Wall Gardens Growing In Popularity- San Diego Union Tribune

By Mike Lee

SAN DIEGO — When employees of the Urban Corps of San Diego County gather for staff meetings at their building near Old Town this summer, they hope to sample salsa from one of the region’s most unusual gardens. It’s suspended from a wall so that herbs, fruits and vegetables are hanging out in thin air, their leaves arched skyward to catch the sun as drops from an irrigation system trickle through the frame and moisten the roots.

“We are just getting the first batch of ripe tomatoes, so we will have everything we need” for salsa, said Klara Arter, development coordinator for the Urban Corps, which trains at-risk youths for the workplace with an emphasis on green jobs such as recycling.

Of course, the inspiration for one of the first vertical gardens in the region is bigger than salsa. The idea is to cultivate urban residents’ interest in homegrown food, explore new ways of adding plants to the landscape and introduce a practice that is popular in Europe but is just starting to take root in the United States. “My vision was to have these cornstalks so high that they can be seen from the freeway,” Sam Duran, CEO of the Urban Corps, said as cars whizzed past on Interstate 5.

Besides the group’s headquarters, there are “living” walls at a downtown law office, a Point Loma hotel and a few East County homes where residents grew tired of rabbits grazing on their conventional gardens. Perhaps the most famous vertical garden in Southern California adorns a pair of pizzerias in Hollywood operated by celebrity chef Mario Batali.

“Roof gardens seemed to be hot about five years ago. Vertical gardens seem to be hot now,” said Ty Sterns, an Urban Corps official who helped create the new showpiece.

Jim Mumford, president of GreenScaped Buildings and a self-described “eco-warrior,” is behind many of the region’s wall gardens, including the one at the Urban Corps office. He attracted attention in 2007 for installing a green roof on his Kearny Mesa warehouse as a demonstration project.

That idea works in some places — a large “living” roof is being installed on the new Fallbrook library — but it often requires major structural support and can be a hassle to water and maintain. Plus, Mumford said, roofs are only viewed by a limited number of people.

So he turned the concept on its side — literally.

“Why (vertical gardens) are catching on is you see them. They are right there,” Mumford said. “It’s art.”

At the B Street office of Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP, managing partner Tom Turner said a new green wall with roughly 200 square feet of suspended plants is a sign of the firm’s commitment to green initiatives such as natural lighting and reduced paper use.

The ornamental garden has no salsa ingredients, but it still creates a striking conversation piece for parties.

“It’s beautiful. It’s different,” Turner said. “It’s working very well, and we don’t have any qualms about it.”

A growing field of vendors hopes make a buck on the trend. Startup costs for a vertical garden range from $50 to $150 a square foot, Mumford said.

“The market is expanding exponentially,” he said. “But it’s going to shrink back to what is really practical, what has stood the test of time.”

The garden crew at the Urban Corps spent months planning their foray into the new farming techniques, which include a rooftop garden, plants that hang in saddlebags on low walls and about 28 square feet of gravity-defying greenery.

They built the scaffolding from a kit sold by Tournesol Siteworks in Fremont and placed more than a dozen varieties of plants into it, along with soil, large staples to secure the roots and landscaping material to keep the dirt from falling out.

Sterns and his colleagues acclimated the plants to vertical life by raising one edge of the frames a few inches at a time with blocks. Every week or so, the workers would add more blocks and force the plants to hang on more tightly.

The garden includes oregano, scallions, small cornstalks shooting out from the sides of the frames and several tomato vines that are starting to droop under the weight of ripening orbs.

The irrigation system runs for two hours a day, soaking the soil and splattering on the flat roof below. A drain funnels the runoff to a street-level garden so water isn’t wasted.

Duran’s vision is to finish the entire wall with more than 400 square feet of plants, keeping high-maintenance edibles on the lower sections and placing low-hassle, low-water decoratives up high.

“We are doing green-job training, so when you drive by, you should be able to see the evidence,” Sterns said.

Written by Mike Lee

The San Diego Union-Tribune

A tree - actually, 900 new ones - grows in Lemon Grove Urban Corps is preparing to plant 900 trees by the freeway

April 28, 2011

The city named in the early 1900s for its large citrus groves — most of which were lost around World War II when suburbanization started — will soon get 900 new trees. Hundreds of young members of the Urban Corps of San Diego will plant trees along State Route 94, from Federal Boulevard to Lemon Grove Avenue, in October. The tree planting is part of $12 million in funding from the California Transportation Commission approved for nine local projects. In addition, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob secured an additional $10,000 through a Neighborhood Reinvestment Grant. “Most people don't even know that there's a beautiful city down the 94 and now we're going to make it official,” said Jim Ellis, a Lemon Grove resident since 2005. The group from Urban Corps, made up of 18- to 25-year-olds who need a second chance in society, will also plant another 900 trees along state Route 94 in Spring Valley and Casa de Oro by the beginning of 2012.

The trees will help mitigate the noise and emissions from the extension of state Route 125. “Drivers on this stretch of Highway 94 have been waiting a long time for landscape improvements,” Jacob said. “These trees will improve roadside aesthetics, bringing the character of the highway in line with the surrounding community.” The Urban Corps also plans to adopt the portions of the freeways where they are planting trees, said Klara Arter, Urban Corps communication manager. “This is like the great days of Plant Lemon Grove, a city sponsored event we had back in the mid-1990s,” said longtime Lemon Grove resident Helen Ofield, president of the city's Historical Society. Ofield said she remembers when Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, city council members, city staff and a host of other volunteers planted pepper trees, bougainvillea and more at the Lemon Grove Avenue exit off the 94. “It's critically important to have trees (near the freeway) with the constant roar of traffic,” Ofield said. “The presence of the span of the 125 has changed the lives of everybody here.”here.” The California Transportation Commission gave $330,585 to the Urban Corps and the San Diego Association of Governments to plant 600 trees along the almost 3-mile stretch of the freeway from Federal Boulevard to Lemon Grove Avenue. But Arter said the group adjusted the size of the trees they were purchasing so more could be planted, adding 300 additional Sycamore, Coast Live Oak and Torrey Pine trees. “When I first heard there were going to be 600 trees, I thought, "That's a forest!'” Lemon Grove City Councilman George Gastil said. “Now it's 1,800' That's incredible. And that's not even the best part. The best part is that they're native trees, trees remarkably appropriate for our area. It will really be like driving through the forest, like (state Route) 163. It's going to look really pretty. And the trees help keep the environment clean.” The Urban Corps' first projects included erosion control on Cowles Mountain in 1989 (the year Urban Corps began) and installing temporary survey markers in Balboa Park in 1991. “The Urban Corps is so much more than a job training program for the youth who participate,” Arter said. “It is a second chance to turn their lives around, earn a high school diploma and contribute to the community in the process. “Twenty years from now, these young people will be able to drive down the 94 freeway, see the mature trees and say to their kids,"I helped plant those trees.'

