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.”

 

2013 Corpsmember of the Year, Brandon Penny


During his third week at Civicorps Learning Academy in Oakland, CA, Brandon Penny wrote a poem in which he stated, “Just because I don’t have my high school diploma doesn’t mean I am not smart.”

It has always been evident that Brandon is smart and inquisitive, but school was never his thing. Brandon dropped out of high school during his senior year after he failed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and couldn’t receive his diploma on time. Failing the test left Brandon frustrated and discouraged; the previous four years of school seemed like a waste of time.

Brandon didn’t have a job to fall back on after he left school. Without classes or work to keep him busy, he started thinking about the future. He knew it was his own responsibility to get back on track, but he didn’t have much initiative and he didn’t know where to turn. Then Brandon’s uncle told him about Civicorps. From the description his uncle provided, Brandon thought the Corps would simply pay him to go back to school and finish his graduation requirements. He was later upset to discover that becoming a Corpsmember also meant having to work. Soon after joining the program, however, Brandon embraced the Corps model and began making real progress.

“I learned I needed guidance and, most importantly, I learned to seek it,” said Brandon. “Once I started to understand the Corps and myself, I learned that I could perform at a high level and be accountable. I knew that if I wanted something, I had to earn it.”

Brandon worked with a number of organizations during his time as a Corpsmember. He gained valuable job experience as he helped complete environmental projects sponsored by the California Department of Transportation, the East Bay Regional Park District, the East Bay Water and Utilities District, and the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. Brandon became skilled at using weed whackers, hedge trimmers, and chainsaws. He also developed a working understanding of basic landscaping and land management techniques.

“My favorite crew work was with the Alameda County Flood Control District (ACFC),” said Brandon. “I loved jumping in creeks, bucking down the pile, cutting down trees and trimming ivy.”

After about eleven months, Brandon’s supervisors promoted him to a Crew Leader position. This added level of responsibility gave Brandon the motivation and confidence he needed to finish his graduation requirements and begin planning for bigger and better things. He ended up earning perfect attendance awards for six consecutive months.

Upon graduating in December 2010, Brandon requested to be moved to the Corps’ recycling department. Jobs in the recycling department require a more specialized skill set and demand a higher level of responsibility, but that was exactly what Brandon needed. He didn't want to be seen as “just another lazy kid”; he wanted to set an example for his peers and be a model Crew Leader. After four months of working on the recycling center sorting belt, Brandon was promoted again and became an equipment operator. It was encouraging to be trusted with using forklifts and front loaders, but Brandon was determined to gain even more responsibility by becoming a truck driver; the highest position in the recycling department.

“Once I was promoted I knew that I wanted to become a truck driver.  Now that I reflect on the Corps’ impact on me, I have learned to always stay humble and keep striving to reach my goals,” said Brandon “It took me about six months to get promoted to become a truck driver…Trust me, it wasn’t easy. I had to prove to my supervisors that I was ready for the big step forward.  I really had to stand out from all of my peers. I knew I had to earn the trust of my supervisors. I had to come to work every day and be on time. I made sure if I said I was going to do something, I did it.”

Now that Brandon has his Class B driver’s license, he can consider a career as a commercial truck driver. If he does decide to pursue a new job, he’ll be able to advertise his many hours behind the wheel of the Civicorps recycling truck. His morning collection routes can sometimes span the entire Bay Area; one morning he might pick up recyclables in the Berkeley hills, while the next day he might need to drive the truck to Pinole, over 45 miles away. No matter where his route takes him, however, Brandon tries to finish early so he can return to the recycling center and help with whatever tasks still need to be completed. He’s more than willing to take a shift on the sorting belt or the front loader if one of his peers needs assistance.

Brandon is conscious of things he can do to help maintain a supportive atmosphere at Civicorps. His actions prove that he is committed to always being a positive influence on his peers. He first displayed this commitment within a few days of starting at the Learning Academy. A fellow student started to get agitated when he pressed Brandon about an assignment, but Brandon maintained his cool and managed to avoid a physical confrontation. He reminded his classmate that they were both at the Corps to learn and should support each other in their academics.

