Haydee Almanza didn't think she would need a high school diploma when she dropped out at age 18. She didn't think she’d need it when she found a steady job at a Los Angeles clothing shop.
It wasn't until she had her first child at age 21 that the reality hit her.
“I wanted my son to have a parent with a high school diploma,” says Almanza, now age 25. “I wanted to finish. I wanted him to know what was possible.”
Almanza looked into several adult education programs but found they cost too much money or made it hard to keep her job. Her family didn’t believe she was serious and wouldn’t support her. Then she found a brochure for the Los Angeles Conservation Corps.
The program provides academic support, as well as employment opportunities for young people ages 18 to 24. Students in the Young Adults Corps take eight-week blocks of high school classes, alternating with eight-week blocks of paid, on-the-job training.
To date, the Corps has helped more than 700 young adults earn their high school degrees and provided scholarships to more than 500 former or current participants working toward college degrees or vocational certificates.
The Corps also serves younger teens in its two full-time charter schools and in its Clean & Spring program, which pays 14- to 17-year old students for community beautification work. And it offers enrichment activities and tutoring to elementary and middle school students through afterschool programs.
Almanza earned her high school diploma in four months and is now in her second year at community college. She hopes to transfer those credits to a four-year college and study fine arts or sociology.