” The Urban Corps is responsible for maintaining the trees, including replacing and trimming, for three years after they're planted. At first, a low-volume irrigation system will be used to water the trees, but that will be discontinued as they grow since all trees selected are drought tolerant, Arter said. Sycamores, loved by hummingbirds and butterflies, reach an average height of 75 feet. The Coast Live Oak reaches heights of 20 to 40 feet and attracts more than 30 kinds of birds. Torrey Pine grows from 25 to 60 feet tall and over the years has adapted to challenging environments of poor soil and little moisture.


Written by Karen Pearlman

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Food Is On The Menu And The Curriculum At One San Diego High School

October 27, 2011

SAN DIEGO — The Hungry Tiger restaurant is part of Morse High School in Southeast San Diego. And it’s moving into a new kitchen that’s filled with professional equipment.

The people who’ll be working here aren’t exactly professionals. They’re high-school kids. But they cater school events and make lots of the school’s signature snack, the Tiger Muffin.

Some, like senior Daisy Damas, have dreams of becoming great cooks.

"I've always been interested in cooking,” she said. "It's just like a passion of mine. All of my problems go away when I'm there in the kitchen."


Photo by Tom Fudge

Above: A worker for the Urban Corps of San Diego fills a vertical planter pocket at Morse High School's edible garden, which is part of the culinary arts program.

The Hungry Tiger is part of Morse High’s culinary arts program, which is an academic experiment meant to improve diets and fight obesity. The program at Morse is run by a professional caterer and high-school teacher, named Sara Piatt.

She is an animated woman in middle age. Piatt spoke in her old kitchen classroom, soon to be abandoned, that’s covered with tacky wallboard and worn carpeting. She said she’s determined to introduce her students to real food.

"It was really fun today,” she said, “like with the basil… So many kids are like, ‘I'm not going to eat that. It's green!’ Then they try it and they really like it!"

Piatt doesn’t just have a new kitchen to work with. Morse High School also has a something she considers crucial to understanding food and its preparation: A garden.

On a small patch of ground adjacent to the front gate, workers from the Urban Corps of San Diego have installed raised beds and an irrigation system.

The Urban Corps focuses on conservation projects that green the environment. Eric Wolff, the group’s assistant director, said they had planted several trees on the Morse High campus when they heard of the school's vision for growing their own food.

"They said that Morse High School really wanted a garden,” said Wolff. “They were building a restaurant that was going to cook food for students and by the students. They were going to run every aspect of the restaurant, and they'd like to get a source of fresh food."

He says nearly everything they’re planting is edible.

"So we're going to be planting some trees, a lot of herbs for the school, a lot of vegetables, lot of fresh fruit," said Wolff.

Sara Piatt said the garden allows her to cultivate an appreciation for food and where it comes from, and that important for city kids.

"These students have no connection to where their food comes from. If you say chicken soup, they think it comes from a can. I grew up in Iowa where you grew things, where you saw it, where you harvested it. And they have no idea."

Morse High draws its students from the low-income neighborhoods that surround Skyline Drive. Obesity is a huge problem among these kids, so the food they eat is also a huge issue. That’s why fresh fruits and vegetables are at the center of what’s called the farm-to-table movement.

This movement is a growing trend among schools. Top chef Alice Waters has formed a partnership with the Berkeley School District to bring more fresh local food onto their menus.

Another vision for what some people call "food literacy" is taking shape in the San Diego home of a woman who's spent her entire career trying to get people eat right and lose weight.

Deborah Szekely is the founder of the high-end health spa calledRancho La Puerta, located in Tecate, Mexico. At the age of 89, she remains vital and active. Lately, she's tried to use her influence to bring food literacy to schools.

She said her vision has one very important element.

"It's the gardens. The key is that they grow it themselves,” she said.

Szekely has lobbied Congress to provide money for a pilot program, focusing on fifth grade. It would create a food literacy program that includes gardening, cooking, and digestive science.

"Every school should have a community garden,” said Szekely. “San Diego now has a food bus, in one of the schools, which I haven't seen but I'm looking forward to it"

San Diego Unified School District has hired a "farm-to-school" coordinator to work with local farms to try to achieve the same goal. The coordinator, Vanessa Zajfen, was asked why it was important to offer fresh fruits and vegetables to schools kids.

She said, “Because it tastes good.”

Written by Tom Fudge, Nicholas McVicker

Urban Corps Wins Energy All-Star Award

We are proud to announce that Urban Corps was recently presented with the 2011 Energy All-Star Award for Community Leadership from the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE). The award is presented to individuals or organizations who demonstrate outstanding achievements in the community on environmental issues, affecting positive change toward more sustainable living.

Urban Corps was honored for its environmental service work in the community and for creating a green campus which includes a host of energy and water efficiency features, a green roof, sustainable vehicle wash and a solar voltaic system.

Keynote speaker Panama Bartholomy, Deputy Director of the California Energy Commission, singled out Urban Corps in his address saying: "Hearing about Urban Corps was inspiring…They are one of the bright stars in our efforts to (create a sustainable future)."

Introducing, The Gateway Mural Project

The Gateway Mural is a 5,000 square foot mural project under development as part of a Redevelopment Plan to revitalize and beautify the Midway and Rosecrans area. The mural is being made possible by:

  • The North Bay Redevelopment Committee (NorthBay PAC)

  • The Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Diego

  • Urban Corps of San Diego County

The mural is being installed on the wall of the underpass of Interstate 5 located on Rosecrans Street and on the adjoining embankment wall on Jefferson Street.

