Corpsmember Success Story: Carmen Curry

Without a high school diploma or GED and with little work experience, 21-year-old Carmen Curry found it very difficult to find work. That all changed, however, when Carmen joined Conservation Corps North Bay.

Carmen heard about the Corps from her brother who had participated in a CCNB program for middle school and high school students. Intrigued by how the Corps offered job training and assistance for those trying to further their education, Carmen joined CCNB in August 2011.

After taking classes through CCNB’s educational program, Carmen passed her GED test on the first try. She has already passed the California High School Exit Exam in Math and English and is just a few credits away from earning her high school diploma. Carmen said her peers at CCNB have been extremely helpful and supportive throughout her educational experience.

When she's not in the classroom, Carmen is out in the field working alongside fellow Corpsmembers on various conservation projects. CCNB taught Carmen how to use a chainsaw and paid her to work on habitat restoration, creek cleaning, and other efforts to help protect and maintain the natural beauty of local parks and public lands. Carmen became such a skilled sawyer that she is capable of prepping a gas-powered chainsaw in just 46 seconds.

Carmen plans to attend Berkeley City College in January 2013. She hopes to take classes in early childhood education and eventually pursue a career as a preschool teacher. Carmen says she has been interested in becoming a teacher for a long time. After watching her brother struggle with reading, she feels she has ideas about how to make learning more engaging and exciting for students who would otherwise get frustrated in school. Carmen also feels she is well-equipped for a teaching career because she knows she can relate with students who are experiencing a tough time at home.

In addition to job skills and an education, one of the most important things Carmen gained from her experience with Conservation Corps of North Bay is self-confidence. Carmen says she was once very shy and quiet, but now she feels like a leader and is happy to be able to set a good example for her children.

“If you’re really in a rough spot, the Corps’ the place to go,” said Carmen.

Carmen has a 3-year-old son and a second baby due in February 2013. She lives in Richmond, California.

Corpsmember Success Story: Joshua Edwards

Before attending the Green City Force graduation on June 29, 2012, 21-year-old Josh Edwards had not participated in a graduation ceremony since the 8th grade. For Josh, completing the Green City Force program was not just an accomplishment – it was a new beginning. As Josh said:

“[After] graduation, I got home that night and I just looked at the awards. You get an acceptance award and you get a completion award and I had them both in my hand and it felt so special knowing that I started something, I got into something on my own, and I finished it on my own…It was empowering.”

 Josh grew up in public housing in Brooklyn. His high school career is not something he is particularly proud of; he says he fell in with the wrong crowd and struggled to do well in his classes. He ended up needing to go to school for an extra year to complete all his credits. Josh says he felt lost and started to accept that he might spend his life working dead end jobs. Then his mother received an email about Green City Force – a Brooklyn based organization that trains and educates disconnected young New Yorkers (ages 18 to 24) for careers in the green industry. Josh was so intrigued by the opportunity to join Green City Force that he went all the way to Harlem to attend an information session about the program.

 As Josh says, getting into the program was not easy, but just the application process alone was a very good experience.

 “There are tryouts, an interview. It’s like you’re getting a real job,” said Josh. “You’re treated like an adult, you’re treated like a professional. And that’s just the entry point.”

 Josh says he was completely blown away by his first few weeks with Green City Force. He had never learned about green industries before and was amazed to hear facts and figures about water usage and ways to reduce utility bills in public housing buildings like the one where he lives.

 Josh continues to work for Green City Force on a part-time basis. He now does maintenance work at Planter’s Grove: an 8,000 square foot park – constructed by 2011 Green City Force Corpsmembers – located in New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA) Lillian Wald Houses in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Josh is now looking forward to starting college in January 2013. He hopes to study accounting and perhaps one day combine accounting skills with his passion for the environment.

 “I maybe want to become an accountant for a green business or something like that. That way I’d be doing two things that I love at the same time,” said Josh.

 Josh says Green City Force helped him build his confidence back and helped him understand that he is just as entitled to opportunities as anyone else. He says that before his Green City Force experience, he never knew his own potential.

“I’m already 21 and I already kind of lost three years since I was 18,” said Josh. “But I’m going to get back. This is a fresh start and I want to take everything that I can.”

On April 1, 2013, Josh began serving a second AmeriCorps term with Green City Force as a Junior Team Leader.

Corpsmember Success Story: Christopher Morgan

(Chris - left - working with his Crew Leader, Kenta Darley-Usmar)

Chris Morgan loves learning about sustainability and how to be eco-friendly. He only wishes someone had taught him about the environment when he was younger.

“I just started learning about going green. I want to inform everybody; my little sisters and my family and my friends and everybody else that there are ways to lower carbon emissions and reduce the climate change in the world with little things,” said Chris. “It all starts with one person.”

Chris’s recent interest in the environment can be attributed to Green City Force; a Brooklyn-based Youth Corps program that engages disadvantaged New York City youth in service and conservation projects and helps prepare them for work and college. Chris might not have known much about the environment before joining Green City Force, but – more significantly – he also did not know what he wanted to do with his life.

Chris grew up in public housing in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. He graduated from high school and started taking college classes, but he had to drop out for financial reasons. Chris ended up working at McDonald’s and held a series of other unsatisfying jobs. Then, as someone living in a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) property, Chris received an email about Green City Force. The Corps’ offer of a stipend, metro card, and the chance to learn valuable job skills seemed like a great opportunity. Chris went through the application process and ended up being one of 40 young adults selected for the Corps out of the hundreds who applied.

Chris still has a few months left before the end of the 6-month-long Green City Force program, yet he already has his eyes set on going back to college. He knows he wants to study somewhere in New York so he can be close to his two children (a 5-year-old daughter and a 5-month-old baby) and he knows he wants to pursue an education that could further prepare him for a green job.

“I’m taking everything that I’ve learned and I want to progress with this, I don’t want to look back,” said Chris. “So I feel like if I’m in [Green City Force] now and I’m learning about these things – there are opportunities and there are going to be 7 million jobs in the green economy, why not take advantage of that?”

Chris says that if a green job presents itself before he goes back to school, he may take that opportunity over college. Whatever his future holds, however, he is determined to succeed.

“Instead of struggling at McDonald’s or at Papa John’s delivering pizza – I don’t want to do anything like that. I want a career, maybe start my own business in the green field,” said Chris. “I know a lot of people from Brooklyn don’t have a lot of opportunities and I just want to take advantage and really embrace what [Green City Force] is letting me do.”

Chris currently serves as a Green City Force Junior Team Leader.