Life in the CCC
Before applicants become official members of the California Conservation Corps, they spend time in the initial orientation and training. This intensive session is called Corpsmember Orientation, Motivation, Education and Training or "COMET" for short. COMET usually takes place monthly, at or close to the applicant’s new center. Each center tailors the content, length and location of the initial training to better suit the needs of the area and its corpsmembers. When they enter COMET, trainees are issued their uniforms, oriented to the CCC site/facilities, complete enrollment paperwork and begin basic training. Those in the residential program will receive a room assignment as well.
The first week of COMET is unpaid and trainees serve as volunteers. During this time, COMET usually includes training such as effective communication techniques, safety training, First Aid, hand tool training, Equal Employment Opportunity rights, sexual harassment prevention, violence prevention, life skills, roadside safety, physical fitness training, and an introduction to goal setting. Week two usually includes emergency response training, water safety, teambuilding, educational assessments and more.
While in COMET, trainees receive a physical exam to determine that they can perform the essential functions of a corpsmember. After successful completion of the physical (and the drug test, if not previously completed) as well as the COMET courses, they graduate with basic knowledge and skills to help them succeed in the CCC.
The second week of COMET, trainees become corpsmembers and are now put on the payroll. Once trainees complete COMET, they’re ready to be assigned to one of the crews at their designated center. Additional education and training will take place throughout their stay in the Corps.
A Typical Day
What's life like in the Corps? The day starts early for members of the CCC. Whether they're living in dorms at a CCC center or living at home and commuting to work each day, corpsmembers will be getting up early.
At a residential center, breakfast may be served before the sun comes up. Corpsmembers have a chance for a hearty meal before their day begins. They also take that time to pack a bag lunch to eat on the project site.
Either before or after breakfast, it's time for room clean-up, then off to roll call. Then it's time for the different crews – composed of 10-15 corpsmembers each -- to depart in vans or larger vehicles for the day's project. In the CCC, crews will travel up to an hour or so to reach a project site. Corpsmembers may also be assigned to an internship program.
At the project site, there are "tailgate sessions" to talk about safety and often "work/learn" discussions to discover more about the value of the work the corpsmembers do.
The project work is often very challenging, has an educational/training component and ties into our environmental roots. You’ll work hard, while being offered opportunities to learn new skills, professionalism and all the while becoming more employable.
Crews return to the center in the late afternoon and, for those in the residential program, there's time for a quick shower before dinner in the dining hall. Then, several evenings a week, corpsmembers will attend class, either working on GEDs or high school diplomas or advancing their education through other opportunities. Some will spend time in the center's computer lab. Nonresidential corpsmembers stay a little longer a few days a week for classroom instruction, or, in some locations, devote Friday to their studies.
All corpsmembers will take a "Conservation Awareness" class, studying the environmental principles behind the CCC's work, and "Career Development," preparing them for life after the CCC.
When class is over, corpsmembers are free to spend the evenings as they please, but knowing that the alarm clock will go off early again the next morning.
Most centers have evening community meetings on a weekly basis, giving corpsmembers a chance to discuss issues of importance to them. There are also Corpsmember Advisory Boards with its leaders selected by the corpsmembers themselves.