Another instance in which Brandon looked out for his peers also happened in school. He decided that something needed to be done about how the math instructor consistently struggled to maintain control of the class. Brandon observed that his fellow students had trouble understanding the instructor’s foreign accent, so he offered to be a teacher’s assistant and help field questions from the class. Brandon’s assistance allowed the teacher to do his job and helped the students understand the course content. No other teachers or administrators were aware of this arrangement; Brandon helped the instructor without being asked and without any outside organization. He simply saw a problem and did what he could to fix it.

Brandon is currently enrolled at Merritt College where he is working towards an AA degree. He hopes to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in landscaping and maybe even open his own landscaping business. For now, Brandon sees himself continuing to work in truck driving and waste management. Wherever his future takes him, Brandon says he wants to make sure he always has time to be an active member of his community. 

“The most important thing I would like to be is a mentor in my community,” said Brandon. “I want to help the youth do positive things in life, like finishing high school, going to college, and moving out of the hood, just like I did. There are so many things that I want to do in the future, from being a professional truck driver, to getting married, to starting my own business, but most of all I want to be a role model. To reach my pinnacles in life, I have to take it one step at a time. I want to thank Civicorps for all the experience I have gained.  I received my diploma, became a Crew Leader and became a commercial driver…Without Civicorps I don’t know where I would be.”

"A desire to do things that benefit more than just me" -- Patricia Bohnwagner's Corps Experience

Where are they now? - Catching up with 2005 Corpsmember of the Year,
Patricia Bohnwagner

Patricia Bohnwagner, formerly of Urban Corps of San Diego, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2005 for her commitment to service. Read below to find out what she's been up to since accepting her award, or find out more about Patricia and her Corps experience by reading her bio from our 2005 National Conference.

Patricia Bohnwagner learned about Urban Corps of San Diego from an advertisement she found in the PennySaver. The ad included a long list of skills that a young person could gain by becoming a Corpsmember. Patricia had her high school diploma, but she was unsure what she wanted to do with her future. Maybe working for Urban Corps would give her some direction. Patricia started at Urban Corps in November 2002…and she ended up staying there for the next seven years.

Patricia was a Corpsmember when she first joined Urban Corps, but she was eventually promoted to Supervisor. She ended up working in nearly every department at the Corps. She led a crew in repainting walls and buildings for the Graffiti 

Department. She helped find new clients for the Corps’ Recycling Department. Patricia also planted trees in the Urban Forestry Department, and she helped find employment for Corpsmembers as a Supervisor for the Corps’ internship program. At one point, as Supervisor for the Corps’ educational program, Patricia taught elementary school children about power line safety and the benefits of trees. This experience helped her overcome a fear of public speaking. Looking back at her years with the Corps, she was hard-pressed to come up with a favorite project or assignment. “Really, everything I did there seemed to make a positive difference in some way,” said Patricia. “…I still drive by areas where I have helped plant trees, worked during a community clean up event, or removed graffiti and I feel proud of what I’ve done.”

It was Patricia’s positive experience with Urban Corps that helped her make the decision to stay in San Diego for as long as she has. She is originally from Massachusetts, but she moved to California to live with her sister and help take care of her nephew. Both her sister and brother-in-law were in the Navy; Patricia first came to California when her brother-in-law was deployed and her sister was left to care for her nephew alone.

As Patricia says, she and her sister “had a rollercoaster of a relationship” when they were younger. Patricia was at one point kicked out of the house for six months. It was only with the help of friends that she was able to avoid homelessness. When her sister decided to leave the Navy and move back east, Patricia stayed in California to see where her job with the Corps could take her. She had to sleep on friends’ couches after her sister moved, but she saved enough money to eventually get a shared apartment and buy her first car.

 “Thank goodness I’ve always had a great support system of friends,” said Patricia.

Now that it’s been over three years since she worked for the Corps, Patricia can look back at the experience and say that it helped change her outlook. It helped her decide what she wanted to do with her life.

“One thing that has stuck with me through the years is a desire to do things that benefit more than just me. A sense of serving and doing what I can to make the community better, or doing what I can to help other people,” she said. “I also gained so much knowledge about the environment and basic work skills that have helped me immeasurably through the years. It was hard work, but the skills, knowledge and experience I gained during my time at Urban Corps have undoubtedly had a major, positive influence on where I am in life today.”

That sense of wanting to give back helped inspire Patricia to become an EMT. She currently serves as a medic in the California Army National Guard (CAARNG). Her primary job is as a United States Postal Carrier. As part of the Guard, Patricia teaches a Combat Lifesaver course for troops preparing to deploy. She herself served as a medic in Iraq for a year.

