A Journey to Graduation

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.

Check out photos from graduation day this past June 6.

JAZMINE

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!

KEVIN

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.

NORMA

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!

CHRIS

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.

JOSH

At such a young age, Joshua Ballard didn’t have any plans for the future. He wasn’t focused in high school, nor did he value his education. It wasn’t until he joined Civicorps that he understood the impact of obtaining his diploma. He recently got accepted into the California Conservation Corps’s Backcountry Trails Program. His experience was short lived, but he returned to Civicorps to walk the stage and receive his high school diploma in June. He is working as a Civicorps Conservation Intern and is preparing to enroll in the Marines.

WILLIAM

William Scott shares that before Civicorps, he felt he was misunderstood. He didn’t know how to hone his emotions to express himself thoughtfully. He lacked patience, self-motivation, and discipline. But while at Civicorps, he accepted guidance from his teachers and supervisor to improve on his character. He is now well organized, responsible and articulate with his thoughts which has improved his communication and people skills. On June 6, Will received his high school diploma. And while his goal is to someday attend college, he knows he is not ready and wants to take time to work on his dog breeding business.

Josh is with his mom and uncle at graduation.

Will is excited to be holding his high school diploma!

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Four June grads share what they look forward to after graduation!

ANTOINE

My teacher at Bridge Academy knew that I wasn’t going to graduate on time and connected me to Mr. Dunn, the Dean of Students at Civicorps. Mr. Dunn is one of the most influential people who finally made me realize my potential. He pushed my buttons, allowed me to be competitive with my academics, and prove that I could do it. At Civicorps, I really found a place where I got to focus.

I didn’t think graduating would have been possible. I even told my friend I am going to shed a tear when I walk the stage at graduation. My high school diploma will mean everything for me. I see my friends graduating from here and I know it’s going to make my mom proud. I can’t wait to look at Mr. Dunn with my diploma. I am going to be so excited and tell him “I love you. You got me here.”

“If basketball doesn’t work, I want to study law and be a lawyer. I just have to remember to always focus on me!”

BRENDA

I didn’t think graduating would be possible. I went through some hard stuff in high school, traumatizing events that distracted me from my education.

But when my little brother Angel was born, it changed my life for the better. My mother needed help taking care of him and for the first six months of his life, I became like his mother. He is the angel who came to make a difference. This was around the time that I signed up for Civicorps.

In my time at Civicorps, I have improved my communication skills, which landed me a job as a receptionist at a dentist office where I meet with different types of people. Being at Civicorps, I have really focused on me, which may sound selfish, but in doing so I was able to see what really matters in my life. I’ve stayed positive with my goals. I hope to work with technology and one day obtain my X-ray technician license. It’s where I see myself growing and learning professionally. Maybe someday I’ll have my own practice.

“Angel gave me a purpose: because of him I changed the bad influences in my life and focused on me. I stayed positive. I struggled but always came back to finish strong.”

ANTHONY

Three years ago, my mother brought me to Civicorps. When I got here, I knew that graduating was possible, but I did have trouble believing that.

The staff here showed me tough love. They saw me and allowed me to believe in myself. I became a Crew Leader at the Job Training Center, which in turn allowed me to grow as an individual. I have learned a lot about myself and my potential to do great things. It’s been a rewarding experience.

I want to tell new students to keep trying, no matter how hard it will be and how long it will take… keep trying! Civicorps has taken me farther than I ever believed I could be. And now I am excited for future job opportunities in welding or construction. Things are going in the right direction, and I look forward to my next steps in life.

“Being humble and being patient is what I am taking away from Civicorps. I learned a lot, but being quiet really made me see a different side of things.”

DAISHA

I enrolled at Civicorps in October 2016. It took me a while to really convince myself that I was ready to take this step. I had to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself, “Yes! You are ready!”

Growing up I didn’t have a lot of support. I was moving a lot, which always disrupted my education. The possibility of graduating really was a fairy tale. But my older brother helped changed that perspective. He made it to college, and then left for a while, but returned and graduated. Now he is a licensed police officer.

And when I became pregnant with my baby Zane, I had a bigger reason to not give up on my education. So many people told me I couldn’t do it, but in my mind I kept telling myself that a baby can’t stop me! Now I am one week away from graduating. I want my son to be next to me when I walk the stage. He is my reason for getting my education and creating a positive future for our family.

“I plan to go to Laney for my associate’s degree, and then take business classes at a 4 year university. In 10 years I hope to have a nail tech business, a reliable job that will provide my son a clear path for his education.”

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