A Corpsmember who survived the Rwandan genocide wins state award in Colorado

 

Photo taken from The Gazette of Coloardo Springs
Christian Ndushabandi at work - Photo taken from The Gazette 
 

Taken from The Gazette of Colorado Springs, CO - written by Carol McGraw  

When 19-year-old Christian Ndushabandi receives a Mile High Youth Corps award and gives a speech at the state Capitol Monday before a crowd of legislators, federal officials and others, his mother won’t be there.

Instead, Elise Lukambo is in the hospital having an appendectomy.

“I feel sad that she won’t be there,” Ndushabandi says. But he shrugs it off. A former school teacher, she taught him that in the grand scheme of things such disappointments are not earthshaking. Not like the Rwanda genocide and other warfare that tore the family asunder and set them on a path that has led Ndushabandi to this honorary moment.

Last week, he sat in his family’s Colorado Springs apartment below a photo of his late father.

He’d been working on the talk he will give, and plans to spend a few minutes speaking about his love of conservation. But part of that is how he got here, a journey that began with his family’s terror during the 100 days in 1994 when up to one million were killed in a civil war in which tribal Hutus laid waste to the Tutsis.

“I used to be ashamed to tell about the bad things that occurred. But now I am relieved to talk about it.”

He wants to tell his family’s painful story, he says, because, “The genocide is something not to forget. If people know, maybe it won’t happen again.”

It was early evening in the small city of Gitarama when Tutsis were dragged from their homes and herded into the streets by Hutu killing groups, some of them neighbors, armed with knives and machetes.

Lukambo, who was pregnant, was attacked. A machete cut deep into her shoulder and the back of her head and neck. She fell and was thought dead.

Ndushabandi was only a year old at the time. In the mayhem, his Hutu babysitter pretended he was hers, strapped him to her back and fled the carnage. The toddler was returned to his family two days later.

But it wasn’t over. A week later, his father Cassien Ndushabandi, a superintendent of schools, was murdered in his office.

Lukambo later married her husband’s brother, as is custom. They were living in the Congo, and again the warfare hit. He was killed during the ethnic strife.

Alone with four children, Lukambo sought help from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. They ended up in Colorado Springs and received resettlement help from Lutheran Family Services, Rocky Mountain Refugee and Asylee program. The agency helped with a variety of social services, including an apartment, food, medical services and enrollment in school. Lukambo received surgery for the debilitating injuries that plagued her.

Floyd Preston, Lutheran Services program director, says, “They are all troopers. She is a sweet lady who has been through tremendous trials with faith and persistence to survive.”

He adds, “Christian has been the rock of the family. His award is testament to their new beginnings.” 

Ndushabandi graduated from Palmer High School last year. He learned English quickly, a feat he attributes to the two years of seasonal work with Mile High Youth Corps in Colorado Springs. “I had to learn. No one knew my language.”

Nancy O. WIlson, director of the regional Mile High Youth Corps, says Ndushabandi was one of 10 youth in the state chosen for the award because of his outstanding work ethic and leadership. “He’s a remarkable young man who got a job right away with us to support his family. And he realizes the importance of education.”

The corps trains youths 17 to 24 to do conservation work. Ndushabandi built trails in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and worked on erosion control efforts in the Hayman fire and Waldo Canyon fire burn areas.

When he first did trail work, he could not imagine what it was for — in his former country, he explains, “We did not hike for fun, we hiked because we had to.”

Corps workers receive weekly living stipends and are provided with Americorp scholarships of $1,468.

Ndushabandi is the major breadwinner for his mother, two sisters, 18 and 15, and brother, 12. “I worry about it a lot,” he says.

He worked in a pizza restaurant and is working part time in the cafeteria at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School. His mother, who is taking classes to learn English, works two day a week in food services. Her disabilities prevent her from full-time employment. They plan to become U.S. citizens.

He writes almost daily, putting down his family’s memories as well as their experiences now. “I want to write my mother’s story in a book,” he says.

Ndushabandi is studying at Pikes Peak Community College and plans to attend medical school to become a surgeon. “I saw how they helped my mother. I’d like to give back and visit Africa, too and help where it is needed.”

