Luis’ story exemplifies the untapped potential of the youth of Marin and Sonoma counties, as well as the barriers they must navigate to pursue their ideal employment. Since Luis joined CCNB over a year ago, he has gained an interest, as well as key skills, in forestry and the management of green spaces, and he is making strides to enter that field in the near future.
He originally heard about CCNB from his brother. “My brother mentioned that there is a company that takes care of the environment, and that they help you with education and job training,” Luis said. He had no experience with power tools, and that became his first goal. He is now a Sawyer II, which allows him to take on more difficult chainsaw operations in the field, and he has earned a number of other certifications.
“To work in the mountains, in nature, it reminds me of working in my home country Guatemala,” Luis said. While providing these crucial services to our communities, many corpsmembers like Luis also work toward their High School Diploma, and many are learning English simultaneously. Luis is enrolled in ESL classes at College of Marin, and he finds opportunities to practice it at work. “All supervisors in Marin are bilingual, but I try to speak to them in English to practice,” he said.
Luis has also developed a keen knowledge about our local species. “I have learned so much. I have learned about trees: how to take care of the forest, how to identify native and invasive species. For example, I learned when to use manual tools and not a chainsaw with certain trees to not disturb birds’ nests,” he said. He is incentivized to pursue a career in forest management. “I want to have a position where I take care of the forest and trees—like a park ranger,” he added.
“I feel grateful for CCNB’s support in terms of work and education. Everyone on staff gives me good feedback, they motivate me, and they have supported me through employment even in winter, when work is harder to come by,” said Luis. Witnessing the progress corpsmembers like Luis make in the face of additional barriers inspires CCNB to continue helping North Bay youth tap into their full potential.