For questions, please contact us at (619) 235-6884.

City Flood Control System Under Siege

October 24, 2011

When a sinkhole bigger than a commuter bus opened up on a University City road earlier this month, it created a headache for people who work nearby. The cause was traced to a corrugated metal stormwater pipe, which today is known for chronic failures. Most residents only think about such things when heavy rains roll across the region and expose weaknesses in the storm water system. But just out of sight, water continually erodes San Diego’s sprawling flood-control network and sediment continually reduces its capacity.

“The potential exists for problems like this — maybe not with the same level of impact, but the same underlying cause — to occur in places throughout the city,” said Bill Harris, a spokesman for the city’s Storm Water Division. The maze of pipes and drains needs a city-estimated $246 million for patching spots with known and suspected problems, including areas where buckling pavement suggests the potential for more sinkholes. The other major issue facing the city’s stormwater system is that San Diego lacks critical environmental signoffs for maintaining open channels and creeks that residents depend on for protection from seasonal flooding. At 2 p.m. Monday, the Storm Water Division will seek approval from the City Council to clear out many of the waterways that have become clogged with dirt, rocks, garbage, and plants. Council members signaled sympathy for such efforts on Tuesday when they approved more work in the flood-prone Tijuana River Valley despite concerns about ecological impacts.

That work could cost $3 million a year, including disposal costs for up to 30,000 cubic yards a year of contaminated trash and sediment removed from the channels. “We need the channel clean before somebody does get killed,” said Dan Winne president of Happy Trails Horse Rentals, who has witnessed catastrophic flooding in recent years. “At least it will drain the water away from the ranches, away from the people and will protect them in some way.”

San Diegans for Open Government, a nonprofit advocacy group, challenged the city’s plan on several fronts, saying that it will damage wetlands and did not undergo adequate public review. The council unanimously upheld the staff’s plan, which means sand dredging could start by late November if rain doesn’t make the site impassable. “I appreciate the statements about protecting the environment, but we have to protect business and homes and lives, too,” said council member Marti Emerald. “In many ways, this kind of … ongoing maintenance is probably healthier for the environment than doing nothing.” San Diego’s challenges with money and environmental permits are mirrored across the country, where key pieces of water infrastructure are falling apart due to lack of investment and environmentalists advocated for rethinking management of creeks and channels that drain urban areas to the ocean.

The city and other local governments have struggled for years to find a balance between flood control and protection of rare wetland habitat, much of which has been lost to development. The stakes are particularly high this fall given the acrimony that erupted last winter when San Diego and environmentalists battled over flood control projects while the region was under a deluge. City crews ended up removing debris from some bottlenecks, but green groups were able to thwart work at other spots with lawsuits that said the city was improperly using emergency exemptions in places where problems have been known for years.

On Monday, the debate at City Hall will center on a 20-year blueprint for improving the flow of water through 32 miles of channels that city officials and environmentalists have debated over the past two years. City officials estimated the overall cost at $60 million, including extensive environmental restoration to make up for damage done by the work. San Diego is seeking the overarching permits in hopes of streamlining the permitting process for each stretch of the channel, what can be a costly and time-consuming process. The city’s goal is to start work under the master permit in September.

Environmentalists have opposed the need for some of the city’s proposals, which they say are unnecessary for flood control and damaging to streamside habitat. They also said the city hasn’t done enough cumulative review of the projects and they want the Storm Water Division to be more accountable to the public as detailed work plans take shape. “The biggest issue … is accountability,” said Gabriel Solmer, advocacy director for San Diego Coastkeeper. She said the city hasn’t gone far enough to invite public comment on site-specific plans. “I don’t think that is the message the city should be sending to residents who want to be involved,” she said.

At the Storm Water Division, Harris said the city made major revisions to appease conservationists, including a pledge not to clear vegetation in about one-third of the flood channels and providing detailed descriptions of staging spots and access routes where work is planned. “We will be performing surgical maintenance,” Harris said. “It’s a huge commitment, but a commitment that is born out of the understanding of the priority our community places on these areas.” Whatever the council decides about the open waterways, San Diego still will have a long list of failing pipes that typically are costly to replace but not controversial. The most problematic ones are made of corrugated metal, which came into vogue during the 1950s and remained popular for decades because it’s lighter than other options and easier to use for corners and other tight spots. Today, the city prefers reinforced concrete pipe. But stormwater managers still count about 38 miles of corrugated metal pipe — which the city banned in 1992 — and acknowledge that there could be other stretches that may only be found when they fail.

Even though the $246 million bill for deferred maintenance seems huge, Harris said San Diego has been making solid progress given the citywide budget cuts. Over the past year, for example, the stormwater agency has spent about $10 million from a bond to make upgrades such as pump station retrofits in flood-prone Pacific Beach. Corrugated pipe replacement is the top priority for roughly $30 million the Storm Water Division is seeking in the next city infrastructure bond issue expected in the spring.


Written by Mike Lee - The San Diego Union Tribune

Urban Corps Cleaning up San Diego River in Santee

Crews from the San Diego Urban Corps have been working the past two months to remove the nonnative water primrose from the San Diego River in Santee. The Urban Corps’ Habitat Management Services will continue to be along the Mission Creek/Mast Park section of the river, working through the early part of December to get rid of the invasive plant with yellow flowers and green leaves. The plant, native to South America, grows in thick mats that slow the river’s flow, reduce the water’s dissolved oxygen level and raise the water temperature. The vine-like plant is also a habitat for mosquito larvae.

“Water primrose has been a problem since I’ve been here, eight years, and probably for more than 20 years (altogether),” said Annette Saul, the city’s parks and landscape supervisor. “We’re always trying to manage it. We’ve worked with Urban Corps in the past, and this is their third time out. ”

Sam Lopez, director of operations for Urban Corps, said working along the river in Santee has been a steady endeavor.

“We’ve been working for about four years, first with a summer youth program and then about two years ago, with Prop. 84 dollars, we did trail work to cut down some of the palm trees there,” Lopez said. “You know how they say, ‘Build it and they will come’? Well, we say that if we clear it, the ducks will come. They will be able to waddle freely.”

