Orange County Conservation Corps (OCCC) surprised 23 year old reformed gang member Julio Caesar Lopez and his brother Edward Lopez, 19, with the “Lopez Attendance Award” on Tuesday, March 23, 2010.
The Lopez Attendance Award, has been named for the two brothers who together accomplished perfect attendance at both work and school for an entire year, no small feat. Monday through Friday, the Lopez brothers wake up at 3:45 a.m., leave their home by 4:20 a.m., take three buses from their home in Cypress, and must arrive to the OCCC by 6:45 a.m. everyday regardless of the obstacles they face.
“It takes commitment to wake up every day and be motivated to come to work,” said Veronica Fowler, Program Specialist at OCCC. “The obstacles that they have to overcome on a daily basis speak of their character and their willingness to succeed in an environment that can sometimes be polluted with drugs and violence.”
Prior to moving to Cypress and working with the OCCC, the Lopez brothers lived in Hawaiian Gardens and were surrounded by gangs. By the time Julio was 16 years old, he was involved in gangs, and was using and selling drugs. At least once a week someone would drive by and shoot at the family’s home, and on several occasions they were shot at while walking or driving. Eventually, Julio was arrested for selling drugs and jailed. Referred by his probation officer, Julio decided to join the OCCC and Edward soon followed.
Since joining the OCCC, Julio and Edward have shown themselves to be model corpsmembers and have earned many other awards, recognitions, and certifications including: First Aid and CPR certifications, chainsaw safety and operation certifications, passing the California High School Exit Exam, OCCC work ethic and positive attitude award, and the habitat restoration efforts from Orange County Park Rangers Vicky Malton and Joanne Taylor.
“My dad taught me how to work hard and that hard work pays off.” said Edward Lopez. “Thanks to the OCCC I have become what I am right now. It’s been an honor working with and for them—just an honor.”
In addition to the plaques that each received for the Lopez Attendance Award, Julio and Edward also received the following:
- Bonus checks.
- Official certificates from: Senator Bob Huff of the 29th District, Assemblyman Jose Solorio of the 69th District, Senator Tom Harman of the 35th District, Assemblyman Jeff Miller of the 71st District, Mayor of Cypress Dr. Prakash Narain, Mayor of Anaheim Curt Pringle, and Assemblyman Jim Silva of the 67th District.
- Letters of recommendation.
- Monthly bus passes while the brothers are still enrolled and maintaining perfect attendance at OCCC.
“There are no words to explain receiving this award,” Julio Caesar Lopez said. “This is the biggest accomplishment I have ever achieved. It was one of the goals I set for myself when I first started with the OCCC, and now I’ve done it!”
“I am proud to have individuals of Julio and Edward’s caliber in our program,” stated Max Carter, Executive Director of OCCC. “I am confident that their positive attitude, work ethic, and leadership will be a tremendous benefit to any organization that has an interest in employees that make a difference — in their bottom line, the community, or both.”