Dear Friends,

 Time flies. It’s been a while since I have been in touch, and in that time, we have allcontinued to face numerous challenges.

One of our Corpsmember leaders, Clarissa, was speaking to our Board last weekabout her experience this year. “We’ve had to adapt to all these changes and it justmakes you stronger,” she declared.

It’s that spirit and strength that is inspiring our upcoming virtual speakers’ series,Resilience: Unleashing the Power of Youth, that kicks off tomorrow. You are allinvited!

Over three lunchtime gatherings, we will let you into the conversations that havebeen going on these last few months about the unique challenges and opportunitiesfacing young adults today.

We start tomorrow, Tuesday, October 20, by discussing “Investing in the Future:What a Green Economic Stimulus Package Means for Opportunity Youth.” Weneed to focus on young adults from the neighborhoods with the highest rates ofunemployment as we envision future economic stimulus and its benefits. As authorIbram X. Kendi explains, it is vital to look at social justice and injustice through thelens of unemployment; instead of describing neighborhoods as “bad” or “unsafe”,being honest about the primary driver of poverty—a good job.

 I’ll be joined by Senator Maria Elena Durazo, a true champion of the power of ajob and the benefits of hard work. Drawing on her own childhood experiences, shefights for equal rights and resources for immigrants and in 2020 introduced SB1296, the Nature and Parks Career Pathway and Community Resiliency Act, to establishindependent grant programs to fund climate mitigation, adaptation or resilience,natural disaster and other climate emergency projects. She is a strong advocate ofconservation corps and understands the importance of creating pathways to goodliving wage green jobs.

Mary Ellen Sprenkel, the CEO of The Corps Network, will share what the corpsmovement is advocating for in Washington, D.C. A strong economic stimulus infusedwith green infrastructure (both built and planted) now will ensure that thecommunities we serve and those where our Corpsmembers live are part of acomprehensive recovery.

We’ll welcome back Michael Barahona, an alum who has taken his urbanconservation experience to the forests and natural lands around Denver in his role ascrew leader with the Mile High Youth Corps. Michael was a leader among his fellowCorpsmembers and an advocate for the power of youth in demanding and workingtoward change in LA’s most underserved communities. 

I will be moderating our second panel on Thursday, October 22, from Butte County,where two of our crews are assisting the Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps withAnimal Search & Rescue and Animal Care in response to the recent North ComplexFires. I’ll be joined by Jake Levine, a member of Covington & Burling’s public policyand clean energy/climate industry groups. Jake was recently tapped to help researchand plan the implementation of the new California Climate Action Corps to mitigateclimate change, foster more equitable outcomes across all communities and create newopportunities for service and pathways into professional development.

Jake will be speaking with the Corps’ own Lawrence Melendez, Sr. ProgramManager, and Oscar Murillo, a current Corpsmember who is helping Lawrence with aGIS mapping project. We’ll talk about the most powerful and simplest tool to addressclimate change – trees!

As you may have read in a message I sent last May, conservation corps are rooted intree planting…from the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, which boasts theplanting of 3 BILLION trees, to the modern day service and conservation corps acrossthe country that planted over 1 million trees last year. We’ll dive a little deeper into ourtree planting history and current goals and the other ways that, as the title of this panelindicates, “…Youth are Stepping up to Confront Climate Change and DisasterResponse.” 

Finally, on Thursday, October 29, we will talk about the personal struggles ofyoung people over the past 7 months and address straight on the “Health andMental Health Challenges for BIPOC Youth in 2020”. Our Latinx and BlackCorpsmembers are part of LA’s (and the nation’s) populations hit hardest by thepandemic – both economically (some are the only ones in their families earning apaycheck right now) and as a result of the social injustice that plagues BIPOC.

I’ll be joined by California State Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, who as a formerparticipant in our Clean & Green program, knows the struggles Corpsmembers face,and is working every day to ease their burden through drafting and fighting forlegislation targeted at homelessness, unemployment and protections for essentialworkers. Her work seeks to ensure healthy environments for all. She’ll be joined by a current Corpsmember who will share what it’s like to deliver essential servicesduring COVID and what “equity” looks like in an uncertain world.

Each of these topics fuels my passion to live the Corps’ mission. Through workexperience and building their own green career pathways, Corpsmembers arecharting their own courses to self-sufficiency and affecting the health of their owncommunities and our shared environment as a whole. 

I hope you’ll join us to hear directly from those who create policy, those whoadvocate for it and our Corpsmembers who demand that it works for them.

Yours in service and gratitude,

Wendy Butts
CEO, LA Conservation Corps