The project was made possible through a grant of nearly $50,000 from the county Department of Environmental Health, Vector Control Division. The city was OK’d for the grant in September, Saul said.

Additionally, eight youth Urban Corps members have worked at nearby Santee Lakes, learning conservation skills, earning a paycheck and attending Urban Corps Charter School to earn a high school diploma, Urban Corps spokeswoman Klara Arter said.

Urban Corps is a nonprofit organization that provides education and job training to at-risk youth and disadvantaged young adults.


Written by Karen Pearlman - Karen.Pearlman@utsandiego.com

2013 Corpsmember of the Year, Raghda Raphael

January 07, 2013

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.”

Union Tribune TV

U-T TV takes some time to hear from the current CEO of Urban Corps, Robert Chávez.

Click the image to watch the full interview.

26 Youth Corps Programs First to be Provisionally Accredited by Corps Center of Excellence

March 20, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — 26 Youth Corps programs from across the nation are the first to have obtained provisional accredidation from the Corps Center of Excellence, an independent program of The Corps Network that is governed by an independent Advisory Committee made up of retired / former conservation corps leaders, retired/former federal land management agency staff, and other experts.

Youth Corps (also known as Service and Conservation Corps) are programs that enroll young people in a crew-based experience where participants complete service projects while receiving paid job training, educational development, mentorship, and support services.

The Corps Center of Excellence is dedicated to the promotion of high quality programming and standards for Youth Corps across America. The Corps Center of Excellence (CCE) ensures that programs have the capacity to meet the desired outcomes for participants as well as meet the high quality and production requirements of resource management partners.

The provisional accreditation allows potential sponsors to have the confidence that the provisionally accredited organizations meet the standards recommended by the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Federal Advisory Committee. This accreditation will be good for at least one year, and may be extended as the Committee continues working toward a transition to a full accreditation process. Youth Corps can apply so that numerous programs within their operations receive the provisional accreditation.

"We are very pleased with the number of programs qualifying for accreditation," said Ira Okun, Chair of the The Corps Center of Excellence Advisory Committee. "It speaks to the willingness of Youth Corps to do what it takes to continuously improve their programs, commit to best practices and better serve the young people and their communities. Corps, by their adherence to high standards, enable Corpsmembers to become more successful in their life and career choice."

The Corps programs that have who been provisionally accredited include

· American Youth Works
· Anchorage Park Foundation — Youth Employment in Parks (YEP)
· Civicorps
· Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) — CREC Youth Conservation Corps (YCC)
· Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) — Northern Arizona Conservation Corps (NACC)
· Conservation Corps North Bay — Natural Resources Program
· Conservation Corps of Long Beach
· Larimer County Conservation Corps
· Los Angeles Conservation Corps — Conservation Division
· Mile High Youth Corps — Land Conservation
· Montana Conservation Corps — Big Sky Watershed Corps
· Montana Conservation Corps — Veterans Green Corps
· Montana Conservation Corps — Youth Service Expeditions
· Montana Conservation Corps — MCC Field Crew Program
· Northwest Youth Corps — Leadership Development Program
· Northwest Youth Corps — Out Door Oregon
· Northwest Youth Corps — Spring, Summer, Fall Conservation Corps
(Youth Corps Programs)
· Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (NM)
· Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (CO)
· Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps
· Southeast Alaska Guidance Association — Alaska Conservation Corps
· Southwest Conservation Corps — Environmental Stewards (ES)
· Southwest Conservation Corps — Conservation Corps
· Urban Corps of San Diego County
· Vermont Youth Conservation Corps
· Western Colorado Conservation Corps

For more information about The Corps Center for Excellence and provisional accreditation, please visit www.21csc.org

A Consensual Qualitative Research Study of the Transformation from High School Dropout to Graduate: Corpsmember Outcomes and Influencing Factors

March 20, 2013

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.


"Corpsmember alumni can teach us about their struggles, triumphs, goals and support systems so that we- educators, program staff, funders and policymakers- may learn how to best serve them.," said Smith. "Their insights offer a platform to develop outcome measures, enhance service provision and conduct program evaluation so that Urban Corps and other similar programs may confirm what works and improve services to continue giving young people opportunities for success.


Click the image to read the full Executive Summary, Jayne's dissertation.

City Heights Community Celebrates Completion Of Home Renovations

September 24, 2013

San Diego City Councilmember Marti Emerald joined the Urban Corps and its partner the City Heights Community Development Corporation recently for a ribbon cutting to celebrate the near completion of twenty-five home rehabilitations through the City Heights Neighborhood Rehabilitation Project. The project offered Corpsmembers a chance to learn on-the-job construction skills as they completed comprehensive home rehabilitation including energy upgrades, lead abatement, exterior and interior painting, window replacement, electrical repairs, plumbing, kitchen renovations, safety and ADA improvements.

The Story of Eliseo: A Gift of Desperation

February 20, 2014

Probably the first thing you notice about Eliseo Nunez are the gang tattoos that cover his body, from the top of his head to the stylized toe tag on his foot. But underneath the ink is a driven college freshman who just received a national leadership award in Washington, D.C.


Last week, the 27-year-old San Diegan was honored as National Corpsmember of the Year by the Corps Network, a national association for conservation corps issues. He was one of just 6 corpsmembers chosen for the honor from a pool of 27,000 nationwide. Nunez was nominated for the honor by his colleagues at the Urban Corps of San Diego County, where he has distinguished himself over the past two years as a dedicated student and employee on the rise.


“This young man has really shown me more than anyone I’ve met in my life that you can’t judge a book by its cover,” said Robert Chávez, CEO of Urban Corps. “He looks like this hard-core thug, someone you don’t want roaming around your own neighborhood, but when you talk to him you see the gentle heart that he has and how intelligent, thoughtful, hardworking and professional he is.”Nunez isn’t ashamed of his tattoos. They’re the map to his troubled past — 12 years of crime, drugs, violence and incarceration — and a reminder of how far he has come since getting clean in 2012 and walking away from his Oceanside gang. The aspiring substance-abuse counselor said the etchings on his body help him better connect with teen gang members who, like himself years ago, are in a hole so deep they can’t see a way out.


