2018 Project of the Year: LA Conservation Corps - Wiseburn Walking Path

At The Corps Network’s annual National Conference in Washington, DC, we celebrate the important service Corps provide to communities and young people across the country by honoring Corps who have taken on especially noteworthy endeavors within the past year. Projects of the Year are innovative and show a Corps’ ability to work with partner organizations to give Corpsmembers a positive experience and provide the community with meaningful improvements. Learn more

The Wiseburn Walking Path was designed to confront larger societal concerns around the lack of public outdoor exercise and fitness options within Los Angeles County. The 0.7-mile-long decomposed granite walking path is ADA-Accessible and seeks to improve community health for users of all ages. LA Conservation Corps (LACC) Corpsmembers were the backbone that transformed 3,200 linear feet of essentially unused slope from a regular illegal dumping ground into a valuable community resource.

This project was different than most other LACC endeavors because the Corps was the general contractor, responsible for every aspect of the project. On most LACC construction projects, the Corps is subcontracted to perform specific activities, such as pouring concrete for sidewalks and curbs, planting trees, installing landscaping, and installing park amenities, such as play equipment and signage. This project, however, involved LACC being responsible for all these activities.

Performing the role as a general contractor involved complex permitting and approval processes. Parts of the project crossed into the City of Hawthorne, requiring meetings with Los Angeles County and City of Hawthorne officials. Additionally, the project abutted the right-of-way of the 405-freeway, which required compliance with California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) design standards. 

The Corps found ways to work with new partners and leverage existing partnerships to find ways to improve project efficiency. The project was a creative collaboration between LACC, the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District, County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, the California Natural Resources Agency, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ Office, the California Department of Transportation, the Wiseburn Watch Community Group, and other constituent groups. Together, this multi-agency and community inclusive partnership worked to ensure that community needs and wants were heard, evaluated, prioritized, and incorporated as much as possible.

The gently meandering path is lined with eight pieces of outdoor exercise equipment. It also features five large seating areas, some with custom-designed hopscotch elements, that provide opportunities for play, rest, and community convening. Additionally, the project included the installation of 45 solar-powered pedestrian light poles and 55 security bollards. More than 150 new trees and 2,000 native plants were installed to provide a tranquil backdrop for users. Each amenity and component was carefully selected to provide physical, mental, and community health benefits.

Constructing the Wiseburn Walking Path Project provided significant job training and employment benefits to LACC Corpsmembers, as well as long-lasting benefits to Wiseburn community members. During the roughly 2.5 years of the project, over 80 Corpsmembers performed more than 13,000 service hours. For the core group of Corpsmembers, the skills learned involved using construction equipment, such as bobcats and skip loaders, performing grading and surveying, pouring and finishing concrete, and installing amenities and other infrastructure.  Their on-the-job training offered access to networking opportunities and introduced them to potential career choices. In addition to job training, LACC provided Corpsmembers who lacked a high school diploma the ability to attend classes through a charter school partner.

The project, while complex, is replicable. Similar projects might consider some of these lessons learned: 1) Focus on communication, internally and externally. 2) Set realistic expectations early; over the last two years, LACC regularly attended Wiseburn Watch meetings to not only provide updates, but to ensure that expectations were shared and being met. 3) Don’t assume a project is too big for your Corps. While it is of the utmost importance to work on projects you know you can perform successfully, it is also important to make sure you don’t assume a project is too complex. 4) There is always an opportunity for Corpsmembers to learn. In circumstances when LACC subcontracted other contractors, the Corps often assisted, or at least reviewed the work with Corpsmembers to help expand their knowledge.

Completing the Wiseburn Walking Path has strengthened LACC in many ways. The project increased their capacity to perform large-sale park construction projects; broadened their perspective on which projects they should and shouldn’t take on; and taught them the importance of planning to improve efficiency and effectiveness. The project has helped expand the knowledge, skills, and abilities of Corps staff and Corpsmembers, and has helped refine their approaches to training and mentoring. Finally, the successful completion of the Wiseburn Walking Path Project strengthened LACC’s relationships with a wide array of project partners. LACC is currently working on two projects that are similar to the Wiseburn Walking Path Project and are applying the aforementioned lessons learned.

The Corps Network in Hollywood: The Serve A Year Campaign Launch Event

On Monday – March 23, 2015 – The Corps Network participated in the launch event of ServiceNation’s Serve A Year campaign at the Jimmy Kimmel Live! studio in Los Angeles, CA.

Background Info:

Announced in the fall of 2014 at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, Serve A Year is a campaign to unite national service organizations with some of the most influential voices in entertainment, business and technology in an effort to inspire young Americans to serve their country. The goal is that people will one day ask each other “where did you serve?” – similar to how we now ask each other “where did you go to college?”

