested in land management or conservation work, Steven responded:

“Get your hands dirty, get out there do the work. At JTC we have 3 college students—the fact that they’re in college learning environmental studies but want to get their hands dirty with practical work I think that is inspiring and I hope Corpsmembers can learn from them.”

We think YOU’RE inspiring, Steven, and we are so lucky to have you teaching and leading by example at Civicorps.

Do you share our vision for a world where all youth have the education and resources needed for college and career success? Join us! Add your name to our list here.

Filed under: Blog, News

Presenting our 2020 Winter Graduate, A Dash of Real Nice

In a year marked with challenges, one Corpsmember is closing out 2020 on an uplifting note.  We are elated to announce Enoc Peraza Garcia’s graduation from Civicorps Academy!

Last Friday, Enoc presented his research report, marking the completion of his portfolio. With a finished portfolio, Enoc’s academic journey with Civicorps has come to an end. “[It] finally means turning to a new stage in my life,” Enoc revealed.

Before Civicorps, Enoc pursued a career as an electrician. But, he found it wasn’t his calling. What eventually brought him to Civicorps was a desire to get his high school diploma and open up his job opportunities.  At Civicorps, Enoc was able to pursue both. Through his Corpsmember journey, Enoc gained leadership and team management skills, such as analyzing what needs to be done in any given task or learning how to defuse tense situations. 

“I’ve picked up things that I believe will help me become a better professional at whatever career I pursue.”

And then, he expanded on those goals. Enoc met his personal health goals, got to kayak and camp at Angel Island, and capstone his portfolio via one of his favorite pastimes. With a passion for video games, Enoc chose to deconstruct the video game Dark Souls for his research paper, scrutinizing the action role-playing game as a work of art.

Enoc expressed pride on his research paper. Not only was it a challenging topic to tackle, but Enoc also appreciated that the analysis came from his own words. At his presentation, Enoc brought an easy-going air about himself. Those who know him know of his social and down-to-earth demeanor.

Still clad in his work clothes, fresh from the day’s project site—albeit maintaining a still-perfectly coiffed hair, no less—Enoc presented his personal reflection of his Civicorps journey, responding to the question: “How would your supervisor and co-workers describe you?”

“A goofy, hardworking person with a dash of real nice.”

Filed under: Blog, News, Student SpotlightTagged with:

Building a Climate Army: an Interview with Bob Doyle

Robert E. Doyle is a 43+ year veteran of the parks and natural resources field, currently serving as General Manager of the East Bay Regional Park District. Doyle has received numerous awards and recognition for his many decades of leadership in conservation, park policy advocacy, public health and public lands, climate action initiatives and industry innovations.

He also has the distinction of having served as a founding Board member of the East Bay Conservation Corps (now Civicorps).  In honor of his impending retirement from EBRPD, and to celebrate his role getting the East Bay Conservation Corps (EBCC) off the ground 37 years ago, we reached out to Bob.  We talked about the early days of EBCC, the important role of the Conservation Corps movement, and his insistence that to combat climate change, we need a climate army.  Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.  

 Learning about the early days

Tell us about your role in the founding of the East Bay Conservation Corps.

Bob Doyle: At the time, I was in charge of administration and growth of the trail system at East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), including building trails with trial crews and new property clean-up.  I met (EBCC founder and CEO) Joanna Lennon through another local conservation corps, she told me she was creating a new one to serve West Contra Costa County and Oakland.  She had such a dynamic personality and she was very driven; she pulled together a powerful Board of practitioners and professionals.  At first, the Corps’ focus was on service projects and there wasn’t an educational component.  Towards the end of my tenure on the Board, Joanna’s focus became adding a GED program for people of color and from low income communities.  My role was on the contract side helping to connect with other organizations to hire Corpsmembers for projects at EBRPD.  As I moved up the ranks at EBRPD, I would always encourage others to keep the contract with EBCC.

What was the composition of the original Board?  What was your focus?

BD: The founding Board was a powerful group of people including Walnut Creek State Senator John Nejedly, Robbie Yohai (editor’s note: Robbie remains on the Board to this day), some lawyers, and notably, the National Park Director William Penn Mott.  He would fly home from DC to attend EBCC meetings, and my job was to pick him up at the Oakland Airport.  I was a sponge during those drives, and I learned so much about the national parks under the Reagan Administration; I was like a kid in a candy store listening to his stories! Bill Mott had such generosity of spirit, like a lot of parks people who are committed to service and youth.  It was exciting and altruistic to give our time to serve on the Board, as evidenced by Bill Mott’s attendance.

Everything that’s happening now in our discussions around environmental justice and equity was happening then with that Board and staff.  I enjoyed coming into the [EBCC] building to meet Corpsmembers and hear their stories about bringing home their first paychecks to their mom, meeting those who came from single parent households or had kids of their own.  Their stories were so emotionally compelling.  I was always extremely pleased to see young people of color having a positive experience at the Corps and then getting jobs at EBRPD.  We’ve had many over the years.  In my field, we are always looking at diversifying parks jobs so we can encourage a diversity of park goers who see themselves reflected in the staff.  In order to do that, there has to be a portal, and that’s what EBCC did and what Civicorps does.  All the local Corps are not only providing jobs, but opportunities for training, education and betterment for Corpsmembers as well as their families and community.

