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Corps members learn job skills

Work in state parks, firefighting among options
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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The California Conservation Corps may only employ young adults for one to three years, but along the way they learn skills they can use for a lifetime. Auburn’s Christian Valley is home to the Placer Center of the corps. The organization’s partnership with numerous others makes it more effective. Sierra College is one of its partners, which helped Placer Center corps member Roberto Meza earn his welding certificate. John Muir Charter School helps some members work toward graduating high school. Any non-graduates are required to continue their education and earn a GED, according to Rod Thornhill, director of the Placer Center. Karla Lozano, a teacher for John Muir Charter School, said they hold a special high school graduation ceremony for corps members in Northern California. “We mentor them and teach them life skills, too,” Lozano said of her job. Maya Deloach, 20, is another corps member who happens to be from San Diego. She is just a couple of tests shy of graduating high school now and is studying to pass her test for a driving permit. “It gives you a lot of structure,” Deloach said. “If you come from a more rough background you can learn how to convert that energy you had getting into trouble into positive things.” Stacie Ochoa, 22, originally from Stockton, wants to make her job with the corps a permanent career. She is one of the driving forces behind keeping the busy kitchen running and dining room stocked with good eats. “I came here because I didn’t want to have to rely on anyone else for money. I like working in here because I work with people. You get to know their different personalities,” Ochoa said. “I try to boost their self-esteem and confidence up and show them I believe in them.” Thornhill said that’s exactly what the California Conservations Corps aims to do, too. Many of his former corps members have good jobs and families now. “They work for state parks, the department of corrections, some of them are in politics,” Thornhill said. “It’s a different experience for folks.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.