Corpsmember Profile: Breonnie King - Montgomery County Conservation Corps


 

Before finding her place at Montgomery County Conservation Corps (MCCC), twenty-one-year-old Breonnie King bounced between jobs in the food industry, retail, and health and wellness. As Bre describes it, she was “all over the place.” Without any prior experience in the environmental world, MCCC would have a huge impact on her.

Through MCCC’s GED program, Bre had a new outlook on life. In this program, youth and young adults can earn their GED while exploring green careers and learning conservation-related job skills. What attracted Bre the most to working in the environment was the idea she could create change and have a positive impact. As a participant in MCCC, Bre’s main goal was to earn her GED; she never expected to fall in love with the outdoors. As a child, Bre did not enjoy nature.

“Playing in the dirt and with bugs wasn’t my thing,” she said.

Because of her work, Bre views herself as an advocate for the outdoors and states her work (invasive species removal) at Dumbarton Oaks has opened her eyes to the impact a couple people can make overtime. However, as an African American woman, Bre has also experienced the role privilege can play in the outdoors.

“When I was younger, a lot of people kind of set out what I should be doing. ‘You can sing and you can dance and you can play sports,’” said Bre. “That’s where a lot of people put African Americans: in a box of what we care about and what is important to us. If it’s not in the music, or entertainment, or sports industry, we don’t have visibility.”

When Bre realized, the conservation field lacked people of color, it resonated with her. She is happy and proud to provide visibility for not only women, but African Americans. She recounts, “I love seeing the looks on people’s face when I’m on the job, it’s rewarding and empowering to see women who are certified in the field.”

Overtime, Bre’s love for the outdoors grew more and more; she enlisted family and friends to get outdoors more. As a Crew leader with MCCC she has enjoyed the opportunity to inspire young adults around her. Prior to her service, she never knew she could join environmental or conservation organizations, but she now has the confidence to put herself out there and pursue a career in this field. She believes MCCC has given her the know-how to tackle challenges effectively and efficiently.

“I can work in an industry where leaps and bounds can be made.”

During her time at the Corps, Bre enjoyed doing and seeing something new each day. From working on solar panels, to working with invasive plant removal, Bre woke up each day not knowing what would transpire.

Bre also received many certifications that she uses daily. She explains, “A biker was hit by a car right in front of me. Because of MCCC, I had the certification to know what to do in that situation. I could potentially save someone’s life.”

Currently, Bre has applications pending with the Student Conservation Association, programs listed on the Service Year Exchange, and AmeriCorps. There are so many things she wants to do. She states, “I just want to serve.”

With so many things on her plate, Bre also wants to attend to school to study International Relations. When asked about her dream job she states, “I don’t even know if there is a title for it. I love speaking, getting people involved, and doing a lot of outreach to people about green jobs and letting them know these things are out here. I don’t have a specific dream job. I like to do so much. I’m kind of a jack of all trades. That’s the beauty of this industry, you don’t have to stick to one field.”

She advises young people who are interested in this work to, “stick with it, don’t be afraid to try something new.” 

VIDEO: Montgomery County Conservation Corps profiled in local news segment


Montgomery County Conservation Corps profiled by Montgomery County Cable for their work helping local youth further their education and gain job skills. See the original video post here

In the Eyes of a Corpsmember: The People's Climate March

Written by Neysa Guzman of Montgomery County Conservation Corps

The People’s Climate March took place on September 21, 2014 in New York City and it was one of the larger protests the USA has ever seen with over 300,000 people. It was an incredible experience.

There were so many different types of people involved: people that survived floods, farmers, students, musicians, environmentalists, young children and older people.  All these people were united to stand together, strong, ready and powerful. We were all full of love that was displayed in people’s different forms of art, signs, music and dance. We celebrated the hope that we can change things. We wanted to get people’s attention to the fact that we are hurting the earth so bad that it may not be fixable if we do not stop. We chanted against oil companies and other big industries that refuse to change the way they operate.

