Trying to get a job without a diploma, work experience or with a felony on your record is extremely difficult.  For young people, it can become a discouraging obstacle that may impact their lives long term.

The Conservation Corps of Long Beach is trying to prevent that by giving young people between 18-26 the opportunity to further their education and the experience they need.

Established in 1987, the Conservation Corps gives young adults the opportunity to get paid and gain experience in different environmental jobs. Those who do not have a high school diploma will receive assistance getting their diploma while receiving training and internships with the City and local organizations.

Kendrin Hopkins has been with Conservation Corps for 16 years.  He is a Long Beach native who has been working with young people in the area for 20 years.

While his passion is helping young people in difficult situations achieve their dreams, he says he does not like the term “at risk.”

“Everyone is at risk of something,” Hopkins said. “Especially with this COVID going around. We just want you to be motivated to come to work.  We try not to turn anyone away.  We don’t care about your background.”

To jumpstart 2022, Conservation Corps held an outdoor hiring event on Friday in the parking lot of the center at 3635 Atlantic Ave. Those who attended could fill out an application on the spot and start orientation the following week.

For 24-year-old Deontae Crummie, this is a step in the right direction for his future. He said he has been looking for security jobs but, because he doesn’t have a diploma, he has not been successful.

He said his search for employment lead him to ICAN, a nonprofit that helps adults with physical and developmental disabilities achieve their personal and career goals.  Rafael Olalde, who works in job development for ICAN, personally drove Crummie to the Conservation Corps hiring event.

Crummie, who starts orientation next week, says he is excited to work and finish his education at the same time.

Christine McKnight, a recruiter with Conservation Corps, says the impact of those who start working toward their getting their diploma while also being employed, immediately impacts their lives.

“It really affects people’s ideas of themselves and their self-confidence,” said McKnight.  “We’re here to build that back up with them.  We want them to feel engaged in our program. We want them to know they are important to us, they are a part of this community, and we’re here to help.”

Hopkins says he knows there are a lot of employers who shy away from hiring felons, but he believes everyone deserves a second chance.

“At the very least listen to their circumstance,” he said. “Listen to their story.”

For those who missed the hiring event, getting assistance and employment is still possible. You can go to their website here.