Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fellows Camping

By Gelmy Ruiz

Over the weekend of May 16-19, a group of six Executive Fellows -- Nick Esquivel, Kathryn Kliff, Jessica Mar, Ashley Tucker, Heather Williams and Gelmy Ruiz -- ventured out to meet the Yosemite I Backcountry crew. Little did the six know what hard work meant. The fellows arrived on Saturday afternoon and were challenged by the first task of the backcountry, setting up their tents. After some struggle the tents were set up and the fellows were ready for dinner. As the group sat around the campfire eating dinner with Backcountry Supervisor Karlson Hubbard they learned some of the lexicon of the campground. A new world of lyrical words opened up featuring such terms as splooge, jungle can, sump and slop. As dinner ended the fellows splooged their dinner plates using the hot water from the jungle cans. They then washed their dishes near the sump and cleaned camp.

After a windy night, the fellows led by Karlson went on a hike up John Muir Trail to Nevada and Vernal falls. As the fellows hiked the trail, Karlson provided background and history about the work the crew performed to maintain trails. Coming down the Misty Trail the fellows were soaked as the waterfalls were at their most spectacular thanks to the rapidly melting snow. Karlson kept up a fast pace, foreshadowing the hard work to come on Monday when the fellows went out with the crew. Returning from the hike the fellows took advantage of the quiet down time to go treat their tired muscles and bathe in the cold water of the creek.

Monday morning started early at 5 a.m. The entire camp was abuzz as corpsmembers prepared themselves for a day of work. The fellows joined corpsmembers and prepared sandwiches for themselves for lunch. After a hearty breakfast the crew, including the fellows, gathered for PT (Physical Training). The fellows tried to keep pace with the crew doing crunches and stretches. Muscles stretched and ready for the day ahead, the crew and fellows loaded into cars headed for Glacier Point. A hike down the trail led to the first order of the day, clearing the snow off the trail. Using shovels and rakes, the crew and fellows worked to clear the path. Although the site offered a spectacular view there was little time to enjoy the view as the hard work absorbed the crew. After a couple of hours of hard, intense work the trail was cleared of snow. As the corpsmembers continued down the trail doing trail maintenance the fellows were excused for the day and were able to enjoy the afternoon at Glacier Point.

After dinner, the fellows spoke to the corpsmember about the Executive Fellowship program and the type of work each fellow was involved in. A lively discussion ensued where the corpsmembers asked insightful questions about the State of California’s budget.

The fellows expected to come camping and join the CCC for a day of work; in the end they came camping and learned the true meaning of the motto, “Hard work, low pay, miserable conditions and more.” The fellows’ hard hats come off, in respect to the great work that the Yosemite I Backcountry crew does on a daily basis.
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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Coprsmember Spotlight

When Melina Vasquez joined the CCC a few weeks ago, she probably didn’t imagine she’d be find herself on a trail in the San Bernardino National Forest, one of the first people in the nation hired with the federal stimulus bill dollars.

March 16, her first regular work day after completing the COMET training, was anything but. It was a major news event, with Melina was interviewed by national and local television crews covering her Inland Empire crew putting the first shovels in the ground to assist the U.S. Forest Service.

Melina, 18, had been eyeing the CCC for a while, and on the waiting list to join for more than six months. When she was laid off from her job in a Victorville chicken restaurant, she began actively searching for employment.

“It was hard to find a job,” she says. “I’d wake up every morning and go after applications. They’d say the same thing, ‘we’re not hiring.’”

Finally, she was accepted into the CCC and went through COMET. “You work as a team with people you don’t even know.”
Melina views the CCC as a great challenge and great opportunity.

“If you want a challenge, the CCC will change your life and bring you that much closer to your goals,” she says. “I love it and hope young people will join and love it like I do.”
Melina grew up in Watts and knew from age four what she wanted to be -- a surgeon. She plans to use her CCC scholarship to help fund her educational goals, which ultimately include medical school.

Her life is not all work -- when she has some spare time Melina likes to play volleyball and listen to music from Korn.

As for being part of the first group of people hired with the stimulus funding, she reflects on her involvement in the recent presidential campaign and interest in current events.

“I’m always watching the news, so it’s kind of interesting that all of a sudden I’m a part of (President Obama’s) plan.”
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Read All About It!

From the New York Times to the San Diego Union-Tribune, from the Boston Globe, to the Hendersonville North Carolina Times-News, and to TV screens across the state, the CCC has captured tremendous media attention this week. The reason? We are the first “shovel-ready” beneficiary of federal recovery funding to actually start using those shovels!

Thanks to U.S. Forest Service recovery money, a CCC crew hit the trail Monday, March 16 near Hemet in the San Bernardino National Forest.

José Murillo’s Inland Empire crew, which includes eight new hires, was swarmed by TV cameras, reporters and photographers, as they put their shovels in the ground and tackled trail maintenance efforts.

Many of the corpsmembers were interviewed, along with Inland Conservation Supervisor Rhody Soria and CCC Communications Director Jimmy Camp.

A substantial story and large color photo appeared the next day in the New York Times, along with Associated Press photos that ran all over the country. But our fame hasn’t ended there. A national NPR radio program wants to interview a corpsmember, and the Los Angeles Times would like to spend a day or two with the crew.