Born in Fallbrook and raised in Oceanside’s Mesa Margarita neighborhood, Nunez had a rough start in life. His father’s drug abuse led his parents to split when he was a year old and he grew up in a home packed with 20 family members. As a boy, Nunez saw his father only rarely because his dad spent most of his time in prison.


“Prison stories were engraved in my head by my father,” Nunez said. “I thought it was so cool and saw prison as a rite of passage, what it took to turn a boy into a man.”


At 13, Nunez joined a gang — the Varrio Mesa Locos — and he started using meth and heroin. The attraction for Nunez was the desire to belong.


“So many mixed emotions were knotted up in my stomach, feelings a 13-year-old boy should never go through,” he recalled. “For the love of that image and because I had a sick need to be accepted, I did something crazy, I adapted to that lifestyle.”


As his drug abuse and gang activity escalated, he dropped out of high school and entered a revolving door of juvenile detention, county jail, state prison and federal prison for crimes like carrying a weapon, fraternizing with gang members and, finally, a gang-related assault with a deadly weapon. He spent a combined six years behind bars. The gang’s pull was so strong that he was usually arrested again within two weeks to a month of getting out.


Then, what he describes as “the miracle” occurred. At 25, he found that gang life had lost its luster.


“I started running the streets because I wanted to feel loved and accepted, but my last term in federal prison, I wasn’t feeling any love or acceptance. The trail wasn’t true. It was just a mask I was putting on,” he said.


Released from custody in San Diego, 43 miles away from his gang’s turf, he decided to stick around.


“I accumulated one month, then two months, then three months, and this distance from old people and places began working in my favor. I got a taste of freedom, trust and the opportunity to see the miracle itself,” he said.


There were stumbles. He drank, used narcotics and dodged appointments with his probation officer. But an angel was waiting for him in Tecate. A few years before, his father had turned his life around and was living a drug-free life as a working family man in Mexico. He was also dying of cancer and wanted to unburden his soul to his son.


“On one of my last visits with him, he told me ‘everything I told you as a child was wrong. Please forgive me,’” Nunez said.


On March 15, 2012, Nunez’s father died. Eleven days later, he checked into a residential treatment program and has been clean ever since.


After rehab, Nunez enrolled in the Urban Corps’ charter school to earn his high school diploma. The 25-year-old nonprofit teaches, trains, counsels and provides placement for at-risk youth ages 18-25. Chávez said Nunez was a standout student from the start. He sat in the front row, stayed after class every day to ask questions and graduated as valedictorian with a $1,000 college scholarship.


“The day he graduated, I hired him on the spot to work for us,” Chávez said. “It wasn’t just because of his professionalism but because of the inspiration he could bestow on our students.”


In the year Nunez has worked full-time in the Corps’ recycling department he hasn’t missed a single day of work and was recently promoted to staff supervisor. Chávez said there’s no limit to how far Nunez can go.


“If he wants to stick with us and go into management, my dream come true would be to see him become the CEO of this organization some day,” Chávez said. “He may have been a warrior of the streets, but now he’s a warrior of change and youth education.”


Nunez admits that he still battles temptation. He attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings three to five times a week and has a sponsor to help keep him straight. He also feels some guilt about leaving his gang brothers, though he knows he’ll never go back. He talks daily by phone to his mother and sisters in Oceanside and he’s in a healthy romantic relationship.


His next goal is to earn a college degree in counseling at San Diego City College. He feels his experiences, turnaround story and even his tattoos could offer inspiration to gang members looking for a different life.


“People in suits and ties try to reach out to these kids, but they can’t connect. My tattoos are a bridge,” he said. “I don’t want to take them off. I’m completely comfortable in my own skin.”

While a counseling job is still years away, Nunez said he’s often asked to tell his story as an Urban Corps ambassador. He’s honest about even the ugliest details of his past because it gives hope to others with a lengthy rap sheet and no diploma or job skills.


“I speak from my heart,” he said. “I tell them to put one foot in front of the other and don’t leave five minutes before the miracle happens.”


Written by Pam Kragen - pam.kragen@utsandiego.com








Many Groups Seek New Sources of Funds as Economy Recovers, Study Finds

April 07, 2014

When the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua, in New Hampshire, lost a federal grant that supported its arts programs five years ago, the club had to lay off its dance director and rely on intermittent volunteers. Its arts offerings became sporadic, and some teenage girls stopped coming to the club.

Last year brought another blow from a once-dependable source of funds: The local United Way cut its operating support in half, a $50,000 hit to the Boys & Girls Club’s bottom line.

Now the club is trying to put such frustrating financial gyrations in the past, with a bold effort to quintuple its endowment, from $3-million to $15-millon, in the next five years.

Such an endowment could provide income of about $750,000 a year, nearly a third of what the club expects to be spending by 2019.

“That would allow us to sustain our programs even if an important grant were to go away,” says Patricia Casey, the club’s chief development officer. “We never want to have to close a mission-critical program because of funding sources we can’t control. When we lose those kids, they don’t come back.”


Risky Changes:

study of more than 5,000 charities released today by the Nonprofit Finance Fund suggests that the New Hampshire group is one of many nonprofits that are seeking new financial models.

Though many groups hoped the economic recovery would help shore up their finances, the study shows they are realizing that the financial downturn wasn’t the only source of their financial woes. As a result, they are trying to fashion new approaches to avoid relying so heavily on traditional sources of support like government grants and contracts.

The survey doesn’t paint an especially dire picture for current finances; 71 percent of charities said they either broke even or had a budget surplus last year.

But 41 percent of the groups reported long-term financial sustainability as their greatest challenge. And 47 percent said they planned to engage in long-term strategic or financial planning in the coming year.

Antony Bugg-Levine, the Nonprofit Finance Fund’s chief executive, says that in his organization’s work with charities, he sees wariness about the traditional systems of financing that nonprofits have long relied upon.

Government support, for example, remains among the biggest source of funds, but it is often described by charity leaders as “risky.” Even so, the charities jumping into new strategies are doing so without an established playbook, he concedes.

