“Everyone deserves a second chance to cleanup their mistakes.”
One local nonprofit takes those words quite literally. Urban Corps 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 PROGRAMS
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 of San 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’s 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:
Consider these types of projects (and many 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).