Two women have returned to their native Stockton as CivicSpark fellows to help plan the future of San Joaquin County.
Angela Carranza and Hillary Nguyen Pham will be working at the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) on housing issues, clean transportation, and long-range planning for the San Joaquin region in the agency’s first-ever partnership with CivicSpark.
“Angela and Hillary will be contributing to the community in which they were raised through the Civic Spark and SJCOG partnership,” said SJCOG Executive Director Diane Nguyen. “This will be a fantastic opportunity for them to hone skills and gain experience dealing with critical issues facing the region. It’s always a plus when San Joaquin employers such as SJCOG can find talented professionals right in our own backyard.”
Both women see this as an opportunity to make a difference in their community today for a brighter future.
“I always wanted to find a way to give back to my community, so having a project placed in Stockton was perfect,” said Nguyen Pham, who graduated from Bear Creek High School and later from UCLA in 2020 with a bachelor’s in environmental science. “I want to gain a stronger sense of community and do meaningful work and service.”
She said her college experience helped her find her passions for environmental science and community resilience and hopes to apply the knowledge she gained in college to a community setting.
Carranza agreed having a chance to help the community played a role in her seeking a CivicSpark fellowship in Stockton.
“Being assigned to the housing and climate fellow position, I am happy to have a hand in easing the housing crisis and getting needed information back to my community,” said Carranza.
Learning will be a big part of what Carranza and Nguyen Pham will be doing the next 11 months.
“I hope to learn as much as possible,” said Nguyen Pham. “I’m looking forward to seeing how local governments work and interact with the community, learn more about the applications of policies, and gain professional experience. I hope that throughout my service year, I will grasp at every opportunity to learn as much as possible and network.”
She said she hopes the professional development she gains at SJCOG will allow her to continue to do similar work in climate and community resiliency.
“Being a CivicSpark fellow at SJCOG I hope to learn what skills I’m lacking and which skills I can hone,’’ Carranza said. “In the future, I hope to form connections between the work in this fellowship and the knowledge learned in college, all of it coming together to give back to my community and apply it to all that I have.”
Carranza will spend about half her time at SJCOG working on regional housing. She will research potential planning tools that SJCOG could use to help the county and the cities in San Joaquin County increase housing production to address housing shortages. She will also help in the early planning stages to establish a regional housing trust fund to preserve and build affordable housing for county residents.
She will split the rest of her time at SJCOG between developing educational materials for the agency’s Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Implementation Plan and conducting outreach activities with community partners in the South Stockton Promise Zone.
Nguyen Pham will help SJCOG staff with an analysis of existing electric vehicle and alternative fuel locations in San Joaquin County. The information could then put the county in a position to fill gaps in various zero-emission and low carbon-emissions vehicles, which could help improve air quality in the region.
She will also help SJCOG staff manage and conduct outreach, community engagement and education activities for the Sustainable Communities Strategy component of the Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS) update. RTP/SCS is the long-range vision and investment plan for future transportation needs in the region, and the SCS component lays out how the region will meet greenhouse gas reduction targets set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
CivicSpark is a Governor’s Initiative AmeriCorps program that provides local public agencies the resources to address community resilience issues such as climate change, housing, water management and mobility. The program is operated by the Local Government Commission in partnership with the state’s Office of Planning and Research and California Volunteers.
CivicSpark recruits 90 or so fellows each year to work with local public agencies for 11 months on needed sustainability and resilience projects, while building long-term capacity so their work is sustained after they leave the agency. CivicSpark fellows are emerging professionals who end up gaining experience in sustainability and resilience, honing professional and technical skills, and building a robust statewide network of professionals.