Join us in celebrating the accomplishments of the Orange County Conservation Corps Charter School’s Class of 2013. This year’s ceremony will be held at Irvine Valley College. The Commencement Address will be delivered by Dr. Michael Worley, President of the Orange County Conservation Corps Charter School Board. There are a limited amount of tickets available. Please contact Jennifer Matas at 714-956-6222 Ext. 301 with any questions.
As of last month, corpsmember Angel Amaro exchanged one Corps for another: the Conservation Corps for the Marine Corps.
He joined the OCCC work experience program in June 2011 after spending about a month at our charter school. He earned his diploma shortly thereafter. While in our program, he also became certified in First Aid/CPR and Chainsaw Operation. He helped restore Caspers Wilderness Park with our National Emergency Grant crew (pictured above), which he said was one of his favorite OCCC experiences. Since then, he has been working in our recycling program. Because of his experience at the OCCC, he said, “I know how to work with people more and how to work with superiors.”
These are important skills, since he wants to pursue a career in the Marines. He wants to enlist because of a “sense of duty,” he said. “With everything going on in the world right now, we need someone to step up. I felt I should do my part.” As for why he chose the Marines: “They’re the best.”
OCCC crews are back on the slopes in San Juan Capistrano. Over the next two years, corpsmembers will continue to improve the 54 acre Open Space area. In 2012, our crews installed a complex irrigation system in the San Juan Watershed and area known as the 2C Ranch. Now, the City of San Juan Capistrano has hired the OCCC to monitor the irrigation system, continue removal of non-native plants and tend to the recent native plantings. The project will improve native habitat, increase water conservation and reduce flood and fire risks.
The OCCC helped educate the next generation of environmentally-minded Orange County citizens at the 2013 Children’s Water Education Festival at UC Irvine on March 27-28. The “largest of its kind in the United States,” the festival has educated more than 95,000 Orange County students over the course of its 17 years.
OCCC corpsmembers manned recycling stations throughout the festival, teaching the kids what to recycle and compost. The OCCC also recycled the donations to the Cans and Bottles for Kids campaign. Classes brought in bags of recyclables to compete for a free Inside the Outdoors Project Zero Waste Traveling Scientist Program, given to the class with the highest number of cans and bottles.
This year, over 7,000 third through fifth-graders attended this free field trip, exploring over 60 booths and activities geared to teach them about water conservation and environmental preservation. From Disney’s Incredible World of Water Chemistry to environmental magic shows to the Litter Bug Relay, there was something exciting for everyone.
Only 40 out of almost 300 applicants were chosen by the Orange County Department of Education to participate in a Gang Intervention Certification Program. Two OCCC staff members ranked among those 40: Program Specialist Esther Landin and Placement and Recruitment Specialist Susan Soria.
The class will learn everything from the dynamics of gang membership to the necessary tools of working with gangs to how to effectively enact prevention and intervention. They will hear guest lecturers and go on field trips to the probation office, juvenile hall and Homeboy Industries. At the end of the 15 week class, Landin and Soria will earn their Gang Intervention Certificates.
Expect to hear more about what they’ve learned once they finish the course.
Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) awarded the OCCC a $10,000 Environmental Education Grant to help connect corpsmembers’ work experience with their classroom learning. We will use the money to create a Habitat Restoration Field Training Manual that will teach corpsmembers to identify native species and how to properly apply herbicide. Then, corpsmembers will be able to come back to school and learn more about concepts learned in the manual and in the field in their science classes. This will make learning come to life for our corpsmembers – thank you SoCalGas!
The California Workforce Association Youth Conference: Defy the Predictable inspired eleven OCCC staff members and 8 corpsmembers with motivating workshops and opportunities to meet people from other organizations.
“The beauty of this conference was that not only was it to discuss theories and ideas, but practical examples from the field,” said Director of Programs Lena Skiba. “Staff members were able to get energized by real life examples of people doing amazing work with youth around the country.”
Program Specialist Veronica Yepez said it was an “excellent, excellent training” and particularly enjoyed the workshop “Balancing the Use of Technology with Face-to-Face Communication.” Program Specialist Alicia Diaz was moved by descriptions throughout the conference of the successful impact of programs similar to the OCCC.
Corpsmembers made the most of the experience by not only attending workshops, but taking turns videotaping as they interviewed staff and participants from other service providers as well as each other. Senior Program Specialist Ralph Jimenez said that corpsmembers found it encouraging to find things in common with participants from the San Jose Conservation Corps. “This experience does make me feel like I’m going somewhere in my life,” said corpsmember Julian Gonzalez as one of his peers interviewed him.
They were “hungry for knowledge,” as Program Specialist Zeara Alvarez noted, so they talked to people from the Santa Barbara Workforce Investment Board, North Orange County ROP and many, many others. Corpsmember Anthony Blancas even got the opportunity to talk to Conference Curator John Baker, who said he loved the “spirit and energy” of the young people at the conference. Our corpsmembers certainly showed theirs.
In interviewing others and fully engaging in the conference, the corpsmembers discovered their own drive. “I’m really proud of being here,” said corpsmember Jorge Giron. “I see myself touching the sky when I’m here.” Way to defy the predictable, Jorge!
Corpsmembers, their children and OCCC staff and Board Members gathered on Friday, December 21 to share an intimate holiday gathering. Tamales, cookies and hot chocolate warmed stomachs as the children’s smiles, laughter and wide eyes warmed hearts. Santa Claus visited, distributing gifts wrapped by some special helpers (see article below) and taking pictures as each child whispered his or her wish. After presents were opened, a number of families sat playing together with blocks and toy cars.
Eight elves from International Polytechnic High School volunteered on December 17 to help wrap the presents donated by Toys for Tots and the US Marine Corps for the corpsmember Holiday Party. Within a few hours, they had all the presents for the party sorted, wrapped, labeled and ready for Santa Claus, making the OCCC holiday party significantly merrier for the corpsmembers’ children. Thanks for your help, Alexis, Paula, Kimberly, Jennifer, Ariadne, Claudia, Alex and Katya!
From Left: Katharyn Bandoni, Anne McMillen, Erin Lemly and Zeke Jenkins
A big thank you to Enterprise Fleet Management, who through the Enterprise Holdings Foundation donated $3,000 to the Orange County Conservation Corps for the fourth year in a row! Donations like this make bright futures possible.