Paying It Forward

Three was the magic number for Daniela when she first got her foot in the door with a position in the City of Oakland. She had applied twice before for the role of Recycling Hotline Intern, a Civicorps internship at the City of Oakland’s Public Works Department. She finally secured the spot on her third application.

Daniela had obtained her high school diploma through Berkeley Adult School while interning in the Recycling department at Civicorps. With a new position at the Public Works Department, her Civicorps internship was at an end, but the support never stopped.

And when Daniela wanted to pursue higher education, both camps helped guide her through the process.

“The support system, from both Civicorps and my relationship with the staff in the City of Oakland was above and beyond. Once I joined the City, I would meet these two supervisors from both [Civicorps and the City] on a monthly basis to identify my strengths and areas where I can continue to develop.”

“I was a first generation immigrant, trying to pursue higher education for the first time. I was the first in my family to obtain a high school diploma. [I was] able to get support from both supervisors on how to enroll and where to [eventually] seek more academic guidance for my major.”

Upon completion of her degree at UC Berkeley, she secured a student trainee position with the City of Oakland, back in the division where she first started. She helped with the City’s “Adopt-A-Spot” program, which was volunteer-driven and focused on beautifying communities, ecological restoration, and greening Oakland spaces.

Eventually, Daniela founder herself in a leadership role managing —  in a full circle moment —  Civicorps interns. Daniela had advanced from solid waste collection and recycling, to customer service answering phone calls, to sharing city ordinances. And at that point, mentorship had been an engine of Daniela’s professional career.

She wanted to pay it forward.

“I was very doubtful to have what it takes to thrive in an office setting but [I had] people throughout the process that helped me. I want to pass that along [and] to contribute the same way as someone contributed to my professional and academic development.”

Among Daniela’s responsibilities is supervising Jazmine, a Civicorps graduate and the current Recycling Hotline Intern, the same internship that gave Daniela her start at the City of Oakland in 2013.

“Jazmine was very reserved. But with time, she has opened up. I enjoy working with her, sharing with her all the knowledge.”

Through skill and determination, both Daniela and Jazmine secured the Recycling Hotline Internship with the City of Oakland. Though distinct, their paths each began at Civicorps, with the staff and resources backing them at every step of the way. For Daniela, seeing Jazmine coming up a similar professional path, it means something:

“On a personal level, [seeing Jazmine here] is extremely rewarding. I understand the transition and adjustments in Jazmine’s instance: she’s a first generation youth that has a lot of responsibility in her personal life but also wants to pursue higher education and just thrive. We bonded because we’ve been through similar situations.

What’s helped her thrive is having staff that’s understanding; we cannot expect new interns to just dive into an internship with all the expectations to be at my level of understanding. I try to be compassionate and adjust to training them with the knowledge they need to pursue better opportunities.”

Civicorps’ career pathways program allows participants to find their inner voice and manifest it in the opportunities they create for themselves. Daniela has come a long way. Currently, she is a graduate student at San Francisco State University, pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration with a concentration in Environmental Administration and Policy.

And yet, she has much more to give.

“What I hope to accomplish is to let other interns [know they] have everything they need within them to succeed, they just gotta take that leap to trust in themselves.

I’ve done pretty well for someone who was a high school dropout, mom at 16, who didn’t know where my life was going, so I hope that in the future, I have the opportunity to make a positive impact in others’ lives as people have done to me.”

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