Contact Carol McGraw: 636-0371 Twitter @mcgrawatgazette Facebook Carol McGraw

 

2013 Corpsmember of the Year, Raghda Raphael



Raghda and her fiance

Raghda Raphael’s story is one of triumph over tragedy. She was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1988 and immigrated to the United States in 2010. Though Raghda came to America as a refugee, her life in Iraq was once filled with happiness. As a child, she had many friends and lived comfortably with her family in her grandfather’s big house. She was fortunate to attend good schools and received excellent grades. Sadly, life for Raghda and her family changed once the initial hopefulness following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein faded and insurgents took power of Baghdad. Raghda was soon surrounded by the threat of car bombs, roadside bombs, and assassinations.

“All of the Iraqi people were feeling horror,” said Raghda. “We felt unsafe, fear, uncertainty, and confusion because of the unexpected events we were facing in our lives.”

In 2008, Raghda’s uncle, a 35-year-old father of six, was kidnapped by armed men and held prisoner. His captors contacted Raghda’s cell phone numerous times and demanded ransom money. Her family was ready to pay, but after a few days the insurgents decided they no longer wanted money – they wanted Raghda.

“I hung up the telephone and never spoke to the captors again.  I chose to live and for that my uncle probably died,” said Raghda. “To this day, we have had no contact with our uncle.  We do not know what happened to him.  All of us in the family feel very sad.”



 

Raghda was so shocked and saddened by this incident that she could not concentrate on school and failed the high school exit exam. A year later, when she attempted the exam again, she passed and was accepted to the University of Baghdad. She studied hard in school and she and her friends tried to lead normal lives, but every day was full of uncertainty. One day, Raghda and her peers were in a car that was attacked by insurgents. Bullets broke the back window of the car and blew out the tires. Iraq was not safe. Raghda and her family moved to Beirut, Lebanon in 2009.

“As happy as my family was to take this step, it was also the hardest decision we ever made in our lives because we were leaving our own country, home and friends, knowing it would be the toughest challenge to date,” said Raghda. “…The good thing was we knew we would not be [in Lebanon] for a long time; it was a waiting station for us.”

In October 2010, the family boarded a plane for America. Raghda was relieved to find safety in their new home of San Diego, but she felt isolated by her limited understanding of English. Things changed, however, when she followed in her brother’s footsteps and joined Urban Corps of San Diego (UCSD).

Raghda’s teachers at Urban Corps recognized her intelligence and encouraged her to practice her English. About a year-and-a-half after joining the Corps, Raghda passed the California High School Exit Exam and received an American high school diploma in November 2012. Through the help of her teachers, Raghda’s English has become so strong that she now acts as a translator and tutor for Arabic-speaking Corpsmembers, and she has spoken about the Corps experience at various events as a UCSD Ambassador.

“Raghda exemplifies the Corps ideals of service, perseverance and determination,” said Geneva Karwoski, one of Raghda’s supervisor’s at UCSD. “…Raghda is motivated to succeed in every aspect of her life. As a student, worker, and peer she has fostered a sense of community among Urban Corps’ diverse group of Corpsmembers. She is fearless about befriending people from cultures outside her own, and has inspired many of her peers to follow suit. Her strong sense of character and commitment to the guiding principles of the Corps has made her an unparalleled leader and mentor for other Corpsmembers.”

While attending classes and working towards her diploma at Urban Corps, Raghda also worked with the Corps’ Fire Fuel Reduction Program and the UCSD Recycling Buyback Center. Raghda says that the experience of building trails, thinning forests, and sorting recyclables has helped her build a strong appreciation of the natural world. As a cashier in the Buyback Center, she feels proud to be able to play a part in helping divert recyclables from the landfill. Raghda has inspired the rest of her family members to become more conscious about their recycling habits.

In addition to her work at Urban Corps, Raghda helps support her family by working as a restaurant manager in the evenings. She also recently enrolled in college and has been busy planning her wedding. Her dream is to eventually earn her master’s degree and become a math teacher for underprivileged youth. Math has always been Raghda’s passion:

“My teacher in Iraq used to tell me, ‘You are smart in math; you should be a math teacher!’ Then when I came to Urban Corps, my teacher there told me the same thing!” said Raghda. “I really enjoyed the time I spent working with other students as a tutor and mentor, and it is my dream to encourage that interest in other young women too.  I have recently learned that many young people are not meeting the appropriate math proficiency levels and that such deficiencies will have a great effect on their future career opportunities.  I hope to one day be a part of the solution to this problem and make math a fun and enjoyable experience for those that struggle with it.”

