LA Conservation Corps After School Program Partners with NASA


Story and photo from the LA Conservation Corps Newsletter, Volume 3 | Issue 9 - September 27, 2013 

School is back in session for our 4,500 participants in the After School Program (ASP). For the first time this year, ASP is partnering with NASA's Best STEM program at all 16 elementary and middle schools. The program is part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's tradition of supporting educators who play a key role in preparing, inspiring, exciting, encouraging, and nurturing the young minds of today who will be the workforce of tomorrow by attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM disciplines.

ASP students pictured above at John Adams Middle School are working on the "Build a Satellite to Orbit the Moon" design challenge project. Students must design and build a satellite that meets specific size and mass constraints.  It is required to carry a combination of camera, gravity probes and heat sensors to investigate the moon's surface.  The satellite must also pass a 1-meter Drop Test without any parts falling off. The objective is for students to demonstrate an understanding of the Engineering Design Process while utilizing each stage to successfully complete a team challenge.

For more information about the After School Program, please contact Da'Lana Walker at

Bruce Saito, Director of LA Conservation Corps, Receives the Spirit of Los Angeles Award

Bruce Saito receives the Spirit of Los Angeles Award from the mayor of Los Angeles, the Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa (photo from the LACC Facebook page)

Story taken from the LA Conservation Corps newsletter, At the Corps - Vol. 3, Issue 5

On Friday, May 10th, Bruce Saito, Executive Director of the LA Conservation Corps, was recognized with the Spirit of Los Angeles Award by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in a ceremony that started in City Council chambers and concluded with lunch and Asian & Pacific Islander American Heritage Month performances on the Plaza.

Bruce joined fellow honorees Jet Tila and LA18 KSCI-TV at a special reception at City Hall before being led into Council Chambers by a Maori tribal dance. Numerous supporters including Board members, current and former staff, former corpsmembers, partner organizations, family members and friends all gathered to honor Bruce's 27 years of service to the LA Conservation Corps. Each of the Councilmembers congratulated Bruce and spoke of his enduring legacy not only to the youth of Los Angeles, but also to the residents, communities, schools, parks, and the rivers and beaches of Southern California that have benefitted from his efforts and service for almost three decades.

Following the formal City Hall ceremony, Bruce and his fellow honorees were presented with Certificates of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles as part of a community celebration that included musical and dance performances from a variety of Asian cultures and was presided over by ABC News anchor, David Ono. Congratulations to Bruce on receiving one of the City's highest honors. To see more photos of the event and to leave a comment for Bruce, please visit the LACC Facebook photo album.

LA Conservation Corps Helps Build a Biofiltration System at Local Field Laboratory


Unveiling of the Santa Susana biofilter

Los Angeles Conservation Corps recently attended the opening of a new biofiltration system at Santa Susana Field Laboratory. LACC Corpsmembers helped construct the system. Read below for more information.

Taken from At the Corps, the LACC Newsletter, Vol. 3 Issue 3

The Boeing Company, a panel of internationally recognized surface water experts, representatives from the LA Conservation Corps, Pollinator Partnership and members of the public were on-hand last week during the unveiling of Boeing's new biofiltration system which harnesses natural processes to treat storm water runoff while promoting pollinator habitats at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a former rocket engine test and energy research site.

"Our new biofiltration system supports Boeing's overall strategy to use natural processes to treat storm water and is one component of the company's comprehensive surface water treatment programs," said Paul Costa, Boeing's environmental operations and compliance manager. 

The new $600,000 biofilter uses natural settling, plant uptake, soil processes and specially designed filter media to capture sediment and pollutants before releasing cleaner water back into the watershed.


Boeing partnered with the LA Conservation Corps to plant over 2000 California native plants and collaborated with the Pollinator Partnership to ensure the landscape would support diverse pollinators. The result is a biofilter that acts like a natural ecosystem.

Corpsmembers worked on the project for eight weeks, beginning with a day of safety training and a tour of the facilities. In addition to the planting, corpsmembers created a "learning walk," including 350 feet of walking path, 2 benches and interpretive signage that educates visitors about biofiltration.

Since acquiring its portion of the site in 1996, Boeing has made significant progress toward cleanup and restoration and is moving toward the company's goal of preserving the site as open space parkland. For more information, visit To see more photos of the project, please visit the LACC Facebook page.

