Journey to Graduation – Civicorps Grads Spring 2021

We’re incredibly proud of the graduates walking down the Preservation Park stage on June 16. Here are a few reflective words from our terrific Class of 2021:

Angela Alarcon

It feels unreal to graduate. I didn’t think I would overcome such a big step and huge accomplishment.

Before, I was taking care of my disabled Father in El Salvador. He has been a priority my whole life.

I came to the states to visit my Mom and it was at that time when the pandemic hit. There was no way to go back. I had been a primary caretaker and now I had to find a way to start over and figure things out.

Now that I’m graduating, I would like to go to college, hopefully start in the fall. I’d like to get into psychology, to definitely work with kids.

Mickey Jones

I’m excited and nervous to graduate.

I’m excited to make it through the pandemic since it was stressful working while juggling zoom classes.

I’m also nervous because graduation is finally here.

Now that I have a diploma, I want to go to a two-year college, then transfer to a four-year. Ideally I’d go to Laney College then transfer to UCLA. My goal is to become a counselor. I don’t want to take a break and get off track.

I want to be a counselor because growing up, I endured a lot of challenges. I went through a lot but I was still able get through it but if I had the support or guidance, it would probably have been easier. I can help young adults and teens to get through a rough spot in their life because I know how it feels and they’ll have someone to talk through to help get through things.

My overall experience with Civicorps is that they helped me to be responsible. I was going through a lot but from the Job Training Center or having Natasha and Aaron to talk things through with, Civicorps helped me to grow.

Alfredo Ramires

I feel good about graduating. At Civicorps, I learned that I can do anything that I want to.

I was on a mission to graduate and get my diploma. I needed it. I wanted it. I just wanted to take advantage of the school.
All the staff helped me out in a lot of ways, always keeping up with me to make sure I was on time with everything. Classes were on Zoom [during the pandemic] and it was easy to get it all done with.

Next steps, I want to go to college in Sacramento. It’s not too far and I have family there.

Esmeralda Ramirez

I’m excited and happy to graduate.

It was challenging for sure working [as a paralegal] at the same time and going to school. But I kept focus, prioritizing my time and schedule while talking about my needs with employers to get my classes done.

Getting my high school diploma encouraged me that it’s never too late. It doesn’t matter how old we are or how many obstacles there are because we can overcome it all. Looking further into my education, I want to go into immigration law.

My family and I are immigrants and had to go through the process. Immigration lawyers do a lot and sometimes they don’t get rewarded. It’s like a doctor saving a person’s life because when people flee from their country, it’s because of some danger or something is threatening them. So, legally living in a country that has more protection gives them a second chance at life.

Being an immigration lawyer would let me help others get their voice. I speak three languages: Spanish, English, and Mam. I’m used to interpreting and helping my community to be their voice.

I get this inspiration from my Mom, who only speaks Mam. I look up to her. She suffered discrimination but now I can say she’s a strong woman that taught me and my sisters to not be afraid.

Symone “Mo” Ward

I feel super nervous and anxious to graduate, it’s a surreal moment.

It’s been a super long journey, beginning two years ago. I didn’t think I was going to take 2 years, but I had to do this for my son.

Speaking to everyone and all my counselors, moving forward I want to do an apprenticeship or internship. I want to further my career while continuing my education or learning.

Civicorps helped me figure out that I want to eventually be in the automotive industry.

Mo’s favorite type of cars: Anything fast

Mo’s dream car: Tesla

Missed our past blog posts? Read more about the Class of 2021 here:

Enoc Peraza Garcia

Terk Johnson

Milton Silva

Congratulations Class of 2021!

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Spring 2021 Corpsmember of the Quarter: Milton Silva

We’re proud to announce our Spring 2021 Corpsmember of the Quarter, Milton Silva!

Milton’s motivated and goal-oriented approach finds him closer to graduation and an all-around asset at the Job Training Center (JTC), which earned him Civicorps’ prestigious award.

“Milton has been impressing his teachers for the last several months with his determination to walk the stage in June,” said Yvette Arroyo-Agredano, Interim Head of School.  “He is consistent with his classes, putting in work at the JTC; he is focused, persistent and determined.”

When Yvette gave Milton the checklist to his path to graduation, it was as if a fire inside him was lit. And within three months, Milton crossed off each item. On June 16, Milton will receive his high school diploma.

“Seeing what I needed to do gave me more courage, it helped me to be able to know what I’m doing. [It] helped me ask teachers for help,” said Milton.

His English Teacher Joseph Bradshaw took notice: “Milton has shown a deep dedication to his continued growth. He has taken charge of his education, and has made great strides toward graduation. In class, he is focused, serious, goal-oriented and not afraid to ask questions or to seek help when he needs it.”