Coming to America was a turbulent experience for Raghda. It was difficult for her to adjust and immerse herself in a new culture, but, as she explains, the welcoming environment and supportive staff at Urban Corps helped her feel like she had finally found a safe, comfortable home.

“Urban Corps helped me realize my potential and gave me the tools I needed to succeed in a new country.  Without the Corps I would not be where I am today. I am grateful for the opportunity, and for all the people that have made a difference in my life. I look forward to the day when I can do the same for another young person.”

 

Leaving Life on the Streets for a Life Dedicated to Service

 

Where are they now? -- Catching up with 2007 Corpsmember of the Year,
Cop Lieu


Cop Lieu, a former student with The Work Group, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2007 for his commitment to service and self change. Read below to find out what he's been up to since accepting his award, or find out 

more about Cop and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2007 National Conference.

It took a lot of courage for Cop Lieu to get where he is today. Cop came to America with his family via Thailand after trekking across his native Cambodia by foot. Once in the States, he got caught up in gangs and spent time in juvenile detention. What helped Cop turn things around was joining The Work Group in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Just getting through the programs at The Work Group, however, required Cop to show a good deal of personal strength.

“I still had problems with people I used to be friends with. It was almost like I was a rubber band: [my friends] were trying to pull me back to the street while The Work Group was trying to pull me away from it,” said Cop. “The same people that had been my friends pretty much became my enemies. They would say stuff like, ‘You’re too good for us now. You don’t come around anymore. You don’t want to do drugs with us.’ That stood out for me because it took a lot of strength on my part to avoid drama. Sometimes I’d have to change up my route to school because I knew where they hung out and I knew they’d try to make drama.”

Cop is still with The Work Group, but he is no longer a student. These days Cop is a Community Service Supervisor, leading classes of up to 16 students through the same program that helped him leave the streets just a few years ago.

“I train and teach kids basic skills to help them find and keep a job. I teach them skills like being on-time, and learning how to battle 8-hour shifts. I teach them new skills like shaking hands and keeping eye contact,” said Cop. “I have firsthand experience from where they came from. I’m from the inner city and I had trouble growing up. I got in trouble with the law, but I was able to pull myself away from the street and…try to be around positive people… That motivated me to help these young people who are in a position that I was in and help bring them to where I’m at now. It’s really rewarding to see that some of these youth can transition from being in the streets to being more professional and stable.”

This past May, Cop celebrated five years with The Work Group. He came to the organization when he was 17 after hearing about it from his probation officer and other teens he met while in the justice system. Cop was expelled from the regular school system, but he still wanted to further his education. It was at The Work Group that he earned his high school diploma and the respect of his supervisors. His success led to his being hired as a “peer reinforcer” for The Work Group – a position in which Cop helped motivate the teen and young adult participants in the program. Cop took time off after a year as a peer reinforcer, but he eventually applied for his current position and was rehired by The Work Group.

Having the opportunity to mentor youth means a lot to Cop. He believes that what made The Work Group’s program such a successful experience for him was the access to positive adult role models.

“When I came to The Work Group, they showed me attention, they showed me love, and they pretty much just helped me through my struggles. They gave me faith in the future,” said Cop. “They showed me that even though I got in trouble and I felt like the world was over, there are more opportunities out there. They just helped me side-by-side with my personal problems. That kept me away from trouble.”

One of Cop’s proudest contributions to The Work Group is his involvement with the organization’s summer inclusive program. Cop has spent the last three summers helping plan and facilitate the program, which operates with support from The College of New Jersey. A professor, who regularly trained staff at The Work Group on how to help students with disabilities, recognized that Cop – with his patience and people skills – would be the perfect person to help make the inclusive crew a reality. Working with people with physical and developmental disabilities has become one of Cop’s greatest passions. He sees potential in all of his inclusive crew students; he says it’s exciting to see how some students who have previously only socialized with other disabled youth really open up when working alongside the rest of the students at The Work Group.

“It’s just fantastic,” said Cop. “I’ve seen a lot of growth and some kids - they just want to come back.”

Cop wants to go to college to earn a degree that could help him pursue a career in helping the disabled. For now, however, he wants to continue with his position at The Work Group and hopefully see the inclusive program offered year-round instead of just during the summer.

