Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps video

Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps video

Nearly 300 teenagers are working this
summer in Sonoma County. ABC 7’s money scope reporter David Louie explains how
they got on the payroll, and how the public will benefit. Most of these young
people weren’t expecting to find summer jobs but here they are, working outdoors
and getting paid eight dollars an hour. Federal stimulus money at work.
Sixteen-year-old Eva Cabrera is part of a team clearing Santa Rosa Creek. The Youth
Ecology Corps has created summer jobs when there aren’t any, while teaching
young people about the environment. I go home and I brag to my parents and to my
friends that I’m actually outside working, having fun, and at the same time
helping the community. Sonoma County California: a place of beautiful creeks
and streams, a land of redwood forests and beaches, and home to numerous state
and regional parks. Many environmental nonprofits and government agencies work
to protect, maintain, and restore the county’s natural resources. Unfortunately,
the economic downturn impacts the amount of work these organizations can
accomplish. The recession impacts people as well. As the county’s unemployment
rate reaches new heights, unemployment for youth and young adults soars higher
still. This age group has experienced the worst of the recession. Underfunded
county agencies and youth organizations try to meet the needs of the unemployed,
but budget realities are making it harder and harder. In the spring of 2009
a unique partnership, one to address these many challenges, led to the
formation of the Sonoma County Summer Youth Ecology Corps. Youth and young
adults are connected to summer employment opportunities. Quality jobs
that benefit our environment, our communities, the economy, and of course
young people. This is our first time doing this and we really enjoy it. These
opportunities are more than just a summer job. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of good
work, yeah. The youth and young adults build work readiness skills, explore potential careers, learn about the environment, give back to the community, and spend their hard-earned dollars locally. The
Summer Youth Ecology Corps really started with the understanding that there are
several competing needs that we needed to address as a water agency. In our area
our significant fish species are either listed by EPA is threatened or endangered.
One of the priorities for the county is to try to do restoration of habitat, so
having 300 young people out there working, doing stream restoration, stream
improvements, made I think a tremendous impact. There are always good things to
spend your money on, whether it’s youth or health programs or working with
families or environmental restoration but, specifically for what output we got
for this program, I really believe that the money was very well spent. With the
signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as
President Obama’s Economic Stimulus Package, the County Workforce Investment
Board planned for a summer jobs program We were getting information about these
economic stimulus dollars so we got together to be able to leverage these
connections in these different funding sources and programs all together into
one magnificent little program. The Workforce Investment Board and Human
Services Department teamed up with the Water Agency, County Office of Education,
New Ways to Work, and the District Attorney’s Office; the Ecology Corps was
building momentum. The Sonoma County Water Agency, a
national leader in conservation and flood management, is at the forefront of
environmental stewardship for the streams, creeks, and rivers of the county. The
Water Agency supplies water to 600,000 individuals and we also have responsibility for flood control. Educating young people about water
issues and the environment is a crucial part of their core mission. They’re not
only helping us remove flood control, they’re also restoring habitat for future species survival. The Workforce Investment Board is an
advisory board to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, and we were
involved because we did receive 1.2 million dollars of the economic stimulus
funds devoted for summer youth employment. The Workforce Investment
Board and its Youth Council looked at all of the factors involved and they
came up with some priority groups to target: kids that were already in our
year-round workforce investment act program, kids from CalWORKs family’s
welfare to work families, kids who’ve been involved with probation or
especially with foster care, we had youth who are disabled or anyway disadvantaged
and had barriers to employment. And we selected five nonprofit agencies to be
the employer record and take care of these young people from day to day. SCAYD
applied along with Petaluma People Services Center, the West County
Community Services, the center NSAY of Santa Rosa and Sonoma Valley, and we
applied together because we had already worked for several years as a
collaboration with the WEA Youth Program and we thought that our combined
strength would make the program be as successful as possible. The youth
agencies were responsible for enrolling the youth, doing orientation, safety,
payroll, the day-to-day supervision, we hired crew leaders. By far the nonprofits
in the community based organizations that were part of the Summer Youth
Ecology Corps were what made it so dynamic. We were one of many partners in
Sonoma County that made this possible to a large number of youth who otherwise
would not have had this employment opportunity during the summer. I got laid
off at round table and you know it’s been a while since, I’m just happy to be
working you know what I mean? New Ways to Work was able to coordinate and manage this
entire effort on behalf of the entire coalition of interests. Our goal is to
work in communities to bring together those services and supports that are
provided to young people into a comprehensive connected system. Our job
was to sort of just put people at the table and help them identify common needs and a common ground, so instead of simply
having a couple of crews working with the Water Agency we were able to deploy
something like 27 crews around the county doing a range of different kinds
of projects. We certainly have a high priority of working in collaboratory fashion
especially in this economic climate. We were expected to do more with less. With
dollars in place, the partners quickly reached out to potential project hosts.
Land trusts, parks departments, open space districts, nonprofits having to do
with you know environmental stewardship of the lands. We invited them to identify those
kinds of projects that really would be of significance to the community and where
the young people would be able to learn a lot about the environment. All of these
partners brought together the pieces of a project far grander than anyone
imagined. From across the county, hundreds of youth applied for crew positions.
Youth and crew leaders were hired, and celebrated the start of the program with
