Urban Corps of San Diego Hired to Clean City Sidewalks


Story and picture taken from the Carlsbad Patch

Under a new contract with Urban Corps of San Diego County, city sidewalks and other surfaces will be cleaned more frequently while providing much needed job experience to young adults.

The city previously contracted with a private company to do this work.  Under that contract, the Village area and seawall were cleaned twice a year.  For the same cost, Urban Corps crews will perform work throughout the city three times a week, year round. 

“We’ve been employing Urban Corps for 10 years for other projects, and they deliver highly dependable, professional service for a reasonable price,” Dobbs said. “It also helps Urban Corps members develop job skills and gain experience.”

Urban Corps is a locally based nonprofit conservation corps that provides a high school education and job training to young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. Since 1989 Urban Corps has given more than 10,000 youths who did not succeed in traditional school settings a second chance to develop new skills and earn an education.

Beginning on Oct. 4, Urban Corps will provide a pressure-washing crew that will scrub sidewalks as directed by the City of Carlsbad Transportation Department street maintenance team.

“Urban Corps will be sending a team with a truck three days a week,” said Clayton Dobbs, a utilities supervisor for the City of Carlsbad. “We’ll focus their efforts downtown and on the seawall, because we get so much foot traffic there, but they’ll be working throughout Carlsbad, wherever we need them.”

The cleaning crews will wear uniforms so they’ll be clearly identified. They will start work in the downtown Carlsbad Village at 6 a.m. and be finished by 9:30 a.m., so they’ll be gone when most businesses open for the day.

Dobbs noted that it’s not just debris and gum that needs a pressure-wash. He said that some parts of the city, especially La Costa, experience algae buildup where groundwater rises to the surface and forms pools on streets and sidewalks.

Pressure-washing sidewalks isn’t the first task that Urban Corps has performed for the City of Carlsbad. The city employs the group to clean litter daily and remove large bulky items that are dumped on the sides of roads. Urban Corps also clears debris from storm water outlets so they flow smoothly, and cleans graffiti from city walls and surfaces.

The contract for the work is not to exceed $68,000 a year, and is renewable every year for five years.

 

Urban Corps of San Diego Hired to Clean City Sidewalks


Story and picture taken from the Carlsbad Patch

Under a new contract with Urban Corps of San Diego County, city sidewalks and other surfaces will be cleaned more frequently while providing much needed job experience to young adults.

The city previously contracted with a private company to do this work.  Under that contract, the Village area and seawall were cleaned twice a year.  For the same cost, Urban Corps crews will perform work throughout the city three times a week, year round. 

“We’ve been employing Urban Corps for 10 years for other projects, and they deliver highly dependable, professional service for a reasonable price,” Dobbs said. “It also helps Urban Corps members develop job skills and gain experience.”

Urban Corps is a locally based nonprofit conservation corps that provides a high school education and job training to young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. Since 1989 Urban Corps has given more than 10,000 youths who did not succeed in traditional school settings a second chance to develop new skills and earn an education.

Beginning on Oct. 4, Urban Corps will provide a pressure-washing crew that will scrub sidewalks as directed by the City of Carlsbad Transportation Department street maintenance team.

“Urban Corps will be sending a team with a truck three days a week,” said Clayton Dobbs, a utilities supervisor for the City of Carlsbad. “We’ll focus their efforts downtown and on the seawall, because we get so much foot traffic there, but they’ll be working throughout Carlsbad, wherever we need them.”

The cleaning crews will wear uniforms so they’ll be clearly identified. They will start work in the downtown Carlsbad Village at 6 a.m. and be finished by 9:30 a.m., so they’ll be gone when most businesses open for the day.

Dobbs noted that it’s not just debris and gum that needs a pressure-wash. He said that some parts of the city, especially La Costa, experience algae buildup where groundwater rises to the surface and forms pools on streets and sidewalks.

Pressure-washing sidewalks isn’t the first task that Urban Corps has performed for the City of Carlsbad. The city employs the group to clean litter daily and remove large bulky items that are dumped on the sides of roads. Urban Corps also clears debris from storm water outlets so they flow smoothly, and cleans graffiti from city walls and surfaces.

The contract for the work is not to exceed $68,000 a year, and is renewable every year for five years.

 

New Research About the Perceived Benefits of Service in a Corps: a Corpsmember Perspective


Photo taken from the Urban Corps of San Diego Facebook page.
 

Jayne Smith, the former director of Urban Corps of San Diego’s Counseling Clinic, recently completed her doctoral dissertation on the kinds of outcomes Corpsmembers report experiencing after their service in a Corps program (specifically, Urban Corps of San Diego - UCO). Overall, Jayne found that the Corpsmembers in her study had very positive experiences; among other things, they largely reported having learned important skills, learned about themselves, and gained newfound confidence during their service in UCO. 