To make national service a more prominent part of the American way of life, Serve A Year is focused on integrating national service into popular culture with the help of script writers, television and movie producers, celebrities, viral video stars and influential businesses. The campaign has already experienced success; AmeriCorps has been mentioned or written into the plotlines of popular TV shows including Parks & Recreation, True Detective, Melissa & Joey, and The Middle.  

Serve A Year is supported by innovative companies, including Airbnb, Tumblr, Comcast and NBCUniversal, as well as 18 of the country’s leading national service organizations. Along with YouthBuild USA, The Corps Network represents the Opportunity Youth pillar of the campaign, championing the idea that participating in national service can be a transformative experience for disconnected young people. 

The Launch Event:

Hosted at the Jimmy Kimmel Live! studio in Los Angeles, CA, the launch of the Serve A Year campaign included appearances by Jimmy Kimmel and Chelsea Clinton;  audience members included over 200 Hollywood executives, writers and producers, and senior corporate executives. The Corps Network was represented at the event by Marie Walker, Vice President of The Corps Network; Bruce Saito, Executive Director Emeritus of Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LACC) and a member of TCN’s Board of Directors; and several current and former LACC Corpsmembers. Kendrick Collins, an alumni of LACC, was one of three Corpsmembers to speak during the event about his national service experience.

After the launch event, Marie Walker and Kendrick Collins visited the studio’s green room to watch the filming of that evening’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! During the taping, Jimmy Kimmel interviewed Chelsea Clinton about Serve A Year and the duo released a PSA about the campaign. 

Blog Slideshow: 

LA Conservation Corps to lead recycling efforts at Beyonce / Jay-Z Concert

Article appears in LACC Newsletter.


It's been a busy summer for RACLA!

From Dodger Games to sold-out events at the Rose Bowl (including LA Galaxy vs Manchester United soccer match and the highly anticipated Beyonce & Jay-Z Concert), our corpsmembers have easily collected well over 150,000 CRV beverage containers this season alone. Be sure to pitch in and recycle your bottles & cans at these events!

For the past 12 years, LA Corps' Recycling Across Los Angeles (RACLA) program has provided a valuable and important service in the collection of recyclables in LA County. RACLA is a community collection program certified by CalRecycle (SP#0315).

RACLA recycling operations are currently housed at our 3,000-square-foot facility located in North East Los Angeles. We service 130 accounts, including LAUSD schools, businesses (Los Angeles Convention Center, CBS), entertainment venues (Pasadena's Rose Bowl, AEG's STAPLES, LA Dodger Stadium, and LA Convention Center), and public parks. In FY 12-13 alone, RACLA recycled more than 376 tons of cans and bottles which is approximately 3,731,989 beverage containers. Additionally, the program recycled over 206 tons of mixed paper and cardboard.

Aquatic Restoration Jobs Training Program Continues to Gain Momentum

Los Angeles, CA – Aug. 5, 2014 - The Waders in the Water program pilot continues as another youth corps received training and certification for climate-ready aquatic restoration and its members emerged with skills in aquatic safety, knowledgeable about installation techniques, and ready to provide business and government with reliable restoration for streams, rivers and wetlands across the U.S.
America’s Service and Conservation Corps have a rich history of training a ready and able workforce of Americans. Tracing their roots back to the Civilian Conservation Corps’ (CCC) founding in 1933 when America was reeling from the Great Depression with staggering unemployment, modern day corps like the LA Conservation Corps share the CCC’s original goal to conserve natural resources and provide hope and employment opportunities for young adults.
Drawing on the best traditions of the CCC, The Waders in the Water Green Jobs training and certification was built to support the goals of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps’ (21 CSC) effort to put 100,000 young people and veterans a year to work nationwide protecting, restoring, and enhancing America’s great outdoors. Through the 21CSC, young people and veterans will accomplish meaningful work, and gain important personal and professional job skills while building a lifelong connection to the outdoors.
The curriculum was specifically designed by The Corps Network and Trout Headwaters Inc. to enable youth to enter conservation careers by learning how to improve the health, productivity and climate-resiliency of our streams, rivers, and wetlands.
Trout Headwaters President Mike Sprague said: “The positive feedback we continue to receive from our industry is very encouraging. Restoration project managers have told us they are eager to put these newly trained students to work on their projects.”
Wayne White, who spent 33 years at US Fish and Wildlife Service and is now Director of Business Development at Wildlands, Inc. remarked: “As someone who has spent my entire career perusing creative conservation solutions, the idea of training a national project-ready youth conservation workforce to help tackle the many environmental challenges we face really excites me.”
LA Conservation Corps Deputy Director Dan Knapp stated: “The LA Conservation Corps is pleased to partner with the Waders in the Water program training and certification. The program provides a strong benefit to the young people through job training and to the environment by improving the health of our waterways.”
The training is particularly well-suited for the LA Conservation Corps’ LA River Corps that is working to restore and revitalize sections of the river as the City of Los Angeles undertakes the ambitious project of restoring an 11-mile stretch of the river back to a sustainable and functioning precious aquatic resource with lush riparian buffers.
Trout Headwaters, Inc.
Trout Headwaters, Inc. is the industry leader in sustainable approaches to stream, river, and wetland renewal and repair. As one of the oldest firms in the industry, THI has pioneered approaches using natural materials and native vegetation that can reliably replace hard, invasive treatments that often damage our nation’s streams and rivers. Besides developing and refining new techniques THI is a staunch advocate for greater sharing of information and more consistent use of assessment and monitoring tools, providing greater certainty of environmental benefits to restoration.
Luke Frazza, Project Development, Trout Headwaters, Inc.
LA Conservation Corps
Founded in 1986, LA Conservation Corp’s primary mission has been to provide at-risk young adults and schoolaged youth with opportunities for success through job skills training, education, and work experience with an emphasis on conservation and service projects that benefit the community. It is the largest urban conservation corps serving over 8,000 young people a year. Since its founding in 1986, it has become a national leader in youth and workforce development and alternative education for inner-city youth/young adults. Their programs include paid
community beautification work in the Clean & Green program in addition to two full-time charter high schools where students can earn their high school diploma with an emphasis of becoming responsible citizens who will positively contribute to their communities and society.
Dan Knapp, Deputy Director of Strategy and Sustainability, LA Conservation Corps