2013 Project of the Year, Flying Weed Warriors of LACC

What do helicopters, paintball guns, and inner city youth have to do with invasive plant removal? A lot actually. Corps often engage in projects to fight the advance of non-native species in our parks and forests, but Corpsmembers involved in Los Angeles Conservation Corps’s Flying Weed Warriors project quite literally went to battle against invasive plants.

Invasive plant removal usually involves Corpsmembers trekking through forests to cut down or pull out the offending species. What makes the Flying Weed Warriors project different is that they used a cutting-edge land management technique known as Herbicide Ballistic Technology (HBT). HBT involves shooting paintballs filled with high concentrations of herbicide from modified paintball guns. Shooting the guns from a helicopter enables all infestations to be accessed and treated quickly. Using the helicopter also provided an ideal vantage point to detect any new invasive species. Corpsmembers with the Flying Weed Warriors project used HBT to treat over 100 pampas grass infestations on Santa Cruz Island – the largest and most biologically diverse of California’s eight Channel Islands.

Flying Weed Warriors was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, The Nature Conservancy Santa Cruz Island Preserve, the University of Hawaii, Native Range, Inc., and the generous support of the JiJi foundation. In addition to successfully helping stop the spread of a harmful species in one of America’s most environmentally unique areas, the partnerships of the Flying Weed Warriors project connected a wide range of people who otherwise would have never met.

“Although the project’s focus was research based conservation, it also helped bridge educational and socio-economic gaps between participants, leading to friendships and mentorships that would be unlikely without this unique collaboration” said Dan Knapp, Los Angeles Conservation Corps’ Deputy Director. “For this particular project, Corpsmembers were not just a labor force or mechanism for successful conservation work; they were members of a cutting edge research team.”

In many ways, the Flying Weed Warriors project was an eye-opening experience for the Corpsmembers involved. Before the project, none of the Corpsmembers had ever been to the Channel Islands, ridden on a boat, or flown in a helicopter. During their down time, Corpsmembers went snorkeling and explored the island – a place that has many endemic (and endangered) plant and animal species. The project was also an eye-opener for the researchers involved. Corpsmembers and researchers, including Dr. James Leary from University of Hawaii and Dr. Guy Keiser from University of California Davis, all lived together for up to four days at a time. This allowed members of the academic community to engage and teach members of a historically disenfranchised population.

Corpsmembers involved in Flying Weed Warriors participated in important research that supports efforts to get the use of HBT permitted throughout California. One of the project partners, Native Range, Inc., is now eager to hire Corpsmember participants once they receive State Herbicide application licenses. Native Range has even offered to help with preparation for the state licensing test.

In addition to gaining exposure to new places, new ideas, and new kinds of people, Corpsmembers in the Flying Weed Warriors project simply had a lot of fun. After all, what’s not to like about flying around in helicopters with paintball guns in the name of science?


LA Conservation Corps Plants Garden at Mayor’s House

From the LA Conservation Corps Newsletter

On August 7th, the LA Corps participated in a garden dedication ceremony at Getty House, the residence of Mayor Antonio Villarigosa in Los Angeles. One of our Young Adult Corps crews helped build and plant a small vegetable garden that included six dwarf fruit trees, tomatoes, squash, peppers, basil, cilantro and other edibles. The Mayor expressed his thanks for the collaborative effort, which involved the City of Los Angeles General Services Department, Department of Engineering, Recreation and Parks, Getty House Foundation, LA Neighborhood Land Trust, and the LA Conservation Corps.

Legacy Achievement Award Winner: Bruce Saito

Bruce Saito has invested 35 years of outstanding service into the Corps movement. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University in 1976, he joined the California Conservation Corps (CCC). The organization was less than a year old and the Conservation Corps movement in California was in its infancy. He was part of the team that initiated youth development programs and environmental enhancement programs in the state at a time when there were few other 501 (c)(3) non-profits in existence, and certainly none proposing a model like the CCC, which combined a high school education program with environmental training and job skills development. He rose to the level of Program Director, directing and developing work and education programs for youth.

