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By Gabriella Landeros

For students like Esmeralda Ramirez and Sofia Pocasangre, saving Civicorps Academy is more than just saving quality education and job-training for young adults and the jobs of qualified educators, it’s a lifeline to survive in what is already a tough economic climate. A chance for a better future, where everyone can have a pipeline to a quality job and the necessary resources to provide for their families. 

“I am a mother and raising a toddler while going to school is hard. I am making it work because these educators help me. Please do not take them away from me. My future is being put on pause by this decision,” said Civicorps Corpsmember Sofia Pocasangre. 

Civicorps is part of the California Conservation Corps, so students are known as “Corpsmembers.” 

Civicorps is a great program. I get amazing one-on-one support from staff. I do not want to lose them. If I lose my teachers, it will hurt me,” said Civicorps Corpsmember Esmeralda Ramirez. 

Civicorps Corpsmembers 

Today, Civicorps Academy, West Oakland’s best and most long-standing education re-engagement program for 18 – 26-year-olds, is at risk of being outsourced. Since 1983, it has stood as a reputable and dedicated organization to give underserved young adults a chance at a brighter future – the opportunity to earn a high school diploma, gain job skills, pursue college, and embark on meaningful careers.  

Civicorps Corpsmember Eduardo Lopez

“We have a solid program that works and has constantly proven to work. There is no need to divest in quality education, where underserved youth are benefiting increasingly from. We realize there are funding issues, but taking it away from programs that are only investing in what we all want to achieve as a community – a decent home to raise our families, good schools, and safe communities – is not the route to go,” said Civicorps Lead and Social Studies Teacher Avery Moore. 

Moore Leading Class Discussion  

Civicorps has a nearly $10 million annual budget. They project a $90,000 savings – 1% of the overall budget – by closing the Civicorps Academy and outsourcing to a low-cost bidder. 

Especially now, when Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) are experiencing the largest financial hit by the pandemic, a community program like Civicorps is needed now more than ever. There are many ways to save money, but divesting in education for young adults who have been neglected by school systems should not even be on the table. Civicorps is one of only two majority Black charter high schools in Oakland. Its flexible, highly resourced Academy is the reason why students choose to attend. 

Civicorps Corpsmember Speaking at Rally 

“When we say, ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Defend Black Lives,’ we are not just talking about ending police violence. We are talking about ending all the disparities that Black people face in this country; including having access to a quality, rigorous, and culturally relevant curriculum so that Black youth have the opportunity to graduate and excel in both college and career. I request that the Board does not divest from the Civicorps Academy and outsource it to an entity that will not provide the rigor, care, and quality that the current academy does. It is incredibly difficult to find schools where Black youth can get a quality education, and the Academy is one of them. Protecting Black life means protecting Black education,” said Cat Brooks, Executive Director of the Justice Teams Network. 

Civicorps Corpsmember Terk Johnson

“We need deep community engagement in this process, as the impacts will be significant. When we say, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ we make that a reality by investing in Black youth, not cutting the programs that serve them,” said Carroll Fife, Oakland City Councilmember, District 3. 

Civicorps Graduation 

By saving this program, more students like Esmeralda and Sofia will receive essential education and job-training so we can all succeed, together.