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5199 E. Pacific Coast Hwy. #608
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Feature Stories

Education Through Environmentalism

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 17
8/23/2013


By Julia Higgins

Sure, we’ve all heard of charities that put their efforts towards promoting environmentalism, helping people gain access to education and fighting unemployment, but what about an organization that does all three? The Conservation Corps of Long Beach, a nonprofit whose mission is to raise self-esteem, develop basic work skills, work ethics and education and promote teamwork for Long Beach area-at-risk youth through a combination of work, conservation and education programs, is dedicated to addressing all these issues and more.

The Certified Conservation Corps are innovative, federally-funded organizations that put thousands of unemployed people to work and have individualized concentrations when it comes to their community-oriented projects. CCLB is one of 13 currently active Conservation Corps in California, but the concept was first introduced by FDR as part of his post-Depression New Deal domestic policy plan for social and economic progress.

The CCCs reflected Roosevelt’s commitment to environmentalism as well as his intentions of lifting the nation out of the worst economic crisis in our country’s history and his vision still holds true today with the positive impact the Conservation Corps of California leave on their communities each year.

CCLB has been active for 26 years and recruits and employs 18 to 25-year-olds and trains them to carry out job duties needed to complete a variety of Conservation Corps projects, primarily in the habitat/park restoration and recycling areas.

According to Joyce McDevitt, Deputy Director of the organization who oversees daily operations at CCLB headquarters, what sets CCLB apart is its ability to combine the process of gaining a high school diploma with acquiring authentic workforce skills while simultaneously promoting community involvement and conservation efforts. “We’re one of the only programs around that has both a school and work-learn program. We supply students with job training and a high school diploma and run additional job skill programs” McDevitt said.

When determining the individuals who receive the opportunity to work for CCLB and have access to its resources, the Corps has the following requirements: candidates must be between the ages of 18 and 25 and be enrolled in a secondary education program while working for the CCLB. Many of the individuals selected attend (or previously attended) John Muir Charter School, which is run by CCLB. For Corps workers-to-be, the Dooley Global Studies Department at Magnet Elementary School hosts an after school enrichment program where first to eighth graders participate in three hours of structured academic improvement, enrichment and recreation five days a week.

“We have approximately 125 students enrolled in the school-only program and an additional 50 kids who are participating in both the school and job-training portion of the program” says McDevitt.

CCLB is currently working on projects centered on workforce preparation that include habitat restoration, infrastructural maintenance and, most recently, providing low cost recycling services for businesses and public entities. The recently-passed Assembly Bill 341 states that all businesses that generate four cubic yards or more of waste per week and multifamily units with five or more members are required by law to recycle.

According to the legislation, the purpose of this new law is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by diverting commercial solid waste from landfills and expand opportunities for recycling in California. CCLB offers low-cost recycling services and can help prevent both businesses and families from being fined.

Since the passage of Assembly Bill 341, the Recycling Program at CCLB is more active than ever. Every day, the young adults who participate in the program pick up recyclables from clients, sort them from the garbage and into the different types of recyclables, compact the cardboard and deliver the sorted recyclable material to various companies who will do the actual recycling.

The program caters to the best interests of everyone involved; the clients of CCLB save money on their waste bills and gain a sense of community awareness and the Long Beach youth involved with the Recycling Program receive the opportunity to become involved in conservation efforts while simultaneously preparing for the workforce. To top it all off, the CCLB’s recycling efforts have kept more than 1,172,537 pounds of recyclables out of landfills since the end of their fiscal year in July.

In junction with the Recycling Program, CCLB identifies their other main project as Fee For Service, which is classified as a beautification project that services Belmont Shore and other contingent Long Beach communities. “Students sweep curbs and gutters, clean graffiti on bus stops and do whatever they can to turn an urban area into more of a nature park. We have interns who work with the Anaheim Business Bureau, Signal Hill maintenance programs, City Hall, the Environmental Services Bureau and the Cerritos Park Department,” says McDevitt. When speaking of interns, Joyce is referring to CCLB students who are concurrently enrolled in the school and work-learn programs who work 25-30 hours a week while attending school full time.

Open enrollment for CCLB’s school-only program is currently occurring and enrolling is the best way for students to gain access to employment opportunities and become involved in the work-learn program. Potential students and interns can visit CCLB headquarters at 340 Nieto Ave. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The Conservation Corps of Long Beach is committed to bettering two of the most important tools in preparing for our community’s future: raising awareness about conservation and taking action to ensure an environmentally friendly society and helping the city’s youth to recognize the value of higher education while inspiring them to give back to their community. Organizations like the CCLB not only ensure a brighter future for Long Beach, but a more positive outlook for the world.

julia@longbeachcomber.com