In the area of environmental enhancement, Bruce was instrumental in coordinating emergency efforts during the Los Angeles floods and fires in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, the 1992 Los Angeles Civil Unrest, and the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Both locally and nationally Bruce is recognized today as an expert in procuring and managing conservation corps projects.

By the mid-80s, Bruce was recruited by former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor to be part of a team to start the LA Conservation Corps. The organization started with 27 Corpsmembers participating in alternating weeks of school and work in the Young Adult Corps.

Since 1995, Bruce has served as the LA Conservation Corps’ Executive Director.  Today, along with LACC’s flagship Young Adult Corps program, Bruce oversees dozens of holistic conservation, education and support programs and services in primarily low-income communities throughout LA County, with a focus on Pico Union, East LA, South LA and Watts. In fact, the Corps is the largest urban nonprofit conservation corps in the nation, impacting over 13,000 11- to 24-year-old young people annually.

In addition to his work at the LA Conservation Corps, Bruce has served as president of The Corps Network’s Board of Directors. He has also presided over the California Association of Local Conservation Corps (CALCC), the organization that represents the 12 certified urban conservation corps from San Diego to Marin. 

He has been recognized for his service by the City and County of LA, the State of California and the federal government, and has been honored with a National Philanthropy Day Outstanding Professional Award.

2008 Project of the Year: Redondo Bluffs Restoration Project


Winner: Los Angeles Conservation Corps 

In a collaborative effort between the LA Conservation Corps, local residents, the Urban Wildlands Group (local nonprofit), and state and local governments, the Beach Bluffs Restoration Project Team was formed to identify and restore locations within the South Bay that historically supported populations of the El Segundo Blue Butterfly, an endangered species known only to exist in 3 isolated reserves.

LACC’s SEA Lab is located in Redondo Beach on the Santa Monica Bay.  The adjacent coastal bluffs are the historic home of the El Segundo Blue Butterfly.  However, due to habitat loss, the butterfly population rapidly declined and the insect was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1976. In 2005, the Corps received funding from the California Coastal Conservancy to restore a small 3 acre site. For 2 years, more than 100 Corpsmembers removed invasive ice plant, constructed a native plant nursery, planted native vegetation, installed irrigation, fencing, and interpretive signage, conducted stakeholder surveys, and maintained the newly planted native landscape.

Although the Bluffs Restoration Project team hoped that one day the El Segundo Blues would return to the Redondo Bluffs, the scientific community believed due to habitat fragmentation and population isolation re-colonization of the butterflies could occur only via human assistance.  In May 2007, as crews were wrapping up the project by adding vegetation and removing weeds, staff member Monica Acosta noticed a butterfly that looked suspiciously like the El Segundo Blue.  She sent a few photos to USC experts for identification.  A team of scientists surveyed the site and confirmed the presence of over 200 butterflies. 

Sure enough, via the hard work of LACC Corpsmembers, the El Segundo Blue returned, on their own, to the Redondo Bluffs.  The rapid return to the site so surprised the experts that it is now leading them to a new understanding of the species.  Young folks from some of the neediest neighborhoods in LA made a difference, a huge difference, and proved that sometimes the impossible is just improbable.

2011 Project of the Year: Savings and Solar Power to Cash-Strapped Park


Winner: Los Angeles Conservation Corps

In 2010, Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LACC) greatly increased its capacity to assist and implement solar installation projects. In a four way partnership with theL.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation, Permacity Solar, and Los Angeles Trade Tech College, a 50 killowatt commercial solar installation project was completed at Obregon Park. It was the first project of its kind in the county, and has proven so successful that more projects seem likely.

Obregon Park , located in the impacted community of East Los Angeles, is the cornerstone for recreation and residents in the area. By saving on electrical costs, a depleted parks department will be able to use excess money to provide more recreation programming to the residents in the area.

At the beginning and end of the program, community members were contacted by LACC Corpsmembers who went door-to-door to explain the value of the project. In addition to helping educate members of their community about the value of solar power, LACC Corpsmembers were able to shadow a Permacity Solar crew on the project. They participated from start to finish with planning and installation, working alongside the company’s technicians. They also received training in solar installation and theory from Los Angeles Trade Tech College.