There is billions of dollars of work to be done in the state park system.  State parkland hasn’t had the investment it needs, for which Corps type work is perfectly suited. 

Civicorps has enjoyed a longtime partnership with EBRPD for our land conservation job training work.  How did the partnership come to be? 

BD: Recycling was uncommon in parks back then [early-to-mid 80’s].  Our early efforts were to work with the waste management companies to navigate how to do more recycling in parks.  EBCC developed some of the first efforts and provided recycling in the parks.  We started engaging the Corps in three pilot projects in the big heavy use parks, and then that spread to the Corps getting the contracts in other areas.  For example, the City of Hayward, the East Bay Municipal Utility District as well as CalTrans then took on EBCC for contract work.  The recycling program became a whole separate department and ultimately became almost equal to the land contracts department.

We are all keenly aware of the importance of fuels management.  Tell us about the work Corpsmembers do and how it fits into EBRPD’s planning for wildfire mitigation and prevention.

BD: Investment in land stewardship, fuels management and jobs are critical.  We need an army of young people!  Both the State of the California and the Federal government need to provide much more funding if we’re going to make a dent in wildfire mitigation.  In California, we have 100 years of the well-intentioned forest management philosophy “woodsman spare that tree,” and now we’re paying the price.  It is not sustainable to have an ever-growing fire season with only thinning and controlled burns for the forests. We should be investing in people working in forestry, folks who can work a huge variety of jobs on public lands.  The volume of land is overwhelming and the urban interface — cities encroaching on the forests — is only growing.  We need the education, the training and a variety of skills to get people working in forestry in addition to firefighting skills.

Governor Newsom just came out with a plan to invest more deeply in conservation – I applaud the plan, but it’s got to come with money to invest in people to do the work.  There is money for restoration and land acquisition but often not enough money for hiring.  There is billions of dollars of work to be done in the state park system.  State parkland hasn’t had the investment it needs, for which Corps type work is perfectly suited.  If we’re going to get serious about climate change we need a climate army and the California local conservation corps are perfectly positioned to step in.

Looking ahead to the future

If you were to design the ideal conservation career pathway for Corpsmembers with EBPRD and beyond, what would it look like?

BD: The National Park Service has a great program at the UC Merced campus where they secure summer jobs for students at parks like Yosemite and Sequoia.  It’s almost like a union journeyman-apprenticeship pathway.  To be successful, the students have to be interested and motivated, and have to see people like themselves onsite already so they feel welcome.  There are lots of jobs and it’s a priority for the parks that their workforce reflects the communities they serve.

What Civicorps is doing in terms of interviewing skills should help Corpsmembers get comfortable talking to people from all different backgrounds.  It’s important to have the ability to open up a dialogue with all folks, as is true in the world at large right now.  Employees have to have excellent communication skills to interact with many different types of people.  Civicorps is giving its participants a real boost by offering hard job training skills, and should continue to focus on teaching soft professional skills, too.

We understand you’re retiring from EBRPD in the near future. Congratulations!! How will you spend your time in the next phase of life? 

BD: I’m retiring at the end of this year! Unfortunately, I may not be able to have a big in-person party.

I’m planning to spend my time hiking and camping; it’s time for me to enjoy the fruits of my labor and spend time with my family.  I’ll do some consulting too – and I’ll always engage in advocacy.

Speaking of advocacy, what parting words of advice would you like to share?

If we truly are committed to environmental justice and attracting more people of color to parks, we need to provide well maintained, safe and accessible parks.  Civicorps can be a big part of that.

Now is the time to really push for funding and jobs to combat climate change. We have the tools to do that on public lands but we need to scale up dramatically and provide the training and education as part of that.

Civicorps is a great example of successful community based environmental justice.  There will always be challenges both environmental, social and economic, but the path Civicorps is on is the right one for a brighter, more equitable future.

Filed under: Blog, NewsTagged with: , ,

Got E-Waste? We Got You.

Conservation, youth development, education and job training.  These have been the key components of Civicorps’ mission since 1983, with our Recycling program added in 1987.  Did you know that we added E-waste collection to our Recycling services in 2017?  Civicorps collects old or broken electronics and disposes of them responsibly so that no toxic metals or chemicals seep into the soil at recycling or garbage sites.  Our fabulous team, led by E-waste Coordinator Tarkan Guldur, collected a whopping 150 tons of E-waste last year.  

A couple years ago, Civicorps started donating old computers and laptops we’d collected to Tech Exchange, which refurbishes and redistributes technology to support digital equity for low income communities.  We quickly saw an opportunity for Corpsmembers to learn new skills, and created paid internships at Tech Exchange.  As Joel Peña, Director of Sales and Support at Tech Exchange said in 2019:

“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!” 