In addition to earning his high school diploma and finding rewarding employment, during his five years with The Work Group Cop also received his driver’s license and obtained his American citizenship. Cop says that without The Work Group he would probably be in the same position that many of his old friends are in: unemployed and without much to offer potential employers.

“I’d be a lump on a log – just staying home and doing illegal activities,” said Cop.

To young people thinking about joining a Corps like The Work Group, Cop says:

“It never hurts to try. Signing up for something like The Work Group can change your life personally and professionally. It’s a life-changing experience…Pretty much, the staff here will go to bat for you, and they will stick out limbs for you. If you don’t join it’s just an opportunity missed.”

 

 

 

 

"Little things that the Conservation Corps changes about you that make a big difference" - Kenny Mai, Corpsmember of the Year 2009


Where are they now? - Catching up 2009 Corpsmember of the Year,

Kenny Mai

Kenneth Mai, a former member of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2009 for his commitment to service and self change. Read below to find out what he's been up to since accepting his award, or find out more about Kenny and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2009 national conference.

Kenny Mai admits that he was once headed down a bad path. He was affiliated with a gang when he was a teenager and experimented with drugs and alcohol. He faced homelessness and an unstable family life. Kenny, who moved to Los Angeles from Belize when he was 13, also dropped out of high school due to his frustrations as a non-native English speaker. Fortunately, he was able to turn things around with the help of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LACC).

Kenny joined LACC in 2007 after hearing about the program from a friend. By this point Kenny had already participated in Job Corps and earned his GED. However, he still saw room for self-improvement and needed to break ties with his gang background. LACC’s program, which offers youth the chance to go back to school while also gaining work experience and earning a little money, seemed too good to pass up. While he was with LACC, Kenny became competent in carpentry, roofing, plumbing, irrigation and drywall installation. In addition to job skills, Kenny also learned important life skills.

“They taught me really everything that I know now. They’re the ones that took me out of the streets. It was one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had,” said Kenny. “The most important thing I learned was to be a leader and I got work skills. They taught me how to be on time. A lot of the training they gave me I’m still using today.”

These days, Kenny works for the Koreatown Youth and Community Center. With KYCC, Kenny has planted trees, removed graffiti from public places, and participated in community cleanups and landscaping projects. Kenny is also currently contracted through KYCC with Southern California Edison’s Energy Conservation Program. Kenny works in an Edison warehouse driving forklifts and managing inventory, but he mainly helps organize crews that go out and provide free retrofitting services to Edison customers.

Kenny left the Los Angeles Conservation Corps in 2009 and went straight to KYCC, but he says that his experience with LACC still impacts his day-to-day life.

“It’s funny because me and my coworker always talk about this. There are little things that the Conservation Corps changes about you that make a big difference,” said Kenny. “Now I can’t litter! I always find a trashcan because I’ve done the work of cleaning up trash. I’ve gone from not worrying about it to seeing how littering is a real problem and I’m adding to it. Now I’m more conservative. It used to be ‘whatever,’ but now I’m thinking ‘save the planet.’ Now I’ve got to worry about my kids.”

Looking back at his time with LACC, Kenny is most proud of a tree planting project he participated in near his home. The Corps’ goal was to plant 500 trees in a single day, but they ended up planting 600. Kenny says the trees are still standing and it’s a great feeling to walk past them.

Kenny is also proud of his time as president of the Conservation Corps’ Leadership Council. He says his presidency was an important learning experience that taught him leadership skills he uses today. During his presidency, Kenny managed to change how the council is run and organized.

“When I started, they were paying the Corpsmembers to be in the council – giving them a stipend. But I said, I don’t think the leaders should be getting paid to be leaders. I didn’t think they should get the stipend – if they want to be in the council, they should join out of their own will,” said Kenny. “Before that, there were like six people in the council all getting the stipend, and when I came in there was like 18 people in the council just a month later and they weren’t getting paid. That was really cool. They inspired me and I inspired them.”

Through his position on the Leadership Council, Kenny became an important recruiter for LACC. He reached out to youth who were dealing with many of the same issues he had experienced before joining the Corps.