“They’re trading a system that they know doesn’t work for one that they don’t know but hope will work,” Mr. Bugg-Levine says. “There’s a lot of risk in this change for nonprofits.”

Demand for charitable services continues to rise even as the economy improves, the survey found.

Eighty percent of groups reported an increase in demand in 2013, and 56 percent said they were unable to meet demand—the highest proportion of groups unable to do so in the six years the fund has conducted the survey.

The rising demand may seem counterintuitive, given the strengthening economy, but Mr. Bugg-Levine says that some recent data from New York City, where he works, is in line with the survey results: Homeless shelters in the city housed a record 53,615 people in January, and more than one in four homeless families are headed by a working adult.

“We’re out of the crisis in terms of job creation, but we also know what’s going on around the country in terms of income inequality,” Mr. Bugg-Levine says.

Urban Corps of San Diego County, which operates a charter school and provides “green” job training, runs programs for 200 troubled young people—and has a waiting list just as long.

Robert Chávez, the chief executive officer, says he hopes to build more relationships with local contractors and businesses seeking to hire corps members for recycling and habitat-preservation projects.

“Our ultimate goal is to be 100-percent sustainable through fee-for-service contracts,” Mr. Chávez says.

Grants and government contracts would become the “cherry on top” of that earned income, and would be used to provide extras for students, such as college scholarships.

Mr. Bugg-Levine points out that not all charities experimenting with new financing models will find success.

While not commenting on the Urban Corps’ plans specifically, he says he views the survey finding that 26 percent of groups intend to pursue an earned-income venture in 2014 as “a worrisome trend.”

“Most nonprofits are not well placed to do better than the average small businessman in their community,” he says.

What’s more important, he says, is the changing zeitgeist among nonprofits, and the awareness that new approaches are necessary. Charities might be better off trying to demonstrate the impact of their programs, he argues, so that they can seek support from the increasing number of foundations and government agencies exploring “pay for performance” projects.


Paying for Data:

But the survey data raise questions about whether charities will have enough money to pay for independent appraisals of their program outcomes.

Seventy percent of charities in the survey said their donors typically requested data documenting the impact of their programs. But just as many groups said the cost of such analysis was rarely or never covered by the donors asking for those records.

Mr. Bugg-Levine argues that foundations could see more impact by providing funds to help charities pay for such assessments. “It’s the ability to prove impact that can help change the political conversation around public funding for these organizations,” he says.


Nontraditional Pitches:

Don’t expect charities to propose that idea to their supporters.

While 53 percent of groups reported that they could have an “open dialogue” with donors about expanding programs, far fewer were comfortable engaging supporters on topics like general operating support (32 percent), multiyear grants (20 percent), or flexible capital for growth (9 percent).

That may be because nonprofits have learned that they won’t get much of a hearing when they stray from the traditional pitch for program support.

E3 Alliance, a nonprofit collaborative working to improve the education system in central Texas, set out several years ago to increase the number of high-school students who take challenging math and science courses by cajoling college engineering deans to give college credit to high-school students who complete such courses.

But Susan Dawson, the alliance’s president, says Austin philanthropists had no interest in supporting an “operating reserve” that the group needed to cover the costs of staff time spent ironing out agreements with universities.

“They wanted to help us recruit more students into the pipeline,” Ms. Dawson says. “But I do have to pay for our time working with college professors. It’s more nebulous, more complex, and more time-consuming, but it’s a key steppingstone.”

Kerry Sullivan, president of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, a longtime sponsor of the Nonprofit Finance Fund’s survey, says the new data should prompt grant makers to “fundamentally rethink” how they work with nonprofits.

“The philanthropic community, now more than ever, has a responsibility to ensure that investments are supporting organizational efforts to generate measurable outcomes and drive impact,” she says.


Long-Term Planning:

But the nonprofits themselves ultimately bear the responsibility for identifying a path to sustainability, Mr. Bugg-Levine points out. And he is encouraged that nearly half the charities in the survey say they’re engaged in long-term planning.

Tech Impact, a Philadelphia charity, was founded more than a decade ago to provide technology support to nonprofits, and it serves as the de facto IT department for more than 100 charities.

But in the past three years, it has added another service: job-training programs that help low-income youths enter tech careers.

Patrick Callihan, Tech Impact’s executive director, says the charity recently decided that it could make the greatest difference by investing more heavily in its job-training program.

The charity already works with youths in Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del., and it is likely to move to Las Vegas next. Tech Impact is paying for that expansion by eliminating the subsidy it once provided to lower the cost of its consulting services with nonprofits.

“We’re now shifting that work to be as close to break-even as possible,” says Mr. Callihan, noting that the charity’s fees are much lower than those charged by for-profit consultants.

While some groups tap government contracts to help cover the cost of job-placement programs, Tech Impact isn’t interested in that approach.

Some contracts require that students receive a job placement within 30 days, and Mr. Callihan says he has learned that many of the employers who hire disadvantaged youths want to test them first in an internship. That can make it hard to collect under the government contracts.

“Thirty days sounds good on paper, but it doesn’t always work that way,” Mr. Callihan says. “Government funding is risky funding in many ways.”



Written by Ben Gose​

Urban Corps Cleans Up Qualcomm Stadium

December 16, 2014

"About 100 young people clean up the trash left behind at Qualcomm Stadium in a program that's helping many get back on their feet and work toward a career. NBC 7's Elena Gomez reports: "We all enjoy the Chargers games, but have you ever thought about what goes in to cleaning Qualcomm stadium after you leave, turns out it's 100 young people from Urban Corps..."

Click here to watch the Video

Source: NBC San Diego

Urban Corps of San Diego County Charter School Celebrated the Commencement of its Largest Graduating Class in History

August 03, 2015

For many of the students, graduation was a time to look toward the bright futures ahead of them. However, it was also an opportunity to remember a fallen Corps member, and friend, Kevin Michael Lantz Jr. In 2007, just weeks before his own graduation, Kevin unexpectedly passed away at 23. On the date of his commencement, Kevin's sister, Sista Lantz, courageously accepted his diploma addressing graduates on her brother's behalf.