I feel like every person should care, especially young people because this is our future, our earth that we will inherit and lead.  I am glad that we could be there to represent the Montgomery County Conservation Corps. Being a part of the MCCC I’ve gotten to learn to love and really value the incredible earth that we have. Our program teaches us about the environment and the best ways to improve it. It also teaches us to fight for what you believe in and keep going until you succeed. The protest opened my eyes to another fight and because of it I will continue to fight for environmental justice. 

Boiler Plate: 
"I feel like every person should care, especially young people because this is our future, our earth that we will inherit and lead. I am glad that we could be there to represent the Montgomery County Conservation Corps."

Discovering Environmental Conservation: Max Fuentes’ Experience in the Montgomery County Conservation Corps

Max Fuentes visited the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) office in Silver Spring, MD after he saw an advertisement for their GED program. He was excited to learn that LAYC would soon launch a new program – the Montgomery County Conservation Corps (MCCC) – through which he could earn his GED and also have the opportunity to work and receive a stipend.

“It was the GED aspect of the program that I came for in the first place, but what got me more interested was that I could work. I thought, ‘I can get more experience, have something to put on my resume,’” said Max. “When they told me I was going to work, I just thought that sounded good – I didn’t know it was conservation work. But when they told me we’d be doing conservation projects, I definitely got interested. I didn’t know there were careers like this out there. I really like the projects I’ve worked on in the field.”

Now in his second term with the Corps, Max is a Junior Crew Chief Leader. He is responsible for keeping Corpsmembers motivated and managing the food for his crew. Every morning, he separates out the lunch for the afternoon and checks that the Corpsmembers are uniformed before the crew can begin work for the day. When they’re on a project site, Max makes sure all the Corpsmembers work and stay positive.
 


 

On class days, Max often helps Corpsmembers with their lessons. Having already passed the GED test, he is familiar with much of the material his classmates need to cover. When he’s not in the classroom, Max sometimes assists Edgar Romero, a fellow Junior Crew Chief Leader, in managing the MCCC Facebook page and producing digital media to promote their work.

In the months since Max joined MCCC, he has learned how to use a variety of tools and recognize various plant and animal species. He says he has developed an appreciation of nature and is seriously considering a career in conservation. Max feels fortunate to have the chance to work in many local parks and network with conservation professionals. Among other projects, Max’s MCCC crew has worked on roofing, tree planting, split-rail fence construction, invasive species removal and bridge construction. 

“Before I came here, I didn’t know anything about conservation. Literally, I was clueless. When I saw trails, I thought that people made them just by walking. Then I found out that we do it, but we make it look natural,” said Max. “I learned about poplar trees – that tree name is stuck in my head!...I also learned about invasive species – that they’re species that aren’t supposed to be in this region. I learned how to use different tools, from handsaws to augers. For trails, I learned about how if some trails have been badly built, then when it’s raining, it will all wash away.”

Max has become a voice for LAYC and the Corps. He recently became a member of LAYC’s six-person Youth Advisory Board. This past summer, the online media platform Global Voice Hall released a mini-documentary – “Youth Unemployment: Where Do I Stand in Line?” – featuring an interview with Max about his own experience trying to find opportunity.  

“Definitely things would be different for me if I hadn’t found this program. It’s helped me personally because I was a troublemaker. So it’s helped me not be in the streets,” said Max. “Now I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m focusing on my future and helping out the environment. It’s made me a better person. My mentality has changed from being in this program. Now I want to help the community, not destroy it.”

 

 

Conservation Corps experience boosts skateboard business owner’s prospects


Edgar (pictured in the bottom row, gray shirt) with MCCC members. Also pictured is one of his skateboard deck designs
 

When he finished his first term as a Corpsmember with Montgomery County Conservation Corps (MCCC) in Silver Spring, MD, Edgar Romero felt it wasn’t time for him to leave the program.

“I wanted to stay because the Corps offers a lot of opportunities that I want to take advantage of,” he said. “I feel like my work here is not done yet. I think I could do a lot more: managing the photos, producing the videos, just making good quality content.”