“I got to get a lot of Corpsmembers off the street and keep them in the programs. Because when they saw me doing it, they could say ‘if he can do it, I can do it,’” said Kenny. “I would tell them about how they can learn to be a leader, and they can learn work skills, and they can do their community service part. They can have mentors there. What we go through in the street, it was the same for the people that work [at LACC]. Many of the staff were Corpsmembers, so what you’ve been through – they’ve been through.”

Kenny is busy with KYCC and Southern California Edison, but he still finds time to volunteer. Recently, he has helped construct a new community garden near his home. He hopes to eventually go back to school to earn a business degree – he has thought about one day opening his own small business, perhaps a carwash. Kenny also still hopes to work with LACC, the organization that he feels changed his life.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I wouldn’t have these work skills,” said Kenny. “I’d probably be in jail, to tell you the truth. I wouldn’t be working. I would be in the streets with a gang or something if I didn’t get into the Conservation Corps.”

Kenny is now 26-years-old. He has one son and a second son on the way.

Where are they now? – Catching up with 2011 Corpsmember of the Year, Oscar Alejandro Marquina



Oscar A. Marquina, a former member of the Utah Conservation Corps, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2011 for his leadership skills and commitment to service. Read below to find out what he's been up to since accepting his award, or find out more about Oscar and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2011 National Conference.

Do rivers and lakes need regular health checkups just like people do? Ask Oscar Marquina.

“Basically I am a water doctor,” said Oscar. “I travel around doing different examinations making sure my patients - rivers and lakes - recover their health or stay healthy.”

Oscar, a former member of the Utah Conservation Corps, is currently interning with the Utah Division of Water Quality. Prior to this internship, he worked as a laboratory technician at the Utah Research Water Lab. Oscar has visited over 40 lakes throughout the state of Utah, collecting water samples and checking various water quality parameters. All this experience and Oscar is still just 23 years old.

Oscar and his family emigrated from Venezuela to the United States in 2001. Seven years later, Oscar was fluent in English and serving as one of two original Crew Leaders for the Utah Conservation Corps’ Bilingual Youth Corps (BYC). With his language skills and his ability to relate with the growing Latino population of Northern Utah, Oscar became instrumental in making the Bilingual Youth Corps a success. He translated informational brochures into Spanish, held orientation meetings in Spanish, and conducted interviews for potential Corpsmembers in both English and Spanish. 

“It wasn’t until I left [the Corps] that I realized I helped in laying the structure for future BYC programs,” said Oscar. “I didn’t think all the minute logistical details we discussed would help in future years. It is definitely a pleasant surprise knowing the heart and effort I had given for a summer program was then duplicated every summer after the first.”

Before joining the Utah Conservation Corps, Oscar loved the outdoors but he had never considered the amount of work that goes into the conservation projects needed to preserve parks and trails. Oscar joined the Corps simply because it seemed like it would be fun to spend his summer vacation in a setting where he could exercise his bilingual skills. Now, however, Oscar feels that the Corps can offer a lot more than just a fun summer job.

“For those who are new to this country, the Bilingual Youth Corps is ideal for many reasons. First it teaches Corpsmembers ownership of their new community through service and travel. To someone who is learning the language, it will speed up the education process by creating unique opportunities and interactions outside the classroom,” said Oscar. “It is also important to allow new immigrants to express themselves in their native tongue which may have been restricted at schools or other jobs simply because of the non-bilingual dynamics of such institutions.”

In preparation for when his internship ends in October 2012, Oscar has been networking, filling out applications and going to interviews. He wants to gain work experience before he eventually returns to school. Oscar graduated from Utah State University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering, and he is now interested in pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree.

Oscar’s time in the Corps may have ended in 2010, but he is still involved in service opportunities. He recently finished a tutoring position at a Utah high school where he helped students – most of them Latinos or Burmese refugees – with their homework and ACT preparation.

“My goal at the moment is to find a job that allows me to help communities and people,” said Oscar. “I would love to work for a company that allows me to travel and use my Spanish skills.”

Oscar says one of the things he loved most about his experience with the Corps was getting to meet interesting people from all walks of life. He says he feels like each individual BYC member he worked with stands out in his mind. He is still good friends with many of these members; they follow each other on Facebook and get together to hangout. He also stops by the Utah Conservation Corps offices to say hello to the staff whenever he is nearby.