Eight years later, Kevin's legacy lives on in the hearts of his fellow Corps members thanks to the Kevin Michael Lantz Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund. The scholarship is made possible by the generosity of local business owner Vince Kasperick, founder, and president of AimLoan.com, a direct mortgage lending company where Kevin's mother Jill Lantz is employed. Following Kevin's passing, Kasperick created the fund to honor Kevin's memory; to date, AimLoan has donated more than $82,000 in scholarship awards for Urban Corps graduates. "The Lantz family has been an important part of the AimLoan story for more than 15 years," says Kasperick. "Kevin Jr. personified the entrepreneurial spirit that has built our company into what it is today. These scholarships help to carry on his optimism and ability to get up and carry on, no matter what life throws at you."

San Diego Business Journal

Chicano Park Recreation Improvement Project

November 05, 2015

The project culminated with a press conference and ribbon cutting held November 5, 2015. The event was attended by elected officials including San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, California Senator Ben Hueso, California State Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez, and San Diego Councilmember David Alvarez. Also in attendance were community members, Corpsmembers, and key staff from the City of San Diego Park and Recreation and Planning Departments.

Urban Corps Brinda Educación Laboral a Jóvenes

December 04, 2015

Para Alfredo Silva, Chicano Park representa comunidad, familia.


“Es un lugar donde mi familia se reúne, para una carne asada, para pasar un buen rato”, dijo Silva, quien creció y vive en Barrio Logan, a unas cuadras del parque.

Silva fue uno de los 14 estudiantes de Urban Corps of San Diego County que trabajaron en las mejoras a las áreas recreativas en Chicano Park, que se abrieron al público el mes pasado.


Pero las habilidades y conocimientos laborales que Silva adquirió durante el programa le servirán para toda la vida, aseguró el joven de 21 años.


“Se siente bien ayudar”, dijo Silva, quien recibirá su diploma de high school de Urban Corps en una ceremonia el 18 de diciembre. “Me siento muy emocionado de hacer estas mejoras en Chicano Park porque yo crecí alrededor de aquí”


Urban Corps of San Diego County es un programa que le da a la juventud en San Diego una alternativa a la educación tradicional a través de entrenamiento laboral práctico, desde manejo de equipo de construcción hasta jardinería.


Julio Salas es otro estudiante de Urban Corps que trabajó en el Chicano Park. Dijo que el programa del Urban Corps, en el que los estudiantes se les paga por su labor de varias horas a la semana, ha hecho un gran cambio en su vida.


"Me ha dado la disciplina que necesitaba para concentrarme en mi educación y en el aprendizaje de nuevas habilidades", dijo Salas, quien tiene 19 años y está terminando la escuela secundaria a través de Urban Corps. "Al mismo tiempo, estamos ayudando a nuestra comunidad".


Para Brian Schoenfisch, planificador principal del ayuntamiento de San Diego, el proyecto de Chicano Park es muy inclusivo gracias a Urban Corps.


"Este proyecto es un ejemplo de reconocimiento de la importancia de las voces locales dentro de la comunidad y dar a conocer la energía creativa de Urban Corps en una asociación única con la ciudad", dijo. "Esta es una gran manera de colocar a la juventud en los roles de trabajo positivos en la comunidad y demostrar que podemos hacer la diferencia trabajando juntos".


El regidor de San Diego, David Álvarez, que representa al área de Barrio Logan, dijo que Urban Corps es uno de esos programas que benefician a todo el mundo.

“Yo apoyo mucho la labor de Urban Corps en la comunidad, especialmente su parte en la transformación positiva que ha ocurrido en Barrio Logan. El entrenamiento que ofrecen es beneficioso para muchos”, dijo Álvarez.

José Casillas, un estudiante Urban Corps que también está aprendiendo inglés, dijo que el programa le ha ayudado a aprender nuevas habilidades laborales.


"Ahora sé cómo utilizar las herramientas de construcción, y aprendí cómo operar la maquinaria, que me ayudará a conseguir un trabajo cuando me gradúe", dijo Casillas.


Urban Corps tiene actualmente varias posiciones abiertas para adultos jóvenes entre 18 y 25 años que quieran participar en el programa. Los aprendices reciben capacitación laboral pagada al tiempo que ayudan a su comunidad y obtienen un diploma de high school de la Urban Corps Charter School, de acuerdo con Robert Chávez, director ejecutivo de Urban Corps.


Los jóvenes trabajan en la comunidad tres días a la semana y asisten a la escuela dos días por semana.



Si usted o alguien que conoce necesita un trabajo y un diploma de high school, averigüe cómo aplicar llamando al (619) 235-6884, al número gratuito (855) SD-CORPS o visite www.UrbanCorpsSD.org

Written by Pablo J. Sáinz - La Prensa News

Urban Corps Reshaping San Diego

December 07, 2015

“Everyone deserves a second chance to clean up their mistakes.”

One local nonprofit takes those words quite literally. Urban Corp gives young adults the second chance to go back to high school all while developing new skills through job training. The organization has been connecting these 18-25-year-olds to the San Diego community since 1989, serving more than 10,000 individuals. The second chances have resulted in millions of recyclables collected, thousands of trees planted and hundreds of homes rehabilitated.


Urban Corps Program:

Earning their high school diploma is vital to the future of Urban Corps members, though equally as important is the opportunity of a job and to earn an income. Getting job experience in temporary positions, in combination with training for future careers, builds a solid platform for individuals to provide for themselves and for their families. Some of these young adults, such as Eliseo in the video below, may not have otherwise had the chance.


Over the years, Urban Corps has implemented programs that provide their youth with the opportunity to gain skills in a variety of programs. From home improvements projects to landscape design and from habitat restoration to graffiti removal, the opportunities (and lessons) are abundant.


The added benefit of maintaining and building up the local streets and neighborhoods ofSan Diego often gives individuals involved in the program a fresh perspective. It’s the hands-on work that shows a person can make a positive difference while earning a paycheck, and since Urban Corps reaches people at such a young age, it influences them way beyond the years they’re actually in the program. On the surface, it might be just litter pickup or planting a tree. In reality, it becomes much more than that. It’s transforming lives and sometimes separating past from future. And there are thousands of people to prove it’s working.


