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.
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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!
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.
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!
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.
“Something is not always better than nothing.” – August Wilson, How I Learned What I Learned
Civicorps’ book club meets every Wednesday during lunch to share insight and discussion of the book selected for the term.
We recently read August Wilson’s Fences, a play about an African American family in the 1950s tackling issues on race, family structure, death, and economic mobility. So when the book club had the opportunity to see an actual August Wilson play on stage, we jumped at the chance to see it. Seven Corpsmembers went to the Ubuntu Theater Project’s production of Wilson’s autobiographical one-man play, How I Learned What I Learned.
During the play, the actor playing Wilson shares an inspiring quote that resonated with Corpsmembers. In the scene, he shares that no matter how much you are earning, if you are being mistreated or disrespected at work because of your skin color, having no job is better.
“Something is not always better than nothing.”
I resonated with the quote [above], because I could understand him going through jobs and quitting because I use to do that a lot between 18 and 20. I didn’t feel like my former employers were respecting me as a black person and as a woman. Even though he’s older, history still repeats itself. He acknowledged that we can change it. We can change our perspective, and other people’s perspective of us. We are not the loud and rowdy ones, we just express ourselves differently. It’s not what you see, but how you see it. – Malajah, Corpsmember
The theatre really can provoke you to think beyond your years and experience truth often gone unnoticed or forgotten. This play opened our eyes and allowed us to be in the same room with August Wilson, whose background is similar to Corpsmembers. He left school at the age of 15 and like many of our Corpsmembers, took a nontraditional path to discover his purpose in life. He is a reminder that through hard work and knowing who you are, there are no obstacles to success other than yourself. The play was filled with advice that Corpsmembers could absorb/apply into their lives.
Whether it’s in a book or on stage, literature has the power to acknowledge our histories, question our realities, and change our futures. Civicorps is proud to host a book club that allows our students to think critically and deeply, and embody their realities through literature.
So if you are a Corpsmember, join us at the next book club, Wednesdays during lunch!
Community Meetings bring together students from our entire program to hear from powerful community speakers, to receive awards, and to share projects and program highlights. It’s a joyful celebration of the success that our students achieve each week.