A Journey to Graduation

Here at Civicorps, we witness daily moments of resiliency and determination among our students.  Because our program is year-round, we have the privilege of being with our Corpsmembers day after day, month after month and in many cases, year after year. Their personal and educational triumphs are many, but few occasions are as meaningful to our students as the day they receive their high-school diplomas.  Twice a year, a new cohort of graduates walks the stage.  Today, we invite you to take a small glimpse into their journeys with these four portraits.

Check out photos from graduation day this past June 6.

JAZMINE

It all started with an Instagram post. After leaving high school, I enrolled in online school, but it just didn’t work out. Three years went by and I just knew I needed to figure out a way to earn my high school diploma. And God heard my plea because two weeks later, I saw Civicorps’ Instagram post.

I was super stoked.

I saw myself moving up in life, being successful, accessing higher education, and expanding my world with knowledge and opportunities. What once was a dream, is now becoming reality!

The entire Civicorps Academy really has motivated me to fight for my dreams. I saw how my classmates were going through different obstacles to be at school, but their drive to be at the Academy inspired me to finish strong.

When I cross the stage, I will feel like I can finally be free to live my life and be who I want to be. I will work hard towards my Bachelor’s in psychology or sociology. I will pursue being a social worker, school counselor, or therapist. And ten years from now I can see myself running my own business and having my own family. But before then, I will work hard to get into a good university. UC Berkeley is the dream!

KEVIN

When I was 17 I was unmotivated and irritated with school. I started working but it was my mentor and manager who made me realize that a high school diploma is a onetime thing. Work will always be there… having a high school diploma will only guarantee me a better job.

My sisters who are first generation graduates and have Master degrees, also encouraged me to go back to school and strive for my high school diploma. If they could see my potential, I knew I could do it.

It’s taken me 3 years to reach this goal! I am grateful for Civicorps staff who gave me a second chance to finish strong. Walking on stage to receive my high school diploma means power, it means knowledge, it means educated. It may be a piece of paper, but it will take me places in life.

I plan to move to Sacramento and hopefully work for PG&E. I want a nice life, save money, buy a house and start my family.

NORMA

Cuando era pequeña, yo estudie hasta el sexto grado. Yo no quería  dejar mis estudios  pero en mi país de Guatemala, para seguir teníamos que pagar. Mi familia no tenía los recursos, y desde los 13 años empecé a trabajar. Finalmente, las puertas de la educación se abrieron cuando llegue a los estados unidos a los 17.

Mi trabajador social me informe sobre Civicorps. Yo la verdad, cuando vine aquí, pensaba que no lo iba lograr por el idioma. De una u otra manera, mis maestros me dijeron “¡Tú puedes, vas a lograrlo!” Al escuchar esas palabras, ellos me hicieron ver la fuerza que yo tenía para seguir adelante. Con el apoyo de los maestros y el staff, encontré una motivación que me empujo a lograr mis metas, ahora éxitos.

No tengo mi familia conmigo, pero es por ellos que orgullosamente recibiré mi diploma. Y mi camino no termina hoy. Seguiré estudiando, y lograre cumplir mi sueño en recibirme como asistente médico o enfermera. 

¡Merritt College, hay nos vemos!

CHRIS

When I walk the stage to receive my high school diploma, I will be in tears. I started Civicorps in 2014, so as you can imagine, it’s been a long time coming. My goal was to finish and obtain my high school diploma quick, but personal matters required me to leave Civicorps.

Often times I would start something and never finish. And while I took a break, I came back. This will be the first time that I can say, I did it! I completed something that I can be proud of.

I struggled going to school. I had a tough time as a teenager, and by receiving my high school diploma I am proving to myself that I deserve this. No matter what you do, it’s not how you fall but how you get up. That’s a valuable lesson I learned at Civicorps and will always keep in mind.

My dream is to become an auto mechanic. And now that I have a high school diploma, I will enroll at Alameda College’s Automotive Technology program.  Step by step I will work hard to achieve that. Civicorps allowed me to get my driver’s license, my high school diploma, and I know they’ll be there for me as I start my auto mechanic career.