With his tests passed, Milton’s academic journey culminated in a research presentation. Milton chose to focus on animal cruelty and the lasting effects of poaching. With the pandemic still a reality, he gave his presentation to staff virtually, cementing the last steps to obtain his diploma.

Milton’s motivation stems from his family. “My brothers are proud of me for graduating. My Mom always wanted me to graduate high school.  All I needed was a little help to get there on my own and I came to Civicorps [which] gave me the opportunity.”

What is Corpsmember of the Quarter?

Every quarter, staff vote on a Corpsmember who demonstrates personal growth and program success to receive this prestigious award. At the end of the year, one among the Corpsmembers of the Quarter are nominated for Corpsmember of the Year with the Corps Network, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps.

Your donation helps create success stories like Milton’s.

Beyond the work he does with crews on project sites, on his free time, Milton continues to volunteer in building a community garden beside the JTC.

“His motivation and follow-through have been a highlight for the Academy this term as we watch him move closer and closer to graduation,” said Math Teacher Michelle Cascio.

It’s this motivation that Milton carries with him at the Job Training Center as well.

“Danny, my crew leader, he’s always there to help me whenever I need help,” recounts Milton. He’ll pull me aside, ask me if I need help with anything. It helps get me motivated.”

Looking beyond graduation, Milton takes advantage of the resources around him. When out on the field with crews, Milton has the chance to work alongside program sponsors. This allows him the opportunity to ask questions about potential career paths he could take, such as obtaining class A and B Driver’s Licenses.

“For me, I felt like Civicorps helped me to communicate, learn to socialize more. As far as work-wise, it helped me to be more professional—working in a team, how to manage a team. This program made me think outside the box. I used to be anti-social, I didn’t like to talk to people but here I feel like I met a lot of cool people here that have that same positive mindset. Listening to the advice the staff give me helps me to figure out that I want more. Now, I want to travel and meet new people. For my first time traveling, I want to go to Puerto Rico—my Dad says we have family out there.”

Congratulations on the Corpsmember of the Quarter award, Milton!  We’re proud of you and can’t wait to see where your travels take you.

 

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.

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A Teenage Voice Growing Into Leadership: Terk Johnson

Tervell Johnson, or Terk, has slowly built a legacy at Civicorps. With high school graduation approaching in June, Terk has a few more objectives to knock out of his portfolio before he can get to the finish line. But he has already built an impressive resume during his time at the Corps.

With recognition awards at the Academy ranging from Hardest Hitter in Life Skills to Most Improved in English Composition, Terk is no stranger to the spotlight.

He is also Co-Chair of the Civicorps Community Council and runs the meetings with staff member Matt Walker. As Co-Chair, Terk represents the voice of the Corpsmembers for the Council.

The Community Council provides a forum for the Civicorps community, made up of both staff and Corpsmembers, to provide input to the leadership team.

With its first meeting starting in January, the Community Council has its sights first set on fostering community building amidst the pandemic and providing resources to incoming Corpsmembers.

“For me, it felt like an opportunity to try something new,” explains Terk. “As Co-Chair, I’m learning how to take notes, how to run a meeting with adults in a professional environment—I’m still a teenager.”

Teenager he may be but Terk is comfortable in leadership positions. At the Job Training Center, Terk normally works with the East Bay Municipal Utility District under JTC Supervisor Jeff Chilcott’s C-2. Terk regularly mentors newly-trained Conservation Interns, or redhats. Often times when using power tools, Terk likes to demonstrate before giving them a go at it.

“I like to have them focus on what they’re doing, then give pointers or tips after.”

Terk is both enrolled in the Academy and the Job Training Center, urged to join by family members, but his journey with Civicorps actually started at a much earlier age.

In addition to serving young adults, Civicorps Academy used to have an elementary school, a K-5 charter school in north Oakland. There, among the young students in attendance, was Terk.

With art integration as a part of the primary school’s focus, it’s no wonder that Terk’s recollection of the school relates to the arts.

“I remember performing Jackson 5 songs auditioning for a talent show at Civicorps Elementary,” recalls Terk. “But I like to sing all genres.”

Music and all its genres is something Terk enjoys on the regular. On the walk from the JTC on Fifth Street over to the Administration building on Myrtle Street for this conversation, Terk mentions that he was listening to both R&B and country, among others.

When asked about graduation, Terk relays the general anxiety about not knowing what’s to come next. And yet, he looks forward to what’s to come with the arts still in mind.

“I was just discussing with my grandmother about going to college to study film: acting, directing, [or] producing.”

Terk is currently listening to:  

What would he like to focus on in the film industry?

Terk didn’t hesitate with his answer: Oakland.

“Most biographical movies, movies about other people, the majority of it is fake. I want to portray Oakland as a real place. What really goes down.”

With his work at the JTC and the Academy and participation in the Community Council, Terk has an active voice in the West Oakland community.

He knows what really goes down.