Patricia is in the process of switching over to the Army Reserves. She will soon have the opportunity to be sent to a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) program in Texas. After completing the program, she hopes to return to California and get her associate’s degree as a Registered Nurse. She currently has over 30 college credits, but it’s been difficult for her to maintain a regular school schedule with her long work hours and the deployment to Iraq. After earning her associate’s degree, Patricia should only be three or four semesters away from a bachelor’s degree. Patricia’s goal is to complete her bachelor’s degree and find employment as a nurse within the next six years.

Patricia saved enough money during her deployment to move her mom out to California and furnish a new apartment for the two of them. She is currently living comfortably with her mom and a recently adopted shelter dog. She is fairly confident that her time in the Corps played a big part in getting her where she is today.

“[If I hadn’t joined the Corps] I can’t say I’d be on a horrible path or anything, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had as many successes as I have. I would probably be working at a meaningless job and perhaps wouldn’t have joined the military,” said Patricia. “I would for sure be a lot further from my goals than I am now, and wouldn’t have realized all this potential in myself, since that was due to my time in the Corps and the great staff that worked there.”

To young people thinking about joining a Corps, Patricia says:

“With anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Only you can make the choice to either better yourself and your situation, or just accept what comes your way. BE PROACTIVE! Do your best at everything you do and do the right thing, and you won’t have as many regrets or disappointments. And don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t go the way you want or as quickly as you want. Life happens and it’s hard to move up, but it can be done. Stick to it and never give up. Stay positive and don’t let anyone bring you down or tell you that you can’t do something.”

 

 

California Students Reap Rewards for Recycling

 


 

Taken from Valley Community Newspaper

Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), the American Chemistry Council (ACC), Keep California Beautiful (KCB) and the Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps (SRCC) today announced the winner of the Read, Write, Recycle! Challenge, a recycling contest for students in the San Juan and Natomas School Districts that teaches the importance and value of recycling.

Students from Whitney Avenue Elementary School emerged as the grand-prize winners after collecting and recycling 1,124 pounds of plastic, aluminum, glass and paper during the five-week contest. Today, the students received the $1,000 grand prize for their achievement. Along with the grand prize, one participating school in each of the two school districts was awarded a district level prize of $500. Witter Ranch Elementary School claimed victory in the Natomas School District and Whitney Avenue Elementary won in the San Juan School District.
In total, the six participating schools helped recycle a grand total of 2,892 pounds, more than one ton, of materials throughout the competition, including 467 pounds of plastics. The six participating schools included: Natomas Park Elementary, Heron School, H. Allen Hight Elementary, Greer Elementary, Witter Ranch Elementary and Whitney Avenue Elementary.

“The students at all of these schools should be proud of what they have accomplished by being part of Read, Write, Recycle!,” said Dr. Pan, a local pediatrician and State Assemblymember. “They should also know that, by recycling, they are connected to a larger effort to protect our environment, creating a healthy planet and healthy futures.”

“The efforts of the students in the San Juan and Natomas School Districts are phenomenal. The more we can do to spread the word about recycling among kids, the more kids can take that knowledge and apply it in their everyday lives,” said Steve Russell, vice president of ACC’s Plastics Division.

“It’s amazing how much our students, as well as the staff, learned about recycling by participating in this program,” said Vincent Arias, principal at Whitney Avenue Elementary. “Educating and involving students in recycling at the elementary school age will help ensure that they will continue recycling as they grow up.”

A total of 165 elementary school classes from the six schools participated in this five-week recycling challenge. In total, more than 4,300 students participated in the program, learning valuable lessons about recycling.

“The Read, Write, Recycle! Challenge has been a welcome addition to our ongoing conservation efforts and work training program,” said Dwight Washabaugh, executive director of the Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps. “Partnerships like these help ensure that the SRCC can provide the kind of on-the-job career experience that our corps members need.”

The Read, Write, Recycle! program was first conducted in February of 2012 in San Gabriel County where 1,500 students recycled more than 11,000 pounds of materials. Building on the success of this initial program, Assemblymember Dr. Pan and the partners brought the competition to Sacramento in the fall of 2012.

