Monday, November 16, 2009

Work in local parks in the new Austin Conservation Corps

Here's a new opportunity for working a green job locally while you go to college. Thanks to the Austin American-Statesman for today's story about the new Austin Conservation Corps, which provides outdoor work in area parks for young adults. The Austin Conservation Corps is modeled on the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930's when CCC workers built some of the most enduring buildings and trails in our national and state parks. The Austin program is a joint project between Goodwill, Austin Community College, Austin Energy and the Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. It's designed for students to work in the morning and go to college in the afternoon or evening. To find out how to apply, contact Chris Jacobi at Goodwill at 748-2721.

Here's the Statesman article, published today:

New Conservation Corps to beautify trails, help young adults with jobs and education
By Erin Mulvaney


Monday, November 16, 2009

Xavier Netherland said he has felt more independent since he started working a month ago with a team dedicated to preserving the trails alongLady Bird Lake.

Netherland is one of the nine inaugural members of the Austin Conservation Corps — a 12-week program that pays college-age people to improve city parkswhile gettingan education. The 19-year-old Austinite said he hasn't worked very much in the past and has valued his work experience with the program.

He began taking evening classes at Austin Community College shortly after he started working with the corps; all of the crew members are either ACC students or are enrolled for next semester.

"Any young student, or person, could get a lot of experience in this way," said Netherland, whose crew helps maintain native plants along the trails. "We are making (the trail) look more like Texas. I love it. In a way, it's a better experience than school because it makes us independent."

The Conservation Corps was launched by ACC's Center for Public Policy and Political Studies, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Austin Energy and Goodwill Industries of Central Texas. The team began working Oct. 1.

The new group's name harks back to the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program that built parks in Texas. The Civilian Conservation Corps put unemployed young men to work on building roads, planting trees and curbing soil erosion, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Austin's Conservation Corps members are paid $7.25 to $10 an hour by Goodwill, and Austin Energy provides money for a supervisor. The Parks and Recreation Department supplies tools and equipment.

Former Gov. Mark White, a member of ACC's public policy center, said the program is an inexpensive way to clean and repair the trails. "It gives young people a positive way to earn money and a great way to advance their education," White said.

The program falls under the federal Workforce Investment Act, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor, and is intended to help young people from low-income families overcome barriers to education or employment by offering job training and help with post-secondary education, said Laura Griebel, the Goodwill youth services program manager.

"The hope, of course, is that they will continue their post-secondary education and get jobs," Griebel said. "I would love to see some of them get jobs at the Austin Parks and Recreation Department or other green jobs."

The program requires the team to work from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday alongside city employees maintaining the trails. The crew builds retaining walls, fills spots with granite or gravel and works on drainage issues, said David Pereira, supervising coordinator for the corps. Goodwill selects people to participate in the corps program.

The corps provides members with opportunities, Pereira said. "It's a fork in the road. They can ask themselves, do they want to go on, have they found something ... that they like, that they want to make a career out of and get an education for?"

Pereira said that working on the crew is also a hands-on interview for city jobs. City employees get to see the young people's potential as well as learn more about them during their crew work than they would in a half-hour interview, he said.

Shilda Calvin, 23, is the only woman on the crew. She said that she enjoys helping on the trail — whether cutting bamboo, laying cement or building benches. Calvin said that after she finishes studying music management at ACC, she would like to work for the city. "Sometimes, it's tough, but I say to myself, 'Keep working hard,'" she said.

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