The Story of Urban Corps’ Founding

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Happy 80th Birthday Sam Duran!

Former Congresswoman Lynn Schenk and Governor Jerry Brown at Urban Corps' 20th Anniversary in 2009.

 

It was the synergy generated by this thoughtful group of citizens along with the entire original steering committee, city staffers and countless community and business supporters who together created what is now known as the Urban Corps of San Diego County. They helped raise over $125,000 in local donations as seed money, hired Sam Duran as founding Chief Executive Officer and three months later the first twenty corpsmembers were hired. Under Duran’s ongoing leadership, Urban Corps transformed from a great idea to an enduring reality.


Throughout the years, many more have contributed to the success of the Urban Corps. We honor and thank all those individuals for their role in the historical development of an organization that made and continues to make a difference in the lives of our most valuable resource, our young people. Today Urban Corps provides environmental job training and educational opportunities to more than 400 young people annually-young people committed to changing their lives, needing a second chance, or just an opportunity. Focusing on the life-changing impact of a good education, strong work ethic and service to one’s community, Urban Corps now contracts with nearly 300 sponsors—local government, non-profit organizations, businesses and corporations. These contracts make possible temporary employment and job training for Corpsmembers while supplying numerous services to our sponsors. Corpsmembers are identified by the Urban Corps’ trademark green uniform as they participate in paid work experience and community projects. Projects include Graffiti Abatement, Recycling, Environmental Projects, Construction, and Urban Forestry.

In the beginning… Governor Jerry Brown had the foresight to turn to history for a community-level solution marrying youth development with environmentalism. He created the California Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1976 as a legacy to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, the visionary program founded in 1933.

Justice Anthony Kline was Legal Affairs Secretary to Governor Jerry Brown at the time and witnessed the establishment of the California Conservation Corps. In later years, as a judge in the juvenile justice court system, he recognized the need for more programs which would turn young lives around and saw the corps model as a perfect fit. Drawing on his knowledge of the CCC, he made it his mission to establish local conservation corps throughout the state. Justice Kline first went to then San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein with the concept and she became a major supporter. With their leadership, the first local corps was created in the San Francisco Bay area. Justice Kline then turned his attention to the rest of the state and started making phone calls. Among those to receive a call was a former colleague in the Brown Administration, The Honorable Lynn Schenk. Ms. Schenk adopted his passion and got the ball rolling with San Diego City Council Member Wes Pratt.

Meanwhile San Diego resident Mrs. Marion Wilbur and her husband Bud, an original member of Roosevelt’s “Tree Army,” were putting pressure on Mayor Maureen O’Conner about the need for a local corps in San Diego.

As the founding Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Duran shaped the Urban Corps into a dynamic organization that provides a second chance to young people while preserving San Diego’s natural resources. Serving as CEO for 23 years (1989-2012), Sam was responsible for growing the organization from its original budget of $120,000 to more than $8 million. Under his direction, the Urban Corps served over 10,000 at-risk youth and spearheaded a number of programs and partnerships that continue to this day. Click here for his FULL BIO.