In July 2020, thanks to a generous grant from StopWaste – a public agency reducing waste in Alameda County – Civicorps doubled the number of paid internships at Tech Exchange.  I’m proud to share this grantee spotlight on StopWaste’s website.  As Rachel Eisner, our Director of Development and Communications said:
 
“The grant funding allows us to make a difference on several levels. Our Corpsmembers learn job skills that are in high demand, we are helping bridge the digital divide among Oakland students, and we’re extending the life of computers, saving resources and preventing e-waste. We’re so grateful to StopWaste for partnering with us.”

So if you’ve got E-waste, you can not only dispose of it responsibly, you can take pride in knowing that you are supporting a cleaner environment and job training for East Bay youth!

Filed under: Blog, News

#WalkforBLM

It’s another eerily smoky, hazy day in the Bay Area. We continue to live through challenging times – a time of wildfires and COVID-19 – and the country also continues to be rife with racial injustice. While we are unable to resolve these crises alone, as a community we can take active steps to promote and work towards racial justice.  As Tessa has previously written, Civicorps supports the Black Lives Matter movement, stands in solidarity with those demanding police reform, and is working to be an anti-racist organization. 

Last week, Civicorps paused operations to add our voice to the many speaking out against police brutality and the systemic oppression impacting our communities of color.  This beautiful crowd of about 25 Corpsmembers, our Board Chair and staff stepped out to proclaim Black Lives Matter on our first #WalkforBLM.

We took a spirited walk from the JTC through West Oakland to 15th and Broadway where we took in the compelling murals, enjoyed shouts and honks of encouragement from passersby, and danced to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” reverberating out of Oscar Grant Plaza. 

In a time when so much feels out of our control, it was exhilarating to come together with our Civicorps family to stand up and speak out. 

We’re planning to make our #WalkforBLM a regular occasion; we hope you can join us next time.

In the meanwhile, we hope everyone stays safe, healthy and connected. We’re glad to be in community with you.


Filed under: Blog, News, Notes from TessaTagged with:

From Corpsmember to Board Member

Eduardo J. Chaidez spends his days providing the public with meaningful connections to the natural, social and cultural history of California.  Creating hands-on educational programs, leading tours and conducting outreach, Eduardo is a multi-faceted professional.  Is he an anthropologist? Perhaps a curator at a museum?  If you guessed Interpretive Park Ranger for the National Park Service, you are correct!

Eduardo serves at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, CA. The National Park Service seeks to tell the story of this country through its cultural and natural resources: who we came to be as a country and the people who shaped its direction. Eduardo believes it is of utmost importance that people with a similar background to his have an opportunity to shape how the story of our country is told.

Rewind Two Decades

Twenty years ago, Eduardo was a young adult without known prospects.  A kid from deep East Oakland and the son of an undocumented mother of four who survived domestic abuse, he could have let statistics define him.  Instead, he forged his own identity. He paved a fruitful professional path for himself through determination, commitment, and the guidance he found at Civicorps.

Upon entering our program in 2002, Eduardo found the community and encouragement he needed to confidently explore new horizons.  He became a Crew Leader, worked on a backcountry trail crew in Yosemite, and traveled on a unique adventure to Senegal, West Africa with Civicorps staff and other Corpsmembers.  He earned his high school diploma with us in 2003, and used the tangible skills he learned at Civicorps to work in landscaping and construction while taking courses in horticulture to advance his career prospects.  Working full time doing manual labor and taking community college courses part time was not an easy path, and balancing the two took nearly a decade.

Eduardo’s life then took a traumatic turn when he lost his oldest brother Alex to gun violence.  At that point, he decided to dedicate himself full time to his studies at Merritt Community College in Oakland, and then transferred to UC Berkeley.  He earned a joint Bachelor’s degree in Art Practice and Ethnic Studies from Cal.  He subsequently earned an MA in Visual and Critical Studies from the prestigious School of the Art Institute in Chicago.  Ultimately finding his way to the National Park Service, Eduardo is now enjoying a career that blends his passion for natural conservation and cultural history, and taps his talent for storytelling and public speaking.

A Unanimous Decision

And now, the Board of Directors at Civicorps will benefit from Eduardo’s leadership.  He was unanimously nominated and elected to the Board, and participated in his first Board meeting on July 15, 2020.

I have always believed that my life’s path would have been totally different if it had not been for the Corps. Giving back to the Civicorps community has been a goal of mine for some time and I believe this is a perfect opportunity to do so.

– Eduardo J. Chaidez

As a Civicorps graduate, Eduardo brings an extremely valuable – and particular – perspective to the Board. He is a product of and embodies Civicorps’ mission. He earned his high school diploma, gained job skills that gave him a direction in life, pursed and achieved higher education and is currently on a family sustaining career path. Through his experiences, he has honed his commitment to personal and professional excellence.  Eduardo hopes that by joining the Board, he can continue to cultivate an environment of inspiration for current and future Corpsmembers. 

“I really love the perspective that Eduardo will bring to the table as a Board member,” muses Tessa Nicholas, Executive Director. “I’m so impressed that he took such full advantage of the opportunities the Corps offered him. I’m inspired by his journey beyond Civicorps; his work in conservation and education brings him back full circle to us, and makes him the perfect fit for our Board.”

Welcome home, Eduardo!

Filed under: Alumni News, Blog, News, Notes from Tessa