And we can’t wait for his voice to reach graduation and reverberate well beyond it.

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.

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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.”

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Journey to Graduation - Civicorps Grads June 2020

Last week, Civicorps was honored and humbled to share messages of hope and joy as we celebrated the enormous achievements of eight students who received their high school diplomas at our June 10, 2020 graduation ceremony.  We congratulate our Spring 2020 graduating class and celebrate their resilience and accomplishments! Read excerpts below from a few of the powerful graduation speeches they delivered.

Naomi

You have to get up every single day and make sure you never quit on yourself.

I went through a rough road to get here today. The first time I saw Civicorps was on an Instagram ad. I gave it a try and when the orientation came, I stepped into the building and saw the morning circle with all the students sitting down. I wanted to turn around and leave, I felt so scared to be there and in that moment I knew I wasn’t going to graduate because of how insecure I was. I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t believe that I could do it.

Civicorps was different from any other school I’ve been to. Every staff member I met was just so nice and supportive, something I didn’t really experience in other schools, and something that I knew I needed in order to keep going. I want to thank every single person who inspired me here and who supported me in ways I didn’t know anyone would ever do.

After I close this chapter, I will open a new one for college. I hope to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and also take an EMT course, just in case I change my mind. Hopefully five years from now I will have graduated from college and started my career. Today I can say I believe in myself when in the beginning I did not. Thank you to my friends and family!

Nichelle

I made a promise to myself I’d get it done.

I came to Civicorps last year, with the mindset that anything you start from this day forward you finish, and I did just that. Obtaining my high school diploma was the first thing I have ever done for me, I made a promise to myself I’d get it done. I left a $26 hour job, passed up a Muni job, I traveled hours a day, downsized my living, and survived a pandemic while still fighting racism and police brutality. Man, I deserve this!

Three strengths that I developed at the Corps are patience, working in a team, and academic skills. In the next six months I hope to enroll in college. A year from now I hope to be doing an apprenticeship in construction inspection. Five years from now I hope to be done with college for radiology and have a house. I’d like to thank my whole Civicorps family for making this experience worth it. I couldn’t have done it without you guys. I love y’all.

Jesus

Never give up!

My overall experience at the Corps was nothing but great because I have been learning how to make myself more mature and responsible, and learning new skills.  Before the Corps I used to think that things were easy. Now I know that to get things you want in life you have to have patience. That taught me to have patience for myself and others, and to advocate for myself. Three key strengths I developed while at the Corps are responsibility, respect, and collaboration.

My goal for the next six months are to try to get a union job or work for the City of Oakland. One year from now I hope to be at a more stable place in life. Five years from now I want to be traveling in Paris, France.

To be honest I never thought I would be able to graduate. My hopes were always down. Knowing I’m graduating now keeps giving me energy to do more.  I learned that if you need help, it is always going to be there, you just have to look for it.  I want to thank everybody at the Corps who helped me through my journey here and my family as well for keeping me motivated.  Never give up!

Mirna

I want to be a role model and impact my community.

My overall experience at the Corps has been hard. But I did it. Corps has helped me and supported me mentally, physically, and emotionally.

The teachers & counselors at Civicorps put me into different programs and helped me become a sober person. I had to acknowledge that I needed the help. Civicorps has taught me that I don’t have to rely on anyone else; that I can be independent and look for other kinds of support, instead of waiting on family to help when there are other types of family. Three key strengths I developed are communication, thinking about others besides myself, and advocating for myself.

My goals for the next six months after graduation are to save up for a car, enroll in community college, spend more time with my son, work less, and focus more on school. In five years I would like to have graduated from San Jose University. I want to be a counselor or therapist. I want to be a role model and impact my community. I really strongly believe that I can do that in the future and that’s what makes me want to keep going.

My most memorable experiences at the Corps were all of the staff and teachers.  I am more open about my learning disability now and feel comfortable asking questions when I need to. I am also more open to finding other people who are like me, so I can talk to them and feel more comfortable when I am outside of school.

I would also like to thank my son. He is the reason why I am doing all of this. When I get my masters I want him to be proud of me for pursuing my goals. Thank you.

Will

Failure is not an option.

Being at Civicorps has been a roller coaster to put it lightly. While on that roller coaster, I gained a lot. I got to travel places and see things that I had never been able to see before. I improved academically, like coming from barely being able to keep up in the math class when I first arrived, to assisting my teacher and teaching in Geometry Two class. I’ve impressed staff with my writing skills as well as my public speaking skills. One of the most important things I’ve gained is a new mindset where failure is not an option, where simply trying is not a goal, where success is the only option and outcome.

