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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Thoughts on Justice for our Black Communities

by Tessa Nicholas, Executive Director

In solidarity, we want to add our voice to the many speaking out against police brutality and the systemic oppression impacting our communities of color. As we all deal with the reality of yet another Black man (#GeorgeFloyd) and woman (#BreonnaTaylor) being killed at the hands of police we all must take pause. We must all recognize the injustice and the long history of racism that creates the current dynamics and makes it nearly impossible for Black communities to navigate their daily lives, let alone achieve their dreams. There is power in acknowledging the work that needs to be done at all levels to address the inequity around us.

At Civicorps, we are committed to our mission of uplifting young people and providing them with the skills and networks needed to reach their college and career goals. We provide the safe place and holistic services to help youth heal from trauma, build upon their positive assets and resilience, and pursue to their dreams. Our work is rooted in the belief that education and workforce development are powerful tools to promote racial and economic equity. Therefore, we are also committed to looking at our internal processes and culture in order to move the dial on diversity, equity, and inclusion, while creating space for our staff to educate themselves so that we can work both inter- and intra-personally to combat racism and racist practices.

It is my hope that our partners, funders, friends, and family will join with us to speak out against injustice and continue to find ways to support and protect communities in need. The journey toward equity is not easy or quick, we must be ready to take big and uncomfortable steps forward. I know that together we can achieve great things, and that all of us will benefit as our communities of color are provided the resources, opportunities, and safety they have been deprived of for far too long.

To our Black partners and colleagues, we see you, we hear you, and your lives and dreams matter.

Some useful resources:

California Education leaders speak out against racism

5 Ways to Show Up for Racial Justice Today

President Barack Obama on How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change

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A New Job He's Passionate About

Civicorps said farewell to a fantastic member of our family recently.  Sharif Ahmad started a new job, and we couldn’t be more thrilled!  During his time at Civicorps, this talented young man served as a Conservation Intern and an Operations Intern at our Job Training Center; earned the distinctions of Corpsmember of the Quarter (Spring 2019) and Hardest Hitter of the Month (February 2019); and completed his AmeriCorps Education Award.

Sharif is now a Fleet Machinist Trainee at Waste Management.  We already miss him, but we are incredibly proud of him as he takes this exciting new step on his professional path. Congrats, Sharif!!

We didn’t want Sharif to leave us without offering him major props, so we asked him a few parting questions to help tell his story.

Q: What were you doing before Civicorps?

A: I was a Conservation intern before I was an Operations Intern. Before Civicorps, I was working at Skiekh Shoes in Eastmont Mall ‘chasing fools out of the store!’ I heard about Civicorps through my Uncle Kenneth “Redd”, who is an Alumni.

Q: Tell me about the most important skills you acquired through your internship.

A: The most important skill I acquired through my internship was safety procedures/hazards. I also learned a lot about working with different types of people and situations. I learned how to work under a lot of adversity, and it taught me to be more critical with my decisions.

Q: How did you get your new job at Waste Management? Tell us what you’ll be doing.

A: I heard about it through Mo (Monique Williams, Job Training Coordinator) and Tarkan (Guldur, E-Waste Coordinator), who had heard about it from the Internship Boards. The position is Fleet Machinist Trainee, and they’re training me on how to maintenance & service the Waste Management Work Trucks. I’ve always loved cars and working on cars ever since I was a kid, and this position allows me to have a career in something I’m interested in and passionate about.

Sharif and Danny Swift, Job Training Supervisor

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A: I see myself with good credit, investing money, and giving back to the community I came from. I see myself still working at Waste Management, and taking college courses working towards a degree.

Q: What would you say to other young people who are thinking about becoming Corpsmembers?

A: Do the work, don’t let the work do you. Get in, get out, and get ahead in life, because time ain’t waiting on nobody. And that’s with anything you do, or want to do.

Q: Bonus questions! 

Where’s your favorite place to eat in Oakland?

A: My Mama Mo’s food (shout out Monique Williams), because I don’t like to eat out much, but I love all her baking!

What’s your Superpower?

A: Jedi Power! I need that power to read minds & I need the power to think of something and it just materializes right in front of me!

Don’t be a stranger, Sharif!  Use your Jedi Power to know when it’s time to visit your Civicorps family.

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Civicorps December 2019 Graduation

Join us as we honor our talented grads and watch them cross the stage and earn their high-school diploma!Check out photos from our last graduation.

Premier Sponsor: Oakland Athletics
Honor Roll Sponsor: Orion Business Insurance and Risk Management Services, Inc.
Top of Class Sponsor: 42 Inc., Beneficial State Bank, CalNonprofits Insurance Services

 

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To participate or to really participate?

What is democratic participation and why is it important? That’s a question many of our students have when they see it listed on their graduation requirements. Simply put, it’s the participation in democracy. This graduation requirement permits Civicorps students to be actively and civically engaged in their community. Whether it’s speaking in front of City Council and/or being present in the audience, attending a town hall, and/or sitting in a Civicorps board meeting, they are engaged and involved in the decision making of policies that affects their community.

