Empowered C3 Volunteers Work to Improve Chicago’s Environment

By Karen Mark

I am usually known as the “environmentalist” in many of my graduate classes. Recently, a classmate invited me to attend an informational meeting about becoming a “C3.” My immediate reaction was “Sure, but what does C3 mean?” Turns out this is a group of dedicated Chicago volunteers tackling the city’s environmental issues.

The Chicago Conservation Corps (C3) is an environmental volunteer program of Chicago’s Department of Environment. It recruits, trains and supports a network of volunteers who work together to conduct environmental service projects that improve local surroundings and the quality of life.

I attended an informational meeting about the Environmental Leadership Training program and was incredibly impressed by the comprehensiveness of the program and the knowledgeable staff. Any resident of the city can apply for the training. Those accepted attend five courses that cover conservation principles and skills in water, land, air and energy, community organizing and project development. The word is out about this opportunity! Residents from many Chicago neighborhoods come to C3 meetings with ideas, environmental questions, or simply to look for ways to make a difference in their communities.

To complete the training program, participants carry out an environmental service project with support from C3 that includes project development guidance, mentoring on community outreach, and up to $400 worth of materials and supplies for the project. Graduates of the training program can continue environmental service projects with guidance from C3 leaders and funding. The opportunities to give back are endless!

Trainees gain a wealth of knowledge and skills but even those with an in-depth knowledge of environmental issues learn community organizing skills and build connections within the city. Additionally, the C3 Student Club program enables teachers and students in grades 8-12 to become involved in C3 efforts.

True to their motto, “You Care. Do Something. We’ll Help!” C3 gives the knowledge, skills and resources for Chicago residents to make a direct impact in local communities.

Are you interested in doing an environmental or community project? Your first step is to find similar organizations in your community. Try contacting your local (town, city, county or state) environmental agency.

I am really into this program and I know I will be applying this October for the next training series. I encourage you to find a similar opportunity wherever you live!

About the author: Karen Mark is a Student Temporary Employment Program intern in the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Environmental Management and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Public Service Management.

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