Los Angeles Conservation Corps Recognizes Executive Director Emeritus Bruce Saito

Story appears on LACC Facebook page.

At last month's graduation, special recognition was given to Bruce Saito, our Executive Director Emeritus, for his founding contributions and continual support in making high school diplomas a reality for 1,660 corpsmembers to date. From the beginning, Bruce has helped pioneer our work-school system that is now widely used across many conservation corps around the country. In his honor, the Adult Corps High School Campus has been renamed to Saito High School. Thank you Bruce for your dedication to LA's youth!

[Video] Go On A Kayak Tour of the LA River with LA Conservation Corps

Los Angeles Conservation Corps Members Honored For Work Near Airport

Article appears in the Los Angeles Wave. Published June 27, 2014.

Eleven members of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps were surprised recently when, upon receiving their high school graduation diplomas, they also received letters of commendation from Los Angeles World Airports Environmental Services Division for their help in improving and maintaining the airport’s Coastal Dunes Improvement Project preserve area.

“We wanted to publicly say ‘thank you’ in appreciation of the great working relationship between [the airport] and [the Conservation Corps,” said Robert Freeman, environmental services division manager. “We also wanted to publicly acknowledge how teamwork has led to these young adults gaining job skills, knowledge about the dunes, networking, teamwork and personal responsibility.”


The students who received letters of commendation were America Baltazar, Erik Carranza, Luis Casco, Kendrick Collins, Diondres Antion Haynes, Christian Herrera, Brian Langston, Hernon Morales, Angel Damian Portillo, Freddie Serrano and Emely Vega Melendez. All will now be pursuing their higher education goals.

Conservation Corps programs prepare young people with life skills and work experience by employing them in conservation projects such as the airport’s Coastal Dunes Improvement Project area, which is located just north of Sandpiper Street between the west side of LAX and the beach.

The Conservation Corps programs also include building parks, planting trees, refurbishing hiking trails, building community gardens, removing graffiti, recycling, and educating the community on how to protect the ocean and the Los Angeles River.

At LAX, the student volunteers spent their time planting, removing invasive ground cover vegetation, such as ice plant, and clearing paths as part of the area’s restoration effort. The project is the first major restoration effort to be undertaken in the 48-acre area since it was rezoned for nature preserve uses in 1994 by the city of Los Angeles.

It is also one of many examples of the airport’s integration of environmental sustainability values into LAX operations. Restoration of the LAX Dunes is part of the airport’s overall effort to achieve sustainability at LAX.

When completed, the project will also fulfill a desire by the community to be involved with beautifying the site, restoring native habitat and correcting human actions that have degraded this coastal dunes ecosystem.

All major restoration in the coastal dunes area is overseen by the airport’s Environmental Services Division and the California Coastal Commission. The airport also coordinates with other governmental agencies and the public to guide restoration activities.

The coastal dunes, now home to more than 1,000 species of plants and wildlife, supports 43 acres of virtually undisturbed protected original native dune habitat and is the largest remaining coastal dune area in Southern California.

Los Angeles Conservation Corps Kicks Off "Paddle the LA River" Program

Article appears in CBS Los Angeles Local News. Published June 16, 2014.

