A high school diploma and job skills: get both with the new Escondido program

A program that has provided vocational training and education to young adults for more than three decades in San Diego County strengthens its presence in the north of the county with the opening of a new training center in Escondido.

Urban Corps of San Diego recently held a grand opening to announce its new Escondido Training Center at 2200 Micro Place, though planned renovations to the center will not be completed for several months.

Urban Corps offers people between the ages of 18 and 26 the opportunity to graduate from high school, while working 32 paid hours per week to learn job skills.

After corps members graduate from the program, they are helped to find employment or prepare for college, said Kyle Kennedy, the group’s CEO. The group’s website notes that 70 percent of corps members get jobs after graduation and 22 percent go on to college.

Corps members typically spend one day a week in class to graduate from high school, and four days a week at county yards.

The program is free for participants. Aspiring corps members can complete an online application at the group’s website or attend an information session at the group’s center in San Diego – near the Old Town light rail station – or at the new Escondido location.

Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 26, live in San Diego County, and be prepared to take a drug test.

“We will take anyone who wants to improve their life by graduating from high school and getting their job skills,” Kennedy said.

Currently there is no waiting list and it is possible to complete an application or attend a briefing at the start of a week and be working by the following week, Kennedy said. .

“We have a lot more work than we have employees right now,” Kennedy said.

The corps hires its teams to work for private and public sector employers to handle tasks such as graffiti removal, garbage collection, storm sewer debris cleaning, brush clearing, recycling and construction. During their time with the corps, members earn a minimum wage, currently $ 14 an hour but up to $ 15 in January, and they can earn raises by meeting certain performance goals, Kennedy said.

Among the local towns that have hired Urban Corps is Carlsbad, which relies on program workers to perform tasks such as cleaning up garbage and debris from major roads, said Clayton Dobbs, environmental program supervisor at the ministry. of Carlsbad Public Works.

Corps employees also remove graffiti, pressure wash downtown streets and sidewalks and elsewhere in the city, and clean vegetation and waste from storm sewer outlets, Dobbs said.

The body has worked for Carlsbad for 15 years, Dobbs said. “They are a huge asset to us.

Dobbs, who has worked in the city for 33 years, said hiring Urban Corps was “the smartest decision I’ve ever made.”

Current corps member Reyna Machado, 22, of Lemon Grove, said the program has helped her grow both personally and professionally. Prior to joining Urban Corps, she said, she held a series of restaurant and glass shop jobs. The jobs offered no path for advancement, she said, mostly because she didn’t have her high school diploma.

She is expected to graduate next month after nearly two years in Urban Corps, her degree proudly in hand.

Urban Corps has “been a very big factor in my life,” she said. “If I had never entered this program, I wouldn’t be where I am right now, so I’m very grateful.

In January, Machado plans to start classes at Southwestern College as she pursues her career goal of becoming a law enforcement officer.

Urban Corps plans to replicate all of the services now offered in San Diego in the new Escondido Center, named after the late Diane Chalmers, longtime chair of the Urban Corps Charter School Board.

A Chalmers bequest, along with a state grant, funded most of the $ 1.2 million purchase price for the Escondido property, Kennedy said. The corps is spending approximately $ 200,000 on renovations to the property, which was aided by a $ 100,000 community development block grant provided by the town of Escondido.

The 4,500-square-foot center will provide charter school lessons, daily breakfast, lunch and snacks for body members, as well as showers and laundry facilities, Kennedy said, as some body members are homeless. Currently, the San Diego center has some 160 corps members and the Escondido center can accommodate 75.

The intention, Kennedy said, is to provide corps members with support for whatever they need, whether it’s a childcare referral, a cell phone, a new costume for an interview or a financial literacy class.

“It’s not just a job, it’s all the help they need to take their careers to the next level,” he said.

For more information, visit www.urbancorpssd.org.

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