For her study, Jayne used a qualitative research approach and interviewed 15 former Urban Corps members who graduated between the fall of 2009 and the fall of 2010. This time range was selected to overlap with the time period during which Jayne was employed by UCO, and to allow Corpsmembers a period of time after their graduation to pursue jobs or educational opportunities and reflect on the Corps experience.

As Jayne states, the goal of her study “…was to better understand the Corpsmember process of change and long-term outcomes from the perspective of UCO graduates.” Through collecting over 13 hours of interviews with the 15 graduates, Jayne developed a picture of what Corpsmembers thought about their service in UCO and what they perceived as the personal benefits of such service. Her research also looks at the factors that could potentially affect whether a Corpsmember reported having a positive Corps experience and positive outcomes. The study includes suggestion for ways to develop Corps programs that better serve Corpsmembers and help them attain these favorable results.

Click here to read the full Executive Summary of her dissertation, “A Consensual Qualitative Research Study of the Transformation from High School Dropout to Graduate: Corpsmember Outcomes and Influencing Factors.”

Here are a few of the study’s key findings:   

  • 100% reported learning academic and professional skills, with 14 out of the 15 participants reporting having used such skills post program
  • 93.33% reported “positive attitudinal and behavioral changes across time”
  • 80% reported being employed in at least temporary/part-time jobs
  • 14 out of 15 former Corpsmembers stated that they learned how to be more serious
  • 86.67% reported that they learned not to be afraid to try new things
  • Over 93.33% stated that the Corps staff, teachers and environment were “positive, supportive and caring”
  • “Issues with family, gangs, education, money, personal, education and specific academic organizationswere reported at a decreased frequency while Corpsmembers were in the program.”
  • Participants who compared their experience with UCO with their experience in traditional high schools all reported having more favorable experiences with UCO

Work Boots Made By Inmates Donated to Urban Corps of San Diego


photo from the Urban Corps Facebook page
 

Story taken from CBS8.com, San Diego, CA

Officials from the Donovan Correctional Facility donated 1,000 pairs of work boots to the Urban Corps of San Diego County Thursday.

The boots were made by inmates at Donovan's shoe factory.

The steel toes make them perfect for the Corpsmembers, who receive job training in recycling, urban forestry and green construction.

The donation also frees up funding that can be used for other corps programs.

"It's going to relieve a tremendous amount in our overhead in allowing us flexibility in putting more resources towards other programs such as our job placement and our career counseling services that we provide to our corp members while in our program," explained Robert Chavez the Chief Executive Officer of Urban Corp of San Diego.

Officials from Donovan say the donation is part of the prison system's commitment to give back to the community.

Urban Corps of San Diego Corps-to-Career Department Averages 70% Grad Placement

 




Corps-to-Career Averages  70% Grad Placement 

Employer Partnerships Build Opportunities for Youth

Taken from  the Urban Corps of San Diego newsletter, The Corps Supporter, Spring 2013

The Corps-to-Career department at Urban Corps is averaging a placement rate of 70% among Corpsmembers from our last two graduating classes. Staff attribute the high placement rate to successful partnerships with local employers in business community which help place graduates in positions which suit their interests and skill sets.

"Graduationis an exciting time for our seniors, however the transition can be stressful without a solid job lined up," says Director of Student services Myrna Contreras. "That is why we actively work to establish relationships with employers and help our youth research careers, colleges, and connect with employers before they leave Urban Corps. We do everything we can to ensure their post-program success." 

Companies partnering with Urban Corps offer job shadowing, participate in job fairs, present career information, recruit graduates, or simply communicate job openings.

Among those partnered with UCO is Grondin Construction, a family-owned and operated firm specializing in general contracting, lead abatement, and independent living modifications.

“We have worked with Urban Corps youth on job sites, and as a result, have hired four Corpsmembers over the years,” says Grondin co-owner Caroline Grondin. "We know that when we hire a Corpsmember we are getting a staff member who has participated in a year-long training program, proven their work ethic, and attained valuable skills. Often times they have experience working directly alongside Grondin team members. Our hope is to strengthen this partnership and create a Corpsmember hiring stream with job skills directly suited to our needs.”

Additional valued partnerships exist with the Goodwill, Nuera Contracting & Consulting, American Insulation and the Downtown San Diego Partnership.

The Corps-to-Career Dept. at UCO helps Corpsmembers transition with employment, enroll in college,  and actively seek partnerships with employers. Since the March 2013 graduation in which 27 received diplomas, 17 have been placed in gainful employment and two have been placed in grant/scholarship funded training programs.

