The San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps 10 Year Anniversary Celebration

Article, written by Carlos Puente and Vanessa Martinez, appears in the Mid Valley News. Published August 13, 2014. Photos courtesy of Devette Johnson.

On Saturday July 26 the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corp celebrated their 10 year anniversary with actor Mike Gomez as master of ceremonies. The day started with the VFW of Greater El Monte Post 10218 Color Guard leading the Pledge of Allegiance with city, county and state dignitaries in attendance. Those present were  Roger Hernandez, Assemblyman the 48th District; Hilda Solis, supervisor Elect 1st District and former US Secretary of Labor; Mike Eng, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Andre Quintero, Mayor of El Monte; Dr. Ed Hernandez, Senator 24th District; Susan Rubio, Baldwin Park City Council; Joseph Gonzalez,  So. El Monte Mayor Pro Term; Assembly member Ed Chau and Jerry Velasco, El Monte City Treasurer.

photos courtesy of Devette Johnson

The day was filled with emotions and celebration as alumni success stories from 2010 to 2014 told their stories of how the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corp picked them up and guided them into the right direction to achieve success. The event ended with dinner, raffles and a silent auction, as well as a tree planting ceremony to close the event. The San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corp history is a short but stellar one, full of triumph over adversity that reflects a tremendous power for social progress. This can be achieved when founded upon the strength of a partnership between a whole city and a non-profit organization, dedicated to serving the needs of the resident and business community and their common needs.

Teens, young adults create mural with peace in Pomona as the theme

Article, written by Monica Rodriguez, appears in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. Published August 20, 2014.

Using vibrant colors and various symbols that represent Pomona and its history, a group of teens and young adults are creating a mural that conveys a message of peace.

The mural includes the images of orange trees, symbols of the city’s agricultural history, and the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains. The word peace is written in the sky and messages of peace worked into other elements of the mural. In addition, room among the roots of the trees in the work will be painted with chalkboard paint allowing people who see it to add positive messages about peace.

Peace, in multiple languages, will also be part of the city emblem, which consists of six images of the letter “P” arranged in a circle.

“It really is a community mural with a community design,” said Andrew Quinones, who in addition to being a professional artist is the director of mentoring, art and culture for the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps.

The mural, which is being painted on six, 8 foot by 4 foot wooden moveable panels, is an initiative of East/West Action, a gang intervention and violence mitigation program that started about a year ago in Pomona to address some of the city’s needs, said Bill Martinez, the group’s director.

Through the project, teens and young adults have a means to share their thoughts in a creative way, he said.

“It’s a way to give them a voice,” Martinez said.

A group of about 10 young people ages 15 to 20 are involved with the project, Martinez said. Some are young artists and others may have engaged in risky behavior.

The design for the mural came about through a collaborative process in which the participating young people contributed ideas that Quinones then wove together into one design.

This is the first of what is expected to be many more art projects that young people will create not only for the sake of producing public art but to give youth a way to be involved in the community and to express themselves.

“We have a number of talented youth but not enough outlets,” Quinones said.

Through art “we can create a lot of positive messages in Pomona.”

Among the young people who are involved in the mural project is Liselotte Marin, of Pomona. Marin is an art history major at Cal State San Bernardino and an artist who works mostly with acrylic paint.

Pomona resident Christian Ornelas, 17, a senior at the School of Arts and Enterprise in downtown Pomona is a young artist who has created metal sculpture in addition to producing pottery.

Both have been involved in mural projects before.

Marin was drawn to the mural project for several reasons, among them the fact the project is in her community and addresses violence.

“I think in a lot of my work I’m trying to send a message of equity and peace,” said Marin, who aspires to become an art teacher in addition to continuing to producing art of her own.

Over the years Marin has met young people who have engaged in negative behavior.

When that has happened Marin has some words for them: “Friend, come hang out with me.”

Marin has then introduced them to art and Pomona’s Arts Colony, often with success.

“Everybody has a talent,” she said.

Ornelas said art provides a means to express ones thoughts and feelings in a creative, non-violent way and the Arts Colony has many places where they will be welcomed and where they’ll find people willing to offer artistic guidance.

“There are so many opportunities,” he said. “There are plenty of places where they can go and get their feelings out.”

Once completed the mural will travel around Pomona, said Martinez who added he is having conversations with Pomona Unified School District representatives about having the murals visit district schools.

Martinez’s goal is to be able to take the mural to campuses from high schools to elementary schools.

The mural can spark conversations, he said.

“It’s really to start a process,” Martinez said. “It’s something we can use in the process of promoting non-violence.”

The project came about with the help of a $10,000 Tri-City Mental Health Services Community Wellbeing Grant.

The mural should be completed in time for it to go on display during September’s Second Saturday Art Walk in Pomona, Quinones said.

If it’s not possible to work out an arrangement with a local gallery then a formal unveiling will take place during an upcoming open house of the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps’ YouthBuild Charter School campus in Pomona, he said.

San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps Staff Recognized as Hero


San Gabriel Valley (CA) Conservation Corps Supervisors manage work crews beautifying Whittier Narrows or reinforcing isolated hillsides prone to flash floods in the San Gabriel Mountains. They also receive training in First Aid and CPR. Andrew Martinez put his training to good use this past spring and assisted a jogger who was in distress near their work area. Martinez, who is CPR certified, was able to help the man start breathing again and was recognized for his heroics by Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina at the Board of Supervisors meeting this month. Read more in the Whittier Daily News.

San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps Greens Program to Receive Recovery Funding


San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps just got some green to go green. The Corps is receiving $98,122 from the Department of Labor to help promote green job training. "This is going to kind of round out our program," Executive  Director Daniel Oaxaca said.   "We  are already doing construction, so we figured why not teach them to do green construction?" With the money, the program will eventually expand its YouthBuild program from serving two dozen students to 35 students. And it will build the curriculum to include green construction techniques including solar panel installation and maintenance. Learn more in theSan Gabriel Valley Tribune.