Read, Write, Recycle! is the latest recycling effort supported by ACC under the Plastics. Too Valuable to Waste. Recycle.™ campaign. ACC also works with LA’s BEST, an after-school enrichment program in Los Angeles, to educate students about recycling, and ACC is a key sponsor of Recycle. Goal., a recycling contest between young soccer players in Southern California and the Central Valley.

 

To learn more about Read, Write, Recycle!, please visiwww.2valuable2waste.com.

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Patricia Bohnwagner

***Update! Click here to find out what Patricia has been up to since winning her award.***

After graduating from high school, Patricia Bohnwagner was working in a fast food restaurant in Massachusetts when she decided to move to San Diego and live with her sister.  She joined Urban Corps of San Diego when the worry of becoming homeless was all too near.  After being accepted and working her way through the Corps Environmental Projects Department and Urban Forestry Department, Patricia was moved to the Graffiti Department and was quickly promoted to crew leader where she increased production by 20 percent.  She asked for, and was granted, an extension to her one year term and was transferred to the Recycling Department where she led the Corpsmember Marketing Crew.  In January she was promoted to a staff position where she continues to lead the Marketing Crew in her role as supervisor.  Patricia also continues taking classes to become certified as an EMT. 

-- “If it wasn’t for the Urban Corps I would NEVER have gone back to school.  They helped me understand the importance of education, they gave me job training and they gave me the chance to become a leader.  I don’t like to think where my life would be if I hadn’t joined the Corps.”

(written in 2005)

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor has recently entered college to pursue a degree in psychology. Three years ago, Michael was becoming all too accustomed to the Sacramento Juvenile Center. Having no role models and no high school diploma, there was little hope for Michael's future.

After the Tulare County Youth Corps (now the Sequoia Community Corps) contacted Michael, they saw his potential, in spite of the initial rejection they received from him. He was enrolled in the high school diploma program and maintained a 3.49 GPA. Michael was pleasantly surprised by his success. He was even valedictorian of his class.

Perfecting his public speaking skills, Michael has educated over 15,000 people on proper recycling procedures, including talks with the legislative bodies of the state of California. The entire city of Visalia recognized his work with a certificate of appreciation for extraordinary performance. Throughout all of this, Michael has maintained a sincere attitude of gratitude. He is currently a specialist for the corps in educating the community about environmental and social issues.

Michael said, "This has proven to be a great choice for me. Everything the corps has done has benefited me so much, so I would just like to take the opportunity to thank them." 

(written in 2006)

2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Tatiana Rodrigues

As a Corpsmember with the Sacramento Local Conservation Corps (SLCC) in Sacramento, CA, Tatiana has been able to turn her life around. When Tatiana was 15, her mother was incarcerated. Later, she was expelled from high school and learned about SLCC through a friend.

At the Corps she worked on a variety of community projects including a team that helped school children learn the value of recycling. During her time with the SLCC, Tatiana earned an AmeriCorps education award to help pay for college and she plans to complete her high school diploma by the end of this school year.

As Tatiana said, "Things only get worse if you don't keep your head up. At the Corps I've had a change of heart, change of attitude and a change of behavior. I've learned to become more focused on my goals. Nobody in my family ever went to college. I'm going to be the first!"

2009 Corpsmember of the Year: Tatiana Moore

 

Before coming to the corps, Tatiana was in a downward spiral. She had no high school diploma, was running in the streets, smoking weed, drinking and staying out all night.  Before high school, Tatiana had been good student - she went to classes and did all of her work. Then things turned when she started hanging out with the wrong crowd.  However, the East Bay Conservation Corps, which is now Civicorps, helped change her life.

Tatiana started out working with the Alameda County Flood Control program but she was soon promoted to an internship position with the Recycling program. She eventually worked her way up to being a Crew Leader.  Then, one year into holding the Crew Leader position, Tatiana became pregnant. She thought she was going to have to stop working but, with the support of her crew she was able to continue at her job until the baby was born. After taking a month-long leave of absence, Tatiana came back to the Corps. Two months later, she got another promotion called an "outside internship" at the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA). Tatiana works in the finance department but is interested in pursuing a career in Social Work. She hopes to one day be able to work with at-risk children or children with disabilities. Tatiana said, “If I work with troubled kids I know I can help show them that their life is not over no matter what kind of problem they have.” 