VAN NUYS (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles Conservation Corps Monday kicked off this year’s Paddle the LA River program.

The program began at 9 a.m. with a kayak ride down a 1.5 mile natural-bottom stretch of the LA River. Two more launches took place at 10:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

The guided trips will be offered for 15 weeks Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through Sept. 13. Wednesdays are reserved for youth trips.

Paddle the LA River represents the collective efforts of several environmental organizations — including Pacoima Beautiful, the River Project and Urban Semillas — uniting to enhance public perception about the LA River.  By paddling this scenic stretch, people experience first-hand that our urban River is part of an ecosystem that is both beautiful and significant to Los Angeles’ past and future.

The LA Conservation Corps’ primary mission is to provide at-risk young adults and school-aged youth with opportunities for success through job skills training, education and work experience with an emphasis on conservation and service projects that benefit the community.

Secretary Jewell Visits Los Angeles to Promote Connecting Urban Youth to the Great Outdoors, Meets with LA Conservation Corps

Watch a video about Secretary Jewell's Youth Initiative


Click here to see photos of Secretary Jewell with LACC

Source: Press Release, Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

This week, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to announce Los Angeles has been selected as one of eight pilot cities under the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative to connect urban youth with the great outdoors.  The announcement comes on the heels of President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget request last week, which supports the Department's youth initiative to inspire millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors through increased investments in the Department’s youth programs.

“As children become increasingly disconnected with nature, it is critical for the health of our economy and our public lands that we work to establish meaningful and deep connections between young people from every background and every community to the great outdoors,” said Secretary Jewell. “Creating opportunities for urban young people to get outdoors not only supports healthy lifestyles but it also helps spark a passion to be good stewards of nature that will last a lifetime.”

“Giving city kids access to outdoor experiences and exercise will undoubtedly make a lasting impact, and so I am excited that L.A. is partnering with the Department of the Interior through the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative,” said Mayor Garcetti. “Connecting L.A.'s youth with nature will enrich their lives, strengthen our communities, and increase our city's health.”


President Obama’s budget released last week proposes $50.6 million for Interior youth programs, which represents a $13.6 million (or 37 percent) increase from 2014. Included in the budget is an increase of $2.5 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative, $8 million to expand opportunities for youth education and employment across the National Park Service and an additional $1 million in the Bureau of Indian Affairs for youth programs.

Prior to the announcement, students from Franklin High School led Jewell and Garcetti on a hike of the LA River and through Los Angeles State Historic Park where they discussed how the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are partnering with local organizations to create opportunities to help urban students and families make connections with America’s federal, state and local public lands.

Thanks to a partnership with the Friends of the LA River, a mobile visitor and education center will soon bring the Los Angeles River to life for young people who might otherwise not establish a connection with nature.  A modified RV, the River Rover, will provide educational opportunities for families and children in one of the most diverse and densely populated regions of the country.

“Los Angeles is a national leader at engaging urban youth in nature and we hope what is happening here can serve as a model for other cities across the country,” said Jewell. “The partnership we have formed will allow us to bring young people to the river and the river to young people.” 

The River Rover, to be completed in April, will house interactive exhibits, including an interactive model of the LA River watershed. It is one of eight pilot projects sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service across the country. Examples of other projects include working with schools in New Haven, CT, to create a network of wildlife-friendly habitat oases and habitat improvements in municipal parks, schoolyards, and vacant lots to establishing nature-learning and engagement opportunities in urban neighborhoods in Chicago.

In an attempt to help bridge the growing disconnect between young people and the great outdoors, Secretary Jewell last October launched an ambitious youth initiative to inspire millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. The goals of the youth initiative include:

Play: Interior will develop or enhance outdoor recreation partnerships in a total of 50 cities over four years to create new, systemic opportunities for outdoor play for more than 10 million young people.

Learn: Provide educational opportunities to at least 10 million of the nation’s K-12 student population annually. In addition to welcoming students into nature’s classroom, we are developing and strengthening new online education resources, to reach more students.

Serve: Engage 1 million volunteers annually on public lands, effectively tripling the numbers we have now. We know that many more people are interested in volunteering at national parks, wildlife refuges and public lands, but there are often insufficient staff resources to coordinate them. In order to achieve the volunteer goal, we will place a renewed emphasis on volunteer coordination and management.

Work: To develop the next generation of lifelong conservation stewards and ensure our own skilled and diverse workforce pipeline, Interior will provide 100,000 work & training opportunities to young people within our bureaus and through public-private partnerships. As part of this effort, we aim to raise an additional $20 million to support the youth work and training opportunities.

Los Angeles is also one of 18 pilots for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership – a coalition of 13 federal agencies working to revitalize urban waterfronts and open spaces in cities, leading to healthier and more prosperous communities all over the country.

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 dwalker@lacorps.org