Conservation Corps of Long Beach helps youth work on job skills while improving the community

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- The opportunity to enter the workforce for the first time is not the same for everyone.

Christine McKnight, a recruiter for the Conservation Corps of Long Beach says, "There are people who definitely get excluded from just your general track of 'Leave high school, leave college, go into the workforce.' So we're really trying to fill that gap for people who might not have the opportunity to get work training or may not know where to start."

The Conservation Corps of Long Beach is trying to solve the problem of youth workforce development by helping young adults who need job training and in some cases the opportunity to finish their high school education.

McKnight explains, "Sometimes it is people who just fell off the path in high school. And other times, it's people who had much more challenging circumstances and really need a shot at a program that can support them."

Eighty Corps members in Long Beach tackle the hard work of urban resiliency: trail repair, trash cleanup strike teams or projects that partner with Long Beach Water Department to provide free drought-resistant landscaping which saves water for the city and money for the homeowner.

Eivye Ruvalcaba explains what his time with the Corps has been like: "In one year, it's been a lot of experience doing so many things. Digging, planting trees, recycling, just different projects, every time it's pretty exciting."

His coworker Joseph Moon is using his time with the Corps to help decide what he wants to do moving forward.

"I'm kind of using it to gain more information about work. And it gives me time to go to college. Like it really works with my schedule."

Long Beach is one of 14 cities across the state to have a local corps, helping people like Juan Garcia who has made a 12-year career out of the corps, rising to field supervisor.

He explains what he sees participants learning:

"It helps you just be responsible. That's the main thing. How to wake up in the morning, how to put your alarm on, how to say, 'Hey, I'm going to work today,' whether it's going to be 100 degrees, or there's gonna be cold. Just makes you a very responsible person."

Marques Harris, who lives in Long Beach, sees the difference he is making for his community: "I've seen the streets, because I live around Long Beach. So it was a good feeling to go to that street or a certain alley to clean it. And it's not dirty and I get to walk past it now and see that it's clean. It's a good feeling knowing I did it."

The Conservation Corps of Long Beach is helping young adults build a resume and begin to realize their potential through hard work and conservation that benefits all of Long Beach.

McKnight sums up the ultimate mission: "The whole program betters the community. So someone will save on their water bill, the neighborhood looks nicer, our guys get training. It just works out really well for everybody."

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