But just as with all roller coasters, with ups come the downs and with all that I’ve gained, I’ve also lost a lot. Specifically I’ve lost a lot of people, close family.… One loss in particular was more significant than the others. My younger brother, whose picture I’ve brought with me, passed away June 10, 2018. …After talking to a few family members I decided that I would dedicate graduating to my little brother who did not have the chance to do so, and I stand here today with my brother’s picture, smiling on the very day that he left this earth, proud of myself knowing that I fulfilled that promise I made.

I would like to thank everyone who helped me to fulfill that promise, family members, other Corpsmembers, as well as staff. I especially want to thank my children who gave me a reason to want more. Thank you.

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Journey to Graduation - Civicorps Grads December 2019

Join Civicorps’ December 12th Class of 2019 Graduation Ceremony at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts | RSVP

Xiana 

I really hope I don’t trip on stage when I receive my high school diploma. It’s been a journey to finally accomplish it. For me growing up, I didn’t think this would have been possible. I clearly remember my 6th grade teacher telling me that if I don’t complete my homework I wouldn’t graduate, so I believed that. I was never good at school and struggled to finish assignments. There came a time in my senior year where I knew I couldn’t finish my credits, so I stopped going to school.

Civicorps has been that second chance opportunity I needed. It was here where I took my learning into my own hands. I was able to study and grow in my education at my own individual pace. I wasn’t restrained by homework assignments and the teachers made sure I understood the material. The counselors and support staff were here for me. If I wasn’t feeling well and missed school, Aaron or Natasha (case counselors at Civicorps), would call me and check in on me. They showed they care and I loved that. It helped me believe in my abilities and to feel accomplished as I was passing my classes.

And as I walk proudly on that stage to receive my high school diploma, I proudly march off to the next chapter in my life. I will be going to community college where I hope to transfer to my dream school, UC Davis, and study polymer fiber science. I dream of incorporating my degree, love for textile and fashion and start a business producing workout clothes. So while my goals may or may not change, having goals is key because no matter what, I will always be aiming to accomplish them!

 

Rakeem

Being at Civicorps, I have been able to be more confident in myself. I have found a place where I truly felt support. When my mentor saw an ad about Civicorps, I hesitated to apply… because for me high school was like a prison. But in the first few weeks of being here, I got to meet and connect with my peers who I could relate to. I liked that. I wasn’t the only one who had struggles, and seeing them work hard for their education, along with the academic support, was the push I needed to believe in my abilities to learn.

A year ago I truly believed I didn’t need school. But going through it all, I was able to become stronger mentally and spiritually. I have become a better person, my confidence has improved a lot. I can talk to anybody and not be nervous. Civicorps has definitely allowed me to come out of my shell. My vocabulary has improved so much that I can think outside of the box. This has allowed me to explore my creative side and discover my love for performing and writing rap lyrics.

My dream is to become one of the biggest rappers in the world. I want to make an impact through my music. (Follow my YouTube channel: HAZBANGER). And well, as I graduate this week, I look forward to continue working hard and staying focused on my music career.

Marquise

Prior to Civicorps I was working security, but with not having a high school diploma, I was deterred from advancing. Years were going by where I supported my son financially, but I was not accomplishing my goals. I needed to go back to school. So I finally made the decision to start Civicorps in the summer of 2018.

When I did start Civicorps, I suffered the loss of my brother. But his spirit kept me motivated to continue to achieve my dreams. I am grateful Civicorps’ counselors were there to provide me support as I went through this tough ordeal. Since then, I have moved away from negative energies and focused on positive outcomes. I turned my pain into motivation for success. When I took my NWEA math exam, I felt the presence of my brother next to me. It was an overwhelming feeling of relief and success knowing he was guiding me.

This December 12th I will receive my high school diploma, I will walk that stage feeling proud of finally accomplishing this goal. I don’t regret taking my time. At my own pace, I was able to understand life and I am grateful for the teachers and staff at Civicorps who guided my path to success. I will be enrolling at Merritt College where I hope to begin my nursing career.

Ruben

I was in my car scrolling though Instagram when I saw an ad for Civicorps. In that moment I made a decision that I needed to change the direction of my life. I must admit that I was never the best student. In high school I was getting into fights, I was distracted and unfocused. No one in my family had graduated from high school, so I didn’t think I would be the exception.

Coming to Civicorps, I found structure. I found a support system that believes in my abilities. I’ve never learned so much in my entire life until coming here. I passed tests, a feat I never thought I could do. I would come in early to study and leave late to learn more. There was just an honest support structure that allowed me to believe in myself. Even though studying was tough, if you work hard enough you can achieve it. I finally understood that.

I will be graduating with honors and breaking a cycle by becoming the first one in my family to graduate high school. I did this for me, for my mother, and for the future I hope to have.

I am the change I want to see for my life.

After Civicorps I plan to study at community college. I have an interest in business and real estate, and hope to transfer to a four year university like UC Davis, CSU East Bay, San Jose State or SF State. My options are limitless and I am ready to proceed forward!

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