SAN DIEGO — Young people in Southern California are getting the opportunity to find careers in green industries.

When 20-year-old Oscar Rosa suits up to start brush removal, he knows how important it is to remove it all so it won’t fuel a wildfire.

“I’m really glad to make a difference," Rosa said. "Even if it’s not my home, to save somebody else’s home.”

Rosa has found purpose in working for Urban Corps of San Diego County, a conservation corps whose mission is to help young adults in underserved communities build a better life through green jobs. A “green job” is anything that benefits the environment, conserves natural resources or makes something more environmentally friendly.

Rosa was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Tijuana. He moved back to San Diego two years ago, where Urban Corps helped him earn his American high school diploma, while giving him a paying job and training that will help him move up in the future.

“I didn’t speak English when I first came, so it was really helpful for me to get like the hang of it and be able to look forward to different opportunities,” he said.  

Before Urban Corps, Rosa fit into a category called “opportunity youth" — young people ages 16 to 24 who are not in school or working.

Everett Au works for the San Diego Foundation as their climate initiatives manager, who gives grants to nonprofits like Urban Corps to expose opportunity youth to careers in green industries. He says it can be scary for young people to try to find a career path.

“I still like vividly remember like the anxiety from like having to figure out what I’m going to do, find a job, find something that aligns with myself,” Au said.  

San Diego Foundation has given $180,000 in grants to connect opportunity youth to green jobs with the goal of helping the entire region be more environmentally friendly in the future, while taking care of communities often overlooked.

“A lot of our work is to help create opportunity to build more inclusive, resilient communities," Au said. "Especially from my end of the work, we’re talking about the environment. How do we make sure those communities most impacted are having the support, get the resources they need to have resilient lives, have vibrant lives.”

Rosa is well on his way to living a vibrant life. He says he’s getting training as a tree trimmer while saving for college.

“For me, it helped me to build like character to get like different skills that I didn’t have before," he said. "To be more aware of the impact that this kind of work like has on the community. So it just gave me like a different perspective.”