Meanwhile, our trail maintenance continues, with corpsmembers eventually set to work on backlogged projects in all three ranger districts of the San Bernardino National Forest. Along with trail work, the CCC will also help improve energy efficiency at the Forest’s headquarters in San Bernardino.
Click Play > Below

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Corpsmember Spotlight

Monique Sanchez has been with the CCC for five months and in that time has gained a new perspective on life. Monique is from Stockton and prior to joining the CCC was, “running with gangs and on the streets.” A glimpse of a better life came from a corpsmember from Monique’s neighborhood who had been able to leave the streets. Monique remembers seeing her friend after a lapse of several months and recalls being impressed at how much she had changed, now owning a car and living on her own. Inspired, Monique left the streets and joined the CCC.

As a corpsmember on Delta Crew 3, Monique’s life has undergone an incredible change from her days on the streets. She is working on her high school diploma and getting her class B license and finds the most rewarding aspect of being in the CCC is “being able to help the community I live in.”

Monique has this message for young people living the life she left: “The streets won’t be there too long. The CCC helps you straighten out and change your life. Here people are willing to help you as long as you put your part in. It’s not too late."

What had once seemed like an impossible dream, owning a car and living on her own, are now realities for Monique. She plans to get an extension so she may stay in the CCC and finish her high school diploma this year. Congrats, Monique, and keep up the good work! Read more!

Green, the New Black

As the stimulus money starts to trickle into California, green has become the new black. Anybody who is anybody is organizing around green collar jobs and the new green economy. Groups like SERJ (Stimulus Economic Recovery & Jobs Task Force) and Green Jobs Council are rapidly gearing up to bring green jobs and innovation to California. As early as 1978, the CCC was involved in energy conservation work such as windmills, solar water heating and greenhouse and other small building construction.

By 1979, the CCC operated two energy centers: A Solar program (Solar) at Greenwood in El Dorado County and the Energy Conservation program (Econ) at the Training Academy in Calaveras County. The centers specialized in solar hot water installations, energy audits and retrofits, weatherization, HVAC and construction focusing on energy-efficient building. The CCC was green before it was fashionable and is ideally placed to return to its green roots. As people begin to redefine what green means the CCC is poised to train and prepare the new workforce of green collar workers. Read more!

Tool Talk

Pulaski - - A fire and grade tool combing an axe on one side and a grub hoe on the other.

Credited with inventing the tool, Edward Pulaski was a hero from the 1910 Wallace, Idaho fires. During a very dry, windy August, Ranger Pulaski, a member of the US Forest Service since 1908, took a crew of 45 men to combat the fire. Facing a wall of fire with no means to escape Ranger Pulaski led his crew into an abandoned mine tunnel to wait out the fire. Six of the men died but Ranger Pulaski’s actions saved the remaining 39. The fire site is part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Seeing an opportunity to improve fire fighting, Pulaski devised a new tool which is to this day used by Corpsmembers in the CCC and firefighters throughout the United States.

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Overview of the CCC

Employment of Corpsmembers
The CCC hires young men and women between 18 and 25 for a year of natural resource work and emergency response. Corpsmembers earn minimum wage and work throughout the state in urban, suburban and rural areas.

CCC -- Emergency Response Work
For more than 30 years, the CCC has responded to floods, fires, mudslides, earthquakes, oil spills and agricultural pest infestations throughout California. Since 1976, more than nine million hours of emergency response work has been provided.

In 2008, the CCC devoted 141 days straight to fire response, from June to October, calling out the most fire crews in the department’s history.

The CCC can dispatch trained crews of 10-15 corpsmembers within hours, anywhere in the state. Transportation, supervision, tools and safety gear are supplied. Corpsmembers are trained in incident command systems, fire camp support, first aid, CPR, and tool use. They are covered by worker’s compensation and undergo a Department of Justice fingerprint background check.

CCC Partnerships with Other Agencies
Throughout the year, the CCC provides natural resource work for many state, federal and local agencies through work contracts.

The CCC’s largest state work sponsor is Caltrans. Caltrans pays the CCC personnel $18/hour; the agency calculates it would cost $32-36/hour for other labor sources if the CCC were not available.

As a cost-cutting measure, it has been proposed that CAL FIRE could save money by hiring Emergency Workers at $8-10/hour for its fire camp personnel, rather than use CCC corpsmembers. But, while the CCC can be dispatched immediately to fires, CAL FIRE would need to recruit and hire Emergency Workers after the incident is underway. In addition, their wages do not fund hiring, training, workers’ compensation, supervision, tools and safety equipment or transportation.

Apart from the conservation benefits of CCC projects undertaken for government agencies, there are lasting values in the job skills the corpsmembers receive. These skills enable them to successfully join the California workforce after their year in the CCC.

Meeting the CCC Mission
The Public Resources Code describes the California Conservation Corps’ mission as “instilling basic skills and a healthy work ethic in California youth, building their character, self-esteem, and self-discipline, and establishing within them a strong sense of civic responsibility and understanding of a value of day’s work for a day’s wages.” The CCC is also charged with enhancing the educational opportunities and employability of corpsmembers.

With major budget reductions in recent years making it more difficult to meet its mission, the CCC has not waivered from this focus, while realizing increased efforts are needed. High school courses have been provided by two charter high schools (John Muir and Eagles Peak), and since FY 2003-04, the GED/High School graduation rate has increased. IN FY 2007-08, 25 percent more corpsmembers completed their GEDs/HS diplomas than in the previous fiscal year. The CCC has continued to pursue an after-paid-hours education and training program for its corpsmembers. This has included academic courses, career development training, environmental education, community volunteer hours, leadership training and life-skills development.

Teddy's Quote of the day