California Conservation Corps Helps Fallbrook Teen Graduate From High School With More Than Book Learning

Andrea Pacheco

FALLBROOK – Andrea Pacheco of Fallbrook knew when she signed up that the motto of the California Conservation Corps is “Hard work, low pay, miserable conditions… and more!” What she didn’t realize was that the “and more” would include seeing her dream come true of graduating from high school.

“The Corps has taught me more than what I would have learned at my old high school,” said Pacheco. She attended Fallbrook High School, but didn’t complete the classes needed to graduate.

Pacheco often thought about returning to high school; however, her memories of campus life were unpleasant. In fact, what hurt most about school she says is that when she graduated from eighth grade, no one from her family bothered to attend the ceremony.

Pacheco says it fueled a mistrust about school, teachers, and classmates that translated into no motivation. She tried to find jobs that didn’t require a high school diploma, but what she landed was unstable work that didn’t pay enough to support herself.

Then Pacheco heard about the California Conservation Corps and how it can transform lives.

“Many of our corpsmembers join without completing high school and soon are enrolled in one of the charter schools,” said Bruce Saito the director of the CCC.

Saito added that most recruits enter the CCC having already graduated from high school or even college, but the Corps wants to make sure all of its corpsmembers exit with a high school diploma in hand.

Pacheco enrolled in the Urban Corps of San Diego Charter School that partners with the CCC where she daily attended classes after completing her CCC duties of doing energy conversation work at local schools.

“It’s not easy for them — they work hard in the classroom, and this is after a long day of physical work. But they leave the CCC with solid work experience and a high school diploma.”

A ceremony was held in Sacramento last week for Pacheco and 195 other CCC corpsmembers who also earned their diploma along with meaningful job skills. On Friday, a local ceremony will take place at the CCC center in Vista where Pacheco is based.

Pacheco said the Corps “…taught me how to control my words, what I say to people. It’s taught me to be a better person, someone for my friends and family to count on.”

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