Reshaping San Diego:

Urban Corps has undeniably reshaped the look and feel of San Diego. It not only gives young adults the skills and attitude to be productive members of society but has made a lasting impact on some of the County’s most valued resources. For a concrete example, take a look at what members did just last year: 1,600 trees planted, 11 miles of trails improved, 2,700 volunteer hours, 5.5 acres of habitat restored, 104 high school diplomas.


Consider these types of projects (and much more) have been going on for years, and it gives a true sense of the overall impact this nonprofit is making. Over 400 young people each year make a commitment to changing their own lives for the better and end up changing the community for the better.


Grants and sponsorships from the likes of the Starbucks Foundation and AT&T, among others, make it all possible. The financial support has allowed everyone involved to thrive and continue to contribute to youth development in the area. The second chance is truly paying off.


The History Behind Urban Corps:


The timeline starts in 1976 with Gov. Jerry Brown. Piggybacking off of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, Brown created the California Conservation Corps (CCC) with the intention of protecting and restoring California’s environment and resources. Witnessing the establishment of the CCC was Justice Anthony Kline, Legal Affairs Secretary to Brown at the time and later a judge in the juvenile justice court system. In the latter position, Kline saw a dire need for programs focused on turning young lives around and the thought naturally bonded with the CCC. He made it a goal to establish local Conservation Corps throughout the state, first doing so in San Francisco with the support of then Mayor Dianne Feinstein.


After the initial success in San Francisco, Justice Kline started reaching out to the rest of the state of California. Among those on the list to receive a call was The Honorable Lynn Schenk, a former colleague in the Brown Administration. The passion for the program was mirrored by Ms. Schenk, as she made the first push for its implementation alongside San Diego City Council Member Wes Pratt. San Diego residents Marion and Bud Wilbur led a group of citizens in pushing Mayor Maureen O’Conner towards building a local corps in San Diego. Eventually, through countless business and community supporters, the Urban Corps of San Diego County was formed in 1988. $125,000 in donations were raised as seed money and Sam Duran was hired as the founding Chief Executive. Twenty corps members were hired three months later (and the rest is history).


Written by DJ Johnson - The FILL


Mayor helps kick off beautification project in Logan Heights

February 27, 2016

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer planted a tree Saturday near a Logan Heights elementary school during a city beautification effort. Faulconer, who was joined by students, teachers and community members, planted the drought-tolerant tree on a city sidewalk behind Burbank Elementary, located on Julian Avenue.


The city will plant 300 trees in Logan Heights, said Jen Lebron Kuhney,press secretary for the mayor’s office. The city government will plant 1,800 trees throughout San Diego this year.


About 100 people attended today’s event. Along with Faulconer and Logan Heights residents, representatives from Tree San Diego, One San Diego, CalFire and Urban Corps were on hand. The family living in a house across the street from Burbank Elementary was so happy that they helped plant a tree, too.


Last year, One San Diego contacted Tree San Diego on the project and Logan Heights. The city — with help from Tree San Diego, Urban Corps and One San Diego recently received a grant from CalFire to pay for the 300 trees. San Diego is a member of Tree City USA. Its Climate Action Plan includes a goal of achieving 35-percent canopy cover by 2035.


Written by CW6 Staff

Tax credits for employers who hire young ex-offenders

February 26, 2016

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) - A state lawmaker from San Diego is pushing a bill that would open more job opportunities to troubled youth.

State Senator Ben Hueso is trying to help young adults who are looking for a fresh start after serving time behind bars.

California has more people in jail or prison than any other state in the nation. This bill addresses a very real problem. 

What happens when hundreds of thousands young people finish their sentence and get out, only to find they can't catch a break?

Alan Moreno, 22, works part time at an e-waste recycling center. He works for the Urban Corps of San Diego County. He's also taking classes to earn his high school degree.

Moreno is one of the young Californians who may benefit from a bill proposed by Senator Ben Hueso.

Hueso wants to give people who are 18 to 25, and previously convicted of a felony crime, a better chance of landing a job.

The senator has proposed a tax credit for employers who hire people like Moreno.

The bill would allow a company to claim a tax credit equal to 20 percent of the employee's pay, with a ceiling set at $15 thousand for the business.

Robert Chavez is the CEO of Urban Corps, a job training and education program. Chavez said this state should reward employers for giving young people a second chance.

Hueso said the 14 months after a person is released are the most critical in trying to re-enter the community.

Without rehabilitation and the chance at a steady job, younger ex-felons will go right back to jail.


Written by Sasha Foo

Urban Corps 2016 Graduation

June 22, 2016

On June 22nd the Urban Corps Class of 2016 received their long-awaited diplomas. The commencement ceremony was held at Harry West Gym on the San Diego City College campus. When the students entered the room it was truly inspiring to see their triumphant smiles, as they had just accomplished what many told them they were not capable of. Graduate Speakers Victor Barboza, of the Urban Corps, and Michael Rangel, of the CCC, shared their stories explaining how they overcame obstacles and found themselves part of the Corps family. 


The ceremony featured Keynote Speaker Christine Moore, Urban Corps First Vice President of the Board of Directors and Director of External Affairs for AT&T California. Christine shared about her own hardships and gave the life advice “leap and the net will appear.” A total of $8,500 in scholarships were awarded to students, including five coveted AimLoan.com Scholarships in Memory of Kevin Michael Lantz, Jr., as well the RJD Shine, Sam Duran Legacy, Monjazeb Family, and Urban Corps Charter School Board scholarships. Urban Corps wishes to thank our generous scholarship providers as well as our graduation sponsors: Mission Federal Credit Union, Cintas, Faith Insurance Service and City Heights Community Development Corp. The 2016 class showed much appreciation for the sponsors and Urban Corps staff, knowing their accomplishments would not be possible without their support.

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Urban Corps of San Diego County

San Diego Center - 3127 Jefferson Street San Diego, CA 92110

North County Center - 2200 Micro Place Escondido CA 92029


Phone: (619) 235-6884 I Fax: (619) 235-5425

Office Hours: Monday – Friday  08:00AM – 4:30PM