(There are many advantages to partnering with UCO to help fulfill staffing needs. Contact UCO Job Developer Geneva Karwoski in the Corps-to-Career Dept. to find out more about setting up an employer partnership. Phone (619) 235-6884 ext 3119 or email gkarwoski@urbancorps.org)

Video: Urban Corps Featured on Univision San Diego


Robert Chávez, CEO of Urban Corps of San Diego, recently appeared on Univision's Despierta San Diego morning show. He was joined by Carlos Pastrana, a former Corpsmember.   

Click here to watch the video (title "Urban Corps," posted 6:40 a.m. PDT, March 28, 2013)

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.”

 

"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.”

 

 

Legacy Achievement Award Winner: Sam Duran

 

Sam Duran has dedicated his life to empowering, advocating and improving the lives of under-privileged youth through a career in the Conservation Corps movement. Sam possesses 33 years of executive leadership in conservation corps program operations and management in California. Through his significant experience, he has built a stellar reputation for ethical leadership and organizational ingenuity, while maintaining a tireless dedication to youth and what he refers to as the “magic of human potential.”
 
As the founding CEO of Urban Corps of San Diego County, Sam has guided this local conservation corps from its original budget of $120,000 to more than $8.5 million. The organization has been responsible for training, employing and educating over 10,000 at-risk youth and graduating more than 1,400 with a high school diploma since its 1989 inception. Through Mr. Duran’s continuous personal belief in and commitment to developing underprivileged youth from all walks of life, the Urban Corps of San Diego County has grown into a dynamic organization that provides a second chance to young people while preserving San Diego’s natural resources. 
 
Under his leadership, the Urban Corps had the honor of being the only conservation corps to ever receive a grant from the Smithsonian Museum to conduct a survey of all outdoor sculptures in the County of San Diego. Sam’s vision has led to Corpsmember exchange programs with the USSR, Quebec City, Canada, and Mexico as well as enduring contract work from the Port of San Diego, the City of San Diego, and a countywide recycling program that includes major contracts such as Qualcomm Stadium, PETCO Park, Cox Arena and Crickett Wireless Amphitheatre.
 
This year, Sam led the establishment of Urban Corps’ own charter school. Directly following the transition, corpsmember enrollment increased by 30% thanks to a shift to a week-on/week-off school format in which corpsmembers alternate every week with 50% attending school for five days with the other 50% a working in the community. The shift represents the most significant change in recent Urban Corps history and is providing substantially more autonomy over curriculum and school funding.
 
Sam is an active member of the California Association of Local Conservation Corps and serves as a board member of the Conservation Corps State Museum.  Among other accomplishments, in 1993, Sam served on the national task force created to advise President Bill Clinton on the creation of AmeriCorps. At Urban Corps and beyond, Sam has been a proven visionary and strategic leader who translates strategies into maximum results for youth, community, and environment.

2007 Project of the Year: University of San Diego -UCSD Assessment and Counseling Clinic

 

Winner: Urban Corps of San Diego

After months of sharing ideas, visiting each other’s campuses and planning, the Urban Corps of San Diego and the University of San Diego (USD) have partnered to create the Urban Corps Assessment and Counseling Clinic (UC-ACC).

This collaboration provides Urban Corps participants the opportunity to receive both personal and career counseling services from Graduates Students in USD’s Leadership Program. Under the supervision of Dr. Ronn Johnson; Licensed Clinical Psychologist and head of the counseling department; these USD students come to the Urban Corps of San Diego on a daily basis to assess and counsel corpsmembers in the on-site UC-ACC office.

The UC-ACC program is now written in to Dr. Johnson’s course curriculum syllabus and enables him to place his students in a working clinical environment, exposing them to practical (non textbook) situations involving real young adults facing real-life issues.

As one can easily see the beauty of this collaboration is the experience that it provides these master’s level USD students while giving Urban Corpsmembers and the organization a valuable service that neither the corpsmembers nor a typical Corps program (non-profit) could afford on a full time basis.

Another phase of this collaboration, will involve the same USD students, working under Dr. Johnson’s supervision, conducting staff training seminars for supervisors, managers, and directors at Urban Corps of San Diego to assist them in acquiring a better understanding of the skills necessary in dealing with and serving the needs of these young adults in their quest for education and job training. Most of the young people entering the Corps face problems so overwhelming that they are unable to function within the established parameters of the program, and often exit prematurely.  As the staff at the Urban Corps participates in these USD-led training seminars and adds these skills to their repertoire of techniques in dealing with young people, the organization will be better equipped to continue its mission to successfully develop these young adults who face multiple barriers to success.

There is enormous mutual benefit in this collaboration for both participating organizations and it has great potential to evolve into other areas that benefit both the young people at USD and the young people at the Urban Corps of San Diego.

 

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