the partners, agencies, hosts, and civic leaders. Wow, wow wow wow, good afternoon this is something special guys and I recognize… And in late June, crews began working on projects. The
youth and young adults worked for six weeks, earning paychecks to help
stimulate the sluggish local economy. I would think the most interesting for me
was watching the growth of the crews. What you’d start off with was six to
eight people who didn’t know each other, many of them worked for cohesive teams
who were hanging out all summer together and they really became friends and that was a nice thing to see. A lot of people come by and say thank
you for helping to clean up our creeks. I’ve talked to a lot of people that say I
walk the trails and I know that what the trails looked like before they were clear
and after they were clear and it’s huge difference. For most of our youth, this
was their very first job, first paycheck, first time on a work site. It’s been
actually quite fun. It’s also interesting to see them take so much pride in the
before and after, even counting up how many feet of trail they’ve done so far
and when you come look at it afterwards. Each day you realize wow look what we did.
What we’re doing here is is gardening for the homeless shelter. They feed about 140
people a day. When we came here it was really trashed because they don’t got
employees. So we came over here and we did some gardening, pulled some weeds, pulled
some of the vegetables and took them over there, and people were really nice. We’re kind of
making a change in the community. In addition to ecology work, the community
corps placed young people in individual internships throughout the county. And it
gave them the opportunity to test out those skills, find out if it was really
what they were interested in doing. They worked in in clerical more type
positions, the Petaluma Police Department, they worked with animals, and
they also worked in either nonprofit or public agencies. Environmental education
was a big part of the experience. Crew members learned about the environment,
cycles of the ecosystem, watersheds, food production, and more. All throughout the
summer, work readiness training supplemented the hands-on work
experience. As much as we emphasize adhering to academic standards, there’s
more to it than performing well on on let’s say the Star Test. The work setting
allowed them to see real world application of academic skills. Each crew
member completed a work based learning plan. The plan included an assessment of
the skills necessary to begin work. We were quite interested in bridging both
the work-ready certificate, and the Kuder Career Planning option
that helps them track, plan, and look at how they may develop their career path.
Project hosts, including the Water Agency, provided tours of their
facilities and worked alongside the crew members helping them learn about the
environment and explore career opportunities. Ever since I’ve been
working for this program I’ve been thinking about becoming a park ranger.
This job was the first I ever had. It was cool giving back. It taught me to work
well with my crew leader and other crew members. Not only we learn about ecology,
but we learn about a good work ethic. I learned that working together makes the
work easier. Every dime earned went straight to the bank to save for my
first car purchase. This additional income also helped the youth and young
adults to support their families. My dad is kind of jealous I think, he’s kind
of out of work right now. When I first started I had a bit of an attitude and
thought to myself there is no way I’m working with these losers. But then I
learned their stories. Some of these people have gone through homelessness,
physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Some have been in foster care their whole life.
Some have been arrested and convicted. Some have mental disabilities but they
came to this program to better themselves and their situations, as did I. There are many types of crime prevention
for for youth offenders to ensure that they they go in the right direction, and
certainly I view this program as one of those type of crime prevention programs
and the numbers reflect that. The average population from juvenile hall in the summer of 2007 was 97. In the summer of 2009 the average juvenile hall population was 75. The board was very proud, as a board,
to have supported the Summer Youth Ecology Corps and to have been a part of
it. To us it meant that the investment we were making in our youth was really
going to pay dividends in the future. We’re dealing with an immense amount of
cost in juvenile justice costs and in detention costs and we think that these
types of investments really make a significant difference long-term. You
know you meet new people, you have a lot of fun you know? Its something to do not just stand
around the house you know play video games, watch TV you know, there’s something out there to do. The 2009 Summer Youth Ecology Corps was a
success. It’s a model for others to follow, it’s something that will actually
provide life skills and instill a sense of hope for the future. And I think that
our future is dependent upon programs like this succeeding. When we had over
300 youth who have seen challenges, we were allowed to provide them an
opportunity. So the whole summer he was a great worker, one of the assistant crew
leaders, and at the end of the summer he asked me Marc how do I get a job? So I
go on and on about here’s how you become a maintenance worker, here’s how you do
this, here’s what you need to do, and he goes stops me mid-sentence he goes Marc, I
want to do what you do. How do I become an an environmental specialist? He said I like
trees now. And that’s one of the stories that just it makes me it almost makes me
cry just thinking about that just because, you know, he wants to be a scientist now,
so that’s incredible. These types of programs make a difference; these kids
will remember this work for the rest of their lives and what it meant to them.
And it’s a drop in the bucket in terms of dollars and it’s worth every penny. I want to thank this program for helping
me improve my life. I love this pick ax yay! What will happen after the jutra
plank get’s built, where will all the birds go? Other people care too, that’s awesome! We
just finished Phil, Frank Megan and Morgan are already brewing. You mean the sun runs
all this? We went down to Santa Rosa and we covered up graffiti. I’m kind of glad
that I have a job like this. It helps the community to have a nice, clean place to
relax. During this past week I feel that I’ve grown a little and got back to
appreciating nature and enjoying myself outdoors. We learned everything from
invasive and noninvasive plants, to how to act during an interview. When I
learned of all the possible green jobs today, I realized this is a field to find
a career in to make a difference. I’m not just doing unproductive things that make
me unhealthy or depressed, which is the best part of this experience for me. It’s
not the same thing every day. It’s not boring. Shh, you’re disrupting the wildlife. What do you mean? We are the wildlife!

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