“I felt good standing up in front of City Council and talking about my goals from my start at Civicorps, to where I am now, and what is next to come.” – Kelvin Holmes, Corpsmember, Dec. 2019 Grad

Throughout the year, students have a multitude of opportunities to participate in democratic activities. Civicorps staff announce opportunities to complete this requirement at community meetings or are posted in our social media pages like Facebook and Twitter, #DemocraticParticipationOpportunity.

“We know that when people are civically engaged, when they understand what their rights are, when they understand that in a democracy you can challenge governments, you can challenge policymakers, and you can… actually shape and form future policy, I think it changes the perception that a lot of young people have about where power is.” Ilhan Omar, U.S. Representative

Kelvin Holmes shares his Civicorps journey to Oakland City Council ^

Enoc Peraza, Jesus Fernandez and Earnisha Thornton, Civicorps Dec. 2019 Grads; Tessa Nicholas, Executive Director; Rodney Dunn, Dean of Students, were among those who spoke to the Council for the City of Oakland on October 15, 2019 <

Photo Credit: Denisha DeLane

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Five Fabulous Interns, Eight Amazing Days at Yosemite Spike

by guest blogger Danny Swift, Job Training Supervisor

A week ago, five Conservation Interns – Avante, Joshanette, Isiah, Rosalinda, and Ta’ron – returned to the JTC mentally and physically exhausted, but above all, proud.

They had just returned from an 8-day “spike” with the California Conservation Corps
(CCC) in Stanislaus National Forest, an area just outside Yosemite that was ravaged by the 2013 Rim Fire.  The crew powered through 10 hour work days like absolute champs, starting with 6:00 AM wake up calls, hour-long PTs (physical training), and a deep drive into the wilderness where they cleared fallen trees to get our trucks through dirt roads, dug out tons of brush to preserve young seedlings, and downed huge trees to thin out overly dense parts of the forest. This work was no joke.  Alongside Corpsmembers, CCC reps from across the state and members from the Greater Valley Conservation Corps, our interns’ efforts were geared towards promoting and preserving the health of the forest.

In the short amount of time we were there, our crew members showed obvious improvements in their work ethic, teamwork, and leadership skills.  It was awesome to see firsthand their transformations as they worked with and learned from other Corpsmembers, Crew Leaders, Specialists and Supervisors from the CCC’s and GVCC.

Exploring Tuolumne Meadows and hiking Lembert Dome

So, What Was It Like?

I had the chance to ask the crew to talk about their experience with the Spike – whether that was a favorite part of the trip, something they learned, or anything that stuck with them – and this is what they had to say:

I’ve learned a lot about forest restoration and how to preserve the trees.  One of my favorite moments was when I jumped in the water at night with my brothers [at the Rainbow Pools]. Best part of my experience was hiking up those giant granite mountain tops. -Avante

Ta’aron and Rosalinda clearing brush around conifer seedlings

 

 

One thing I learned about the trip was work gets done faster as a team . We saw how the CCC worked as a team and got the work done faster. My favorite part about this trip was the experience about trying new things. It was a tough trip but we got to meet new people. Civicorps should have more of these trips and encourage corps members to go.  -Rosalinda

The fun experience I had on the trip was when we did the hike. Even though my body was hurting it was just was just fun to do it. -Ta’Ron

 

 

Joshanette makes felling trees look easy

The fun part about the trip was the people I’ve went with got to learn new things about them, tell stories about our past and had s’mores, got to dance all night with these kindly people who were also there with us, got scared to death, got to climb to the top of the mountain and see some beautiful views and waterfalls, and loved the FOOD there! -Joshanette

 

What I learned was to not complain. Also, I know now that we work hard but there is always harder work out there. I know that there will be people you meet and relate to you just from energy or experience. I had fun with everyone especially because we jumped into a lake at like 7 or 8 PM.  What else was fun was the fact that we all got things that we didn’t think we would get but it was worth it. (PS: Nature is amazing, thanks for letting me go.) -Isiah

 

 

Sunset on our final night

Determined to Persevere

As for me, this experience demonstrated what our Corpsmembers are truly capable of if they allow themselves to step outside of their comfort zone. The Conservation Interns I had the pleasure of working with were determined, persevering, and strong. They exhibit what many Civicorps Corpsmembers bring to work each day, showing again that they are more than able to pursue opportunities like these after our program if they take a chance and have faith in their own abilities and devices.  I could not be more proud of what these five individuals accomplished and am excited to see what they do next.

I have to give a special shout out to Steven Addison for setting the tone the first couple days of our trip and for believing so much in our Corpsmembers.  I also want to give props to the staff at San Jose Family Camp (especially the cook Ruben), and all the Corpsmembers and Supervisors with the CCC who were all welcoming and made us feel at home.  THANK YOU!

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