Seven PeoriaCorps members successfully graduated from their green infrastructure program.

Monday, PeoriaCorps held a graduation ceremony to celebrate its third cohort.

Having the program launched in October 2017, this is the first time it had all participants complete the program. PeoriaCorps’ Program Director Jamila Wilson said the program has enhanced the lives of more than 20 people.

“Green infrastructure is kind of a new industry so we are directing our young people towards landscaping and trade unions,” Wilson said. “A number of our cohorts are now in solar programs and are now looking to go back to school at ICC (Illinois Central College).”

“This is an incubation space for them to practice these job skills and help hone in on exactly what they are desiring to do with their lives and really help them build confidence,” she said.

“Specifically to the black community, I think it is important that we tap into our roots. Agriculture is something that we have had long experience with in this country and we have been quite successful in the innovation of it. We were literally brought here because of our skilled labor and we need to tap back into that innate skill that we have.”

Over the years, the program has maintained green infrastructure in Peoria by planting and pruning trees, harvesting and planting native plants, painting murals and covering over 200 acres in litter pick-up.

Twenty four year-old Derrik Jones said participating in the program pushed him in the right career path so he can provide the life he wants for his family.

“Our percentage for African Americans to be successful is very low out here,” Jones said. “This was very effective. It will help me with my landscaping and it will help me manage my sites.”

Wilson said PeoriaCorps has begun the recruitment process for its fourth cohort. The fall cohort will begin Sept. 24 and the applications will be available July 18 on the City of Peoria’s website.

This career track and educational opportunity is for unemployed residents who are 18 years or older.

“Anyone needing a little push in life to find the right career path should join,” Jones said. “Just do it. It’s only going to better you and provide you with the necessary tools to be successful.”