Book Club: Wisdom from Playwright, August Wilson!

“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!

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Civicorps goes to Sacramento

They left Oakland at the crack of dawn outfitted in their Corps gear and prepped to tell their personal stories. They arrived in Sacramento early but bright-eyed, enjoyed the beauty of our state Capitol building and got ready to spend the day repping Civicorps.  Along with dozens of other Corpsmembers from around California, Blake Singletary, Monique Pena and Xiana Herrera confidently strode the halls of our state capitol yesterday on CALCC’s Government Ed Day.

Four lucky Civicorps staff – Tessa Nicholas, Joseph Billingsley, Rodney Dunn and Rachel Eisner – accompanied them and watched them shine throughout a dizzying array of meetings with legislative offices.  Thank you to the wonderful staff at the offices of Assemblymembers Tim Grayson, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, Jim Frazier, Buffy Wicks, Rob Bonta and Senators Nancy Skinner and Steve Glazer for warmly welcoming us and learning about our work.  And special thanks to the Assemblymember Kansen Chu himself for a terrific conversation along with our friends at the San Jose Conservation Corps.

Once a year, the 14 Corps represented by the California Association of Local Conservation Corps converge in Sacramento to spread the word about why CALCC is such an important part of transforming communities in California.  We are all so lucky to be part of a community that’s working on issues like conserving energy, finding cost-effective solutions to environmental concerns AND helping young people find alternatives to youth unemployment, incarceration and substance abuse.

Blake, Monique and Xiana powerfully represented what Civicorps offers to young adults by describing their individuals paths to our doors, and proudly listed their accomplishments in tool certifications, Honor Roll listings, and more.  As Xiana explained, “I was skeptical at first and thought this would be just another high school.  But I got told I had potential and it made me feel welcome.”  December 2018 graduate and current Food Program Intern Monique described how growing up in Oakland, she never felt the kind of support from schools or other institutions that she found here; “they want to see you thrive,” she said, “rather than put you behind bars.”  And Blake humorously described how he originally left our program after one week, but returned and is now poised to complete his requirements this year. “I have accomplished a lot that I wouldn’t have thought I could” at Civicorps.

We finished the marathon day of meetings with a fabulous photo op with all the Corpsmembers who traveled to Sacramento from up and down California.  The sun was shining, the friendships were blossoming, the #LocalCorpsStrength pride was bursting.  What a wonderful day!  It felt fantastic to spread our message about positively transforming our communities all over California.

 

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Reconnecting Youth Campaign

Unleashing Limitless Potential

Yesterday, Civicorps Corpsmembers, alumni, staff, and community partners conducted a meeting at the Oakland offices of Congresswoman Barbara Lee. We were thrilled to help represent constituents of California’s 13th congressional district in legislative advocacy with the Reconnecting Youth Campaign. The RYC is a collaborative national campaign calling on Congress to invest in America’s future by funding 1 million pathways to education, training, national service and employment opportunities for youth ages 16-24 who are neither working nor in school.

We met with Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s District Director, Press Secretary and a Congressional Aide, and shared information about the opportunities Civicorps creates for youth. Corpsmembers and alumni shared their personal journeys of success and the benefits of programs like Civicorps.

For over 35 years, Civicorps has provided vital services to disconnected youth, by re-engaging young adults to earn their high school diploma, gain job skills, pursue college and embark on family sustaining careers.

One startling statistic we shared with the Congresswoman’s staff: in our Congressional district, 7,096 Opportunity Youth have been separated from pathways to productive adulthood. These young people seek opportunities to provide for themselves and their families, and their talents offer an untapped opportunity to contribute to our community and economy. Even more staggering to note: nationally, 4.6 million youth lack these pathways to success, and federal funding only reached about 350,000 youth in 2017-18.

Existing programs like Civicorps address the multiple barriers faced by Opportunity Youth and offer unique approaches and program models to reconnect them with education, job training skills and employment opportunities.

We’re grateful for Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s longstanding leadership on behalf of the youth of Oakland and Alameda County.  We’re delighted to be able to participate in the Reconnecting Youth Campaign, calling for increased funding for existing programs with demonstrated success.

Help spread the word, call or tweet at your Member of Congress and ask them to support funding for Opportunity Youth!

RYC_Oakland_Mont..01.9b Music/sound remix from Lowdownhaus / Thayer N. Walker on Vimeo.

The RYC interviewed our Corpsmembers for a forthcoming video about Opportunity Youth in this congressional district.  This video of alumni Samantha Vitti and Bethany Rivard (now a Civicorps staff member) is an example of more to come.

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Civicorps Ski Trip 2019

What do you get when you have a detective, an angel, 3 mafiosos, and a cabin full of Corpsmembers? Mafia! This party game of deception, intuition and storytelling was so much fun during this year’s Civicorps weekend ski trip.

This past weekend Corpsmembers partook in Civicorps’ annual ski trip. Six Corpsmembers, 4 staff including Civicorps’ Jesuit Volunteers, and 7 Environmental Traveling Companions Guides and volunteers shared a cabin in Arnold, CA, and cross country skied at Big Trees State Park. It was the first time Corpsmembers experienced the snow.

“My favorite part of the weekend was seeing snow. I’ve only seen snow on TV. I’ve also never skied and falling was my favorite part. Everyone kept a smile on their face as they tried their best. Thank you to the ETC staff and volunteers for making this possible.” – CP, Corpsmember

The weekend forecasted a winter storm, however the excitement of being in the outdoors did not prevent our Corpsmembers from staying indoors. We suited up in our ski gear and went out in the cold to experience something new.

“I’m really impressed with everyone’s attitude. This was a huge storm. Nine out of 10 groups ETC hosts would have stayed away. But everyone’s attitude was great, and we made it a great weekend with 3 feet of snow. My favorite moment was when we reached the split (halfway to our destination), and everyone wanted to keep going.” – Jake, ETC Winter Program Leader

“The ski lesson on the parking lot was my favorite moment. It was so hard, folks were crisscrossing their skis and falling. But people were smiling. Even when Jake kept recommending to take off the skis, [Corpsmembers] were determined to stay on them and learn.” – Naseem, ETC Winter Program Volunteer

After a long day of skiing, we returned to the cabin where we made dinner and engaged in fun activities like Mancala and Apples to Apples. One of the most popular games that everyone liked was Mafia. Folks were passionate and really got to share in their story telling abilities.

“My favorite moment of the weekend was meeting everyone and playing Mafia. That’s the best game I’ve ever played.” – Rakeem, Corpsmember

When Sunday morning came, we were snowed in and the power went out due to a falling tree on the highway. During that time, Corpsmembers went sledding, while staff and volunteers shoveled snow. We finally made it out and arrived safely back to Oakland. This weekend would not have been possible without the support of ETC’s volunteers and guides. We thank them for welcoming us to their cabin and making it a home for us. It’s always a pleasure bringing our Corpsmember out of the town and into the outdoors.

See more photos on our Facebook Page!

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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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Corpsmember of the Quarter: Shaniya Burks

Shaniya Burks
Shaniya Burks

Every quarter, staff vote on a Corpsmember who demonstrates personal growth and program success to receive this prestigious award. For Fall Quarter (October, November, December), we honor Shaniya Burks.

Shaniya is a fierce Corpsmember winning over 10 awards at Civicorps and earning 5 tool certifications. As a Crew Leader she has inspired many, including our sponsors who have offered Shaniya interviews as soon as she crosses the graduation stage this June. Congrats Shaniya!

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