JOSH

At such a young age, Joshua Ballard didn’t have any plans for the future. He wasn’t focused in high school, nor did he value his education. It wasn’t until he joined Civicorps that he understood the impact of obtaining his diploma. He recently got accepted into the California Conservation Corps’s Backcountry Trails Program. His experience was short lived, but he returned to Civicorps to walk the stage and receive his high school diploma in June. He is working as a Civicorps Conservation Intern and is preparing to enroll in the Marines.

WILLIAM

William Scott shares that before Civicorps, he felt he was misunderstood. He didn’t know how to hone his emotions to express himself thoughtfully. He lacked patience, self-motivation, and discipline. But while at Civicorps, he accepted guidance from his teachers and supervisor to improve on his character. He is now well organized, responsible and articulate with his thoughts which has improved his communication and people skills. On June 6, Will received his high school diploma. And while his goal is to someday attend college, he knows he is not ready and wants to take time to work on his dog breeding business.

Josh is with his mom and uncle at graduation.

Will is excited to be holding his high school diploma!

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Corpsmember of the Quarter: Monique Peña

As Food Intern, Monique has done an incredible job with Civicorps’ food program, bringing in savory, delicious foods, and offering a variety of healthy meals to Corpsmembers. She is consistently concerned about quality and about the well-being of the community. She provides breakfast and lunch to Recycling, the Job Training Center and to the Academy. Monique really connects with all programs at Civicorps; truly, this place would not run without her! She graduated this past December, and we couldn’t be more proud of her achievements. We can’t wait for what’s next as she embarks in an entrepreneurial college pathway!

Thank you Monique!

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Corpsmember of the Quarter: Francis Sanson

Francis exhibits outstanding leadership skills and demonstrates an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. A dedicated member of the community, he volunteers with homeless shelters on the weekends and in his very first term, has already completed all community service hours required to graduate from Civicorps. Francis sets an excellent example of citizenship for Civicorps and beyond.

A quiet and hardworking, noble leader, Francis is a role model for their cohort and for the entire Civicorps community. Watch out for this young individual because they are undeniably going places!

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Corpsmember of the Quarter: Aaron Chanthavong

 

Mr. Chanthavong has done an excellent job at using his resources at Civicorps to help launch him into his career path. He is currently an intern at Tech Exchange where he leads the sales of refurbished computers; and he has taken it upon himself to guide, train and make new interns feel welcomed. He is a successful full time college student at Merritt College, earning A’s and B’s. He hopes to graduate with honors as he earns a degree in Computer Science.

Civicorps is delighted to recognize Aaron Chanthavong as Corpsmember of the Quarter for Summer 2018.

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A Second Chance Opportunity

A Second Chance Opportunity

By Dennis

One of the first things we learned in our Civicorps orientation is that being here is a “second chance opportunity.”  And if you see an opportunity, you should always take it.  Civicorps gives us opportunities that a lot of places don’t provide, and it has a lot to give.

Before I came to Civicorps I was getting straight A’s at school, I just felt like I wasn’t getting as much support with all the challenges in my life. I became homeless and was shuffling from home to home. I felt teachers didn’t care about the students, and were focused on grades and numbers.They didn’t care about me.

But the teachers here at Civicorps actually advise and help me make plans to succeed, whether it’s assigning extra work or finding a better class schedule for me to get great grades.  I feel like my teachers and counselors really care about me. I am grateful for the transportation, housing and emotional support that has also allowed me to be successful here.

The folks that are advancing with me are like family to me. Civicorps in general is like family to me.  I’ve never seen so much care and loyalty and trust.

And it’s not just about getting my high school diploma; being at Civicorps is also about building my career options.  When I finish the program, I know Civicorps will help me find employment.  Learning skills at the Job Training Center is such good experience to have on my resume.  When you join the JTC, you learn how to operate tools, how to be a leader and you contribute to the good of the whole community in Oakland.

I’m still a straight A student.  A+, actually!  I still need to study hard, and Civicorps is helping me with my challenges.

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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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