Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund helps young adults work toward bright future


By Diane Y. Welch


In the latest round of grant giving by the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund (RSFWF), a total of $284,930 was awarded to eight local charities. One of those recipients, in the economic development category, was Urban Corps of San Diego County. which received $12,865.

Five members of RSFWF opted to conduct a site visit to see the organization in action. Cathy Hopf, the organization’s volunteer coordinator was site leader. She, along with Susie Hayes, Sue Pidgeon, Sue Sanderson and Marilyn Fletcher, visited its San Diego-based campus.

Hopf, a member of the Grants Committee, was assigned to research the organization and present her findings to members. “I was so impressed by Urban Corps that I became a strong advocate during the vetting process,” she said. She learned that the awarded funds will be used as partial support for its Corps to Career program (C2C), which transitions Corpsmembers to either full-time employment, secondary education, or to obtain certifications necessary for their field.

C2C is one of three components that comprise the Urban Corps program. The other two being the Urban Corps Charter School, which gives youths a second chance at obtaining their high school diploma, and the operations division, which oversees the work-learn-earn portion of the program.

Those served are young adults –18-25-year-olds – from low-income communities where there is often noted gang activity. Some participants are refugees who have entered the USA via the International Refugee Council and Catholic Charities.

Work done by Urban Corps participants is primarily in the field of conservation: recycling, habitat restoration, fire prevention and clean up, water conservation, urban forestry, and weatherization energy retrofits throughout San Diego County. In addition, participants may perform community improvements and service, such as graffiti removal.

The C2C department assists youth Corpmembers from enrollment to graduation and beyond, said Klara T. Karter, communications manager. “C2C staff offer developmental case management and one-on-one assistance with resumes, interviewing techniques, job searches, and post-secondary educational goals,” she said. In addition, it helps Corpsmembers obtain their Class B and Class C driving licenses, as well as undergoing safety and vocational job training, job readiness, life skills and self-esteem training.

Other areas covered include personal branding, hygiene, stress management, conflict resolution, punctuality, reliability, cultural awareness, appropriate behavior and interpersonal relationships.

With the funds from RSFWF, the C2C program will be sustained through 2012 and will continue to empower at-risk youth by providing education and job skills to counter unemployment, gang activity, crime and homelessness. Young adults are being aided to become contributing members of their communities, to support themselves economically, and to have a sense of environmental awareness and civic responsibility, said Karter.

Last year the C2C department served 262 individuals, with 177 completing the 12-week career development curriculum. Out of 61 high school graduates, 57 percent transitioned with employment; 80 percent of the graduates enrolled in post secondary education; 153 Corpsmembers obtained certification in an area of interest, including forklift certification, Class B driver’s licenses, Guard Cards and Lead Safety Workers, according to Karter.

Modeled after the original Civilian Conservation Corps, which solved the problem of youth unemployment during the Great Depression, the Urban Corps was started by the San Diego City Council in 1989. Since then it has served 7,000 youths. Hundreds of acres of habitat have been restored, wildfire risk has been reduced,16 million pounds of beverage containers have been recycled, 12,000 trees have been planted and more than 80 million square feet of graffiti have been erased. “Young people who once used graffiti to tag and deface properties are now the ones removing it,” commented Karter.

“We are very grateful to the RSF Women’s Fund for recognizing the importance of our Corps to Career department,” said Chief Operating Officer Anne Bernstein. “It is the significant link between our Charter School and our green job training program and is essential to the success of the young adults, both during their time in the program and as they transition into the world of work or higher education.”


to find out more about Urban Corps.