Photo: Santa Cruz Island, California
What does Los Angeles’ inner city have in common with a rugged island off the southern California coast? A group of young people who are dedicated to making the world a better and greener place. Through an innovative partnership between the LA Conservation Corps and The Nature Conservancy, at-risk youth between the ages of 18 and 24 are helping to restore Santa Cruz Island, while gaining valuable green job training in these difficult economic times.
The LA Conservation Corps, founded in 1986, helps transform the lives of at-risk young adults and school-age children by providing them with educational opportunities and work experience. Joining forces with The Nature Conservancy, Corps members participate in preserving the biological richness of the largest and most spectacular of California’s Channel Islands.
The program has also had a big impact on its participants, among them Nora Ponce, Jeffrey Hernandez and Nick Hernandez.
Twenty-four-year-old Nora Ponce was born in Honduras but has lived in South Los Angeles since the age of 10. She graduated from the LA Conservation Corps’ Headquarter Charter High School this year. Nora is very committed to helping the community, and she believes that the Corps members “make a big difference.”
According to Jeffrey Hernandez, one of the advantages of working on Santa Cruz Island is “the fact that I’m outdoors, smack-dab in the middle of nature, and nothing between us.” The 20-year-old Los Angeles native attended various high schools seeking a better education until he found the Corps.
Nick Hernandez, who says he loves everything about the Santa Cruz Island experience, has made the trip four times. Nick describes his home in South Central Los Angeles as a “concrete jungle . . . which is why I like going out into the wilderness.”