Tatiana is already taking classes at Laney Community College. She plans to use the AmeriCorps scholarship she earned through her service to continue classes at the community college before transferring to a university. 

“I want my son to have the best future possible, everything that I didn’t have," said Tatiana. "I don’t want him to go down the same road I did, though I know kids seem to experiment with life when they get to a certain age.  My plans are to stay in college, get a good paying job working with kids, and I want to be the best mom ever. All this became possible because of Civicorps.”

2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Nicholas Jimenez

Joining the Sequoia Community Corps has been an extreme experience for Nick Jimenez. With a difficult adolescence where he often found himself being bounced around in foster care and at one point homeless, Nick says that “growing up, I never had a stable home to live in. The Corps has impacted my life by providing that stability.”

Since entering the Corps, Nick has obtained his high school diploma, enrolled as a full time college student in the evening, and has been working as a Recycling Specialist, a position for which only a select few corpsmembers are chosen. Nick has also been promoted twice and is now a Crew Leader in his department. As a Specialist he leads public presentations and educates the community about the importance of recycling. He also organizes events, which includes doing the scheduling and all the logistical planning.

Since joining the Corps Nick has also been able to rent an apartment, purchase a vehicle, and use some of his earnings from the Corps to get Lasik surgery to improve his vision, a problem he has had since he was 4. Sequoia Community Corps Staff say that Nick has also built up his self-esteem, and serves as an excellent example for his fellow corpsmembers with perfect attendance and a positive attitude.

Nick talks to his peers about his college experience and how education is making a difference in his life. He has inspired 3 others to enroll in college courses and has served as a mentor to help them go through the enrollment process.

Beyond these important contributions and accomplishments, Nick is a leader and often the voice of the corpsmembers in staff events and meetings. He has learned how to voice his opinion in situations that may be intimidating.

As for his future, Nick plans to finish his degree in psychology and hopes to get a Master’s Degree. He’s never been outside of California, and looks forward to attending The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, D.C. as well as traveling more in the future.

How a Corpsmember Used his Stipend to Start a Successful Nonprofit in India that Upcycles Waste

 

This year C. Srinivasan was the recipient of Earthcorps' Annual Alumni Award. Steve Dubiel, Executive Director of EarthCorps, recently took time to write us and explain Srinvasan's inspirational story. Based in Seattle, Washington, Earthcorps enrolls participants in a year long program. Approximately half of its participants  are AmeriCorps members and the other half are from other countries. In total, Earthcorps has alumni in 74 countries. 

In 1997 we had the pleasure of welcoming C. Srinivasan to EarthCorps. He’s from India. While at EarthCorps, Srinivasan saved the majority of his stipend to launch a non-profit, Exnora-Green Cross Vellore (soon to be renamed Indian Green Service).

The driving goal for all of Exnora-Green Cross Vellore's work is to “bring about socio-economic changes through employment generation based on environmental conservation.” Programs seek to utilize three abundant resources: sunlight, people power, and garbage. Srinivasan told me that “EarthCorps helped me to understand that the goal is not to isolate people from nature, but to help both coexist sustainably.” He further added that, “my real success in India is because of the field work I did with EarthCorps in Seattle.” Srinivasan provides a model for all of us to help educate people and “help them see the legacy (good or bad) that they will leave their children.”

Srinivasan’s organization has launched several initiatives, including a Zero Waste Management project. Using India’s people power, Srinivasan has developed an innovative model for transforming waste management. Instead of collecting and dumping garbage at great cost, Exnora-Green Cross Vellore has created a system that generates modest profit from waste collection by "upcycling," or transforming nearly all waste into marketable goods. Waste is collected twice each day and sorted into approximately 200 categories. Each component is then developed into a marketable good that is sold to support the overall program. There are only about 10 items that can’t be recycled, including items like chewing gum, Styrofoam, broken ceramic, and aluminum candy wrappers.

Srinivasan and his team are constantly working to reduce the number of non-recyclables and have reached out to 1,000 companies (India, US, and beyond) working with them to redesign packaging and products to move closer to the goal of zero waste. This model program has the attention of the Indian government who has tapped Srinivasan and set the goal to replicate the program in 500,000 communities across India over the coming 3-5 years. Needless to say, this is an incredible success.

Srinivasan’s story provides a great example of how corps programs inspire young people to change the world and give them tools to succeed.