Permacity Solar technicians and managers were impressed by the character, confidence, and commitment of the Corpsmembers toward the project. In fact, two of the Corpsmembers who worked on the project were subsequently hired in permanent positions by the company. As a direct result of this project, the County of Los Angeles has decided to pursue funding to install 10 similar systems in other county parks. These systems could result in as much as $2 million of projects directed toward LACC Corpsmembers.

In addition to the success of this project, LACC has benefited by building their own capacity to complete solar installations beyond residential homes. The Corps now has the ability to complete commercial applications. Currently the Corps is installing a 410 kilowatt commercial system at CBS Studios.

2012 Project of the Year: Paddle the Los Angeles River


Winner: LA Conservation Corps

The LA River is an important ecological, economic, and social concern of agencies and entities at federal, state, regional and local levels. It was recently included as one of seven city waterways in the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which spotlights federal efforts to connect city neighborhoods to the water.

Last year, the City of Los Angeles passed a motion requesting a report to investigate the feasibility of a pilot project for non-motorized boating on the Los Angeles River. The LA Conservation Corps (LA Corps), working with a variety of governmental entities and interest groups at all levels, developed a proposal for boating on the River within the Sepulveda Basin. The project, entitled Paddle the LA River, focused on safety, access, and environmental education. The U.S Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issued a license to the LA Corps, which allowed ten weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) of river access: from July 22 to September 25, 2011. The innovative pilot program represented the first time such an endeavor had ever been accomplished legally on the LA River.

The Paddle the LA River website went live on August 9, 2011 at 7:00 a.m. PST and within the first 10 minutes of launch, all 280 available seats sold out. During the first week of the program, the waiting list surpassed 350 people. To date, close to 1,000 people have signed-up on list-serve. These numbers clearly indicate that there is overwhelming interest by the general public for recreational activities such as this along the river.

The pilot program gave eight Corpsmembers the opportunity to paddle their way into a historical chapter in the revitalization of the LA River. The program also provided them with leadership skills, educational awareness, and knowledge of the River, enhancing their appreciation for wildlife and encouraging ongoing stewardship. Corpsmembers received a one-week certified training on River & Flood Water Rescue, Swift Water Rescue, and Low Angle Rope Rescue by certified staff from Mountain Recreation and Conservancy Authority (MRCA). The Corpsmembers and staff also received First Aid CPR training along with basic canoe and kayaking skills. Two educational workshops covered the river’s history, current management and governance, flora and fauna, water supply, water quality, and other related watershed issues. Corpsmembers benefited from scheduled guest speakers from a variety of government agencies and non-profit organizations who provided a wide range of expertise involved in LA River efforts.

As part of the project, a survey was developed to obtain participant feedback about their paddling experience and to measure the success of the program. Eighty-eight (88) participants completed the survey. When asked if the pilot program should be permitted to continue, 100% of respondents said “yes.” 100% of respondents also agreed that the program should be made permanent. All 88 participants indicated that the program impacted the environment positively while 98% found the program very informative.

As an additional note, a press conference was held to announce the launch of the Paddle the LA River project. The mainstream media was present in force. Local and international media provided exposure to a river that is normally seen as waste channel that guides water runoff as quickly away from the city as possible. These collective awareness measures helped raise consciousness of a presence of a river that exists within the city, containing a whole ecosystem, wildlife, plus water that connects and drains into the ocean. This media coverage was estimated to have been worth several million dollars. Several notable news outlets who produced reports about the project include NBC LA, ABC, the BBC, Univision, CNN, Time Magazine, National Public Radio (NPR), The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Huffington Post among many others.

As a result of the success of Paddle the LA River project, the LA Conservation Corps has been asked by city officials, river organizations, and community members to continue and expand the project in 2012.

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Jessica Martinez


Jessica Martinez was paroled out of the Youth Authority system a month before applying to the Los Angeles Conservation Corps.  Her primary goal in the Corps was to obtain her high school diploma, and most importantly not to make the same mistakes that she did in the past.  A year later, Jessica has received her diploma, graduated with high honors and has earned a specialist position as a Recruitment and Training Assistant with LACC.  Through her time with the Corps she has made great strides, including receiving a college scholarship and being elected by her peers to the Leadership Team, over which she now presides as president. 

--“I didn’t realize, until I came to the Corps, that I have choices, which have consequences, and if I make positive choices I can make a better life for myself despite the actions of others.”

(written in 2005)