Edgar is a self-taught expert in video editing and graphic design. He learned these skills in order to grow and promote Spruzi Skateboards, the business he started in September 2012. Edgar now uses his knowledge of editing and design software to help create movies and graphics for MCCC. He even designed a logo for the Corps (see below).

“I’ve always been interested in art and creating,” said Edgar. “My whole life, that’s how it’s been.”

Edgar was part of MCCC’s first cohort during the spring of 2013. He came to Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), MCCC’s parent organization, hoping to obtain his GED. At the time, recruitment was underway for the newly-created Corps and Edgar was a perfect candidate. He was intrigued to learn that becoming a Corpsmember would allow him to continue pursuing his GED while also gaining work skills and earning an income. 

“Basically I was looking for a new experience,” said Edgar. “I’d never really had much interest in conservation work, but I’m glad that I got involved because it’s been great.” 

Edgar enjoys having the opportunity to work on a variety of conservation projects with MCCC, but he says he is most interested in the construction projects. He likes applying math in real world situations.

“I’d say my favorite project was rebuilding a deck,” he said. “It was an old deck and they told us to replace the wood. That involved a lot of measurements and cutting. A lot of precise work. I like doing those types of projects when you have to use your brain to do the job well.”

In the future, Edgar wants to get involved in real estate. He is interested in eventually buying, renovating and selling old houses. For now, he wants to continue building Spruzi Skateboards. He started the business around the time he dropped out of high school (due to the fact that he was too far behind in his credits to realistically graduate on-time). Between leaving school and starting the GED program at LAYC, Edgar focused his energy on Spruzi. He now has a business partner and reports that they experienced no profit loss during their first year.

“I started off by just producing skateboard decks,” said Edgar. “I would design them on the computer and then send them off to the manufacturer. They would print those designs on a piece of wood that was eventually shaped into a skateboard deck. They would mail them back to me and I would sell them out here on the streets…This is something I want to pursue…I can never see myself doing anything else other than running a business.”

Edgar says that MCCC has helped him become a more confident businessman. As a Junior Crew Chief Leader, he has developed his leadership skills. He also enjoys having the opportunity to network and gain experience as a public speaker.

“I remember I did this speech one time for the council members that run programs like MCCC for the county. I had to do a speech in front of them about my experience in this program and what it has done for me,” said Edgar. “I was really nervous to go in front of the room; my heart was beating so fast. But learning how to deal with that should be very important to me because as a businessman that’s something you need to know how to do – talk in front of a lot of people, give them your ideas, and not be scared. If I’m nervous about doing something, I just tell myself, ‘You’ve got to do it.’”

Because he passed the GED exam this past summer, Edgar now has free time to use his unique skills to help promote the Corps. He sometimes spends class days updating the Corps’ Facebook page, curating photos, and editing videos.

Now that he has his GED, Edgar is beginning to research local colleges. He hopes to get his AA degree and eventually earn a bachelor’s degree, maybe in computer science. For the time being, Edgar is happy to continue serving as a Corpsmember with MCCC.

“[This] is a program that I want to be a part of for as long as I can. MCCC is like a family.”  

[Video] Sally Jewell Talks about 21st Century Conservation Service Corps in Live Chat

Last week as part of of her livechat in conjunction with National Public Lands Day, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell spent several minutes responding to a question about the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. She noted how members of the The Corps Network and SCA would play a role, but also talked about how given modern constraints and circumstances, the program would not have the same scope as the original CCC in terms of numbers.

Later on (at the 27:25 minute mark), Secretary Jewell also talked about making the workforce of Interior agencies more diverse, and how youth hires would eventually play a big role in this change once budgets allowed for more growth in staff at national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. 

You can watch the video by clicking on the photo above or by clicking here.

Boiler Plate: 
Last week as part of of her livechat in conjunction with National Public Lands Day, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell spent several minutes responding to a question about the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.