To young people thinking of joining a service or conservation corps, Oscar says:

“If you have not figured out what exact experience you need in life, but you have the heart and drive to volunteer and provide a service to your community, the corps will be a way to seize the day and gain inspiration and illumination for any future endeavors.”

 

2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Cop Lieu

***Update! Click here to read about what Cop has been up to since he accepted his award.***


As a Corpsmember with The Work Group in Camden, NJ, Cop excelled quickly and became a "peer reinforcer," counseling new members coming into the program. Although just years ago he trekked by foot through the jungles of Cambodia into Thailand to come to America with his family, Cop's toughest times were actually his early years in the U.S. when he got caught up in street life and fighting, was expelled from the traditional school system, and spent time in juvenile detention.

After joining The Work Group at the recommendation of a friend, Cop passed his GED test, earned his customer service credential, obtained his driver's license, and was promoted to a peer advisor due to his natural ability to relate to and influence his peers.

Cop plans to go to school and learn more about the real estate business and has started the process to get his citizenship. He also currently works as a Support Services Associate at a Philadelphia hospital. 

(written in 2007)

2011 Corpsmember of the Year: Oscar Alejandro Marquina


***Update! Click here to read about what Oscar has been up to since he won his award***

(Written in 2011 - some details may have changed)

In 2001 Oscar immigrated to the United States from Venezuela with his family. Seven years later, Oscar had learned to speak English and was serving as one of two original Crew Leaders for the Utah Conservation Corps Bilingual Youth Corps. 

After serving in this position for two summers, he was promoted to Senior Crew Leader in 2010. Oscar was instrumental in the development of this new program which was started in an effort to meet the needs of the growing Latino community in Northern Utah. His background and personal experience enabled him to understand and connect with Latino youth and their families. 

He held parent orientation meetings in Spanish and enabled potential members to complete their applications and conduct their interviews in Spanish or English. As finding transportation is often a challenge for low income youth, Oscar worked with guidance counselors to set up interviews at local high schools to work around this barrier. He also translated UCC materials and training resources into both languages. Oscar has become an incredible role model and mentor for Latino youth in Northern Utah.

He has demonstrated that a young Latino immigrant can learn English, gain valuable works skills, and obtain a college degree. In addition to encouraging Corpsmembers to pursue higher education, Oscar himself will graduate this year from Utah State University with a degree in Environmental Engineering, with hopes of pursuing a Masters degree in the future.

In his free time, Oscar also works with Engineers without Borders, an international program that helps create a more stable and prosperous world by addressing basic human needs such as clean water, power, sanitation, and education. He even led a trail maintenance workshop at the organization’s annual conference last Fall, illustrating that Oscar has become a distinguished ambassador for the work that organizations like the Utah Conservation Corps do.

Corpsmember Success Story: Diana Carrillo

 

Diana could not speak English when she left her home of Mexico City and came to America. Now, after spending three years living in the States, 25-year-old Diana is a confident English-speaker with her eyes set on college. None of this would have been possible, she says, if not for her involvement with Conservation Corps North Bay in San Rafael, California.

Before joining the Corps, Diana's lack of a high school diploma and her limited English made it difficult for her to find a job. This was extremely frustrating for her as she needed to make money to support her then 4-year-old daughter. Fortunately, Diana heard about how Conservation Corps North Bay taught ESL and could help her gain job skills. She was particularly excited to hear that Corpsmembers at CCNB could work and earn money while completing their studies.

As a participant in Conservation Corps North Bay’s educational program, Diana earned her GED and is just a few credits away from obtaining her high school diploma. In addition to what she learned in the classroom at CCNB, Diana also learned how to use a chainsaw and is now an expert sawyer. She earns money by working with CCNB crews on environmental conservation projects that have involved everything from habitat restoration to fire and flood prevention. Diana currently works with CCNB’s recycling program and earns enough money to support herself and her daughter.

After she passes the California High School Exit Exam, Diana hopes to begin attending the College of Marin in January 2013. While studying she will also earn money working at CCNB’s organic farm on the College of Marin’s Indian Valley campus. Diana is not entirely sure what she wants to study, but she says she really enjoys her conservation work at CCNB and is considering pursuing a degree in environmental studies.

When Diana emigrated from Mexico with her family to try and find more opportunities, she had no idea what the future held for her in California. Three years later, she is well educated, employable and self-sufficient.

“I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “Now I have time for work, for study, and for my daughter.”