Alumni Testimonial: Wilson Feliz

October 05, 2011  |   Posted by :   |   Blog,Uncategorized   |   Comments Off on Alumni Testimonial: Wilson Feliz»

By Wilson Feliz, age 20, Bronx
GCF Clean Energy Corps 2010

I was never really great at anything. Everything I tried I never quite finished. I had decided to take guitar lessons and before I actually went and found a class or a book on how to play guitars I bought the guitar. It’s still sitting in the corner of my room waiting to be played. I wanted to learn so I could one day be one of the greatest. Or at least good enough to get into a band that was going somewhere. I wanted to be rich and famous and get me and my family out of the economic dilemma we were and still are facing. Then after I finished high school came the complication of having a child. Now I really needed to buckle down and get serious about what I’m going to do with my life because I have to support another life.

Wilson Feliz, GCF Alum 2010

My girlfriend, the mother of my child, showed me the flyer for this job at Green City Force. The truth was I was only interested in the flyer because it said $250 a week and a free monthly metro card. So I attended the info session and learned that the job entailed some things I had never heard of in a job before. Some of the zaniest things I’d heard of, ranging from painting roofs white to help save energy to career development workshops that would help place me in a job after the program was over. I hated the fact that it was a program. I had never really had a job before and my first choice was a program!

I had been applying for jobs left and right, online and in written applications. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting call-backs or response emails. I was about to completely give up. Then one day I was just sitting in my house, wasting the day away as usual playing video games and eating myself to obesity, when I saw my daughter just lying down sleeping in her crib. She had been wearing clothes that had gotten too little for her. She looked uncomfortable and stiff. I had never even bought her a pair of clothes since she’d been born. Not a diaper or a toy. It had all been gifts from the baby shower that I had tried to make last till our friends and family bought more gifts on her first birthday. But it seemed months away and although we got help from WIC, a government agency that gives a kind of food stamp for baby formula and other food necessities, they didn’t provide diapers. And she was rapidly consuming them. I put the controller down and picked up the flyer. I had gotten a call back after I handed my application to a lady on the day of the info session. They told me I had to take a TABE test, and I had no idea what it was. But as I held the flyer and looked at my little girl, I thought it was time for a change. I thought that she should have the things in life that my spoiled self had. And I was the one that was going to give it to her.

Before I applied for Green City Force I was in college, and quit in the second semester because I was planning on joining the army. But like most things, I didn’t finish school and I didn’t finish applying to the army. After attending a Green City Force information session, I took a TABE test and got a call back for an interview. I got selected.

GCF Corps Members after coating a rooftop white in 2010. Wilson Feliz is the center of the back row.

I thought that it was over. Little did I know that the trial period had just begun. After our first community meeting, the GCF Team Leaders told us that we were going to be rated on a number system from 0-10, 10 being the best and 0 being the worst. For the first two weeks we didn’t get any pay, just to show our level of commitment. Some people left on the first day, others throughout the first couple of weeks. Then they told us that some of us would be cut. I had no worries, since my scores were always 10’s and I had a perfect 100 at the end of the week.

After a couple of months, though, it got really hard to stay on top of it all – going to work extremely early, and trying not to be being cranky or tired. My body was going through a metamorphosis from lazy to over-worked. My lifestyle changed in a matter of months.

I live in the Bronx, and most of the worksites were in Brooklyn or Queens in places much deeper than I would have liked to travel in this city. I had to get up at least 3 hours prior to the time I would have to wake up if I could just teleport there. I knew I had shined throughout my first couple of months in the program, but my light was dimming. But knowing what an opportunity it was to be selected to learn what it takes to get a good job, I was determined to finish what I started. I was now proudly preaching to my friends about what my job entailed, and how I’d learned so much and grown so much. I hadn’t been much of a recycler or done much of an anything for the environment. I had wanted the world to reach its “day after tomorrow,” just to see what it would be like. But now, I’ve learned that it has reached it, in different parts of the world and even in our own backyards. I’ve joined efforts to help restore our planet’s vitality.

I feel so much gratitude for this program. I knew better than most that Lisbeth Shepherd, our executive director, had to show results to her board and I wanted to be one of those numbers. I want a record somewhere in the Green City Force data sheets to show that Wilson Feliz passed the program with flying colors, and that the program works. I want the board and partners to know that in making this program possible, they have made the lives of the Corps Members that much greater, my life that much greater.

With this being said, I urge anyone who has the opportunity to join this program to join, and take in all of the things Green City Force has to offer. It was made just for someone like me. If you’re low on income and need a job, this is a job that will literally pave the way for more jobs. If you don’t know why you can’t get a job, this job will let you know why. If you care about the environment or if you don’t give a hoot about the environment, then join.

I would like to close with my ideas for the future. Thanks to the many people I have met through Green City Force, I have the option of applying to C.E.C. and other affiliates who are interested in hiring a Corps Member. I’ll apply to different jobs at C.E.C., although my dream job right now is to either to be an auditor or a part of the field crew, because with the hours I could also go back to school and with the pay and a little of my family’s help I can get my own place. Hopefully I’ll be asked to continue working with Green City Force in a leadership role. But I’m just going to keep working and put myself through school because with a degree, and hopefully a Master’s, I can go on to be a leader in one of the promising green job fields.

Update from Wilson, October 5, 2011:

I remember sitting on one of the chairs in front of the receptionist’s desk at Community Environmental Center, interviewing for a position I hoped I could get. Nerves ran through me, but I didn’t them it show. Now I pass by those chairs every day, and don’t even think twice about how I got to where I am and how those chairs were my waiting area into what now may be my career. I never once thought I’d make it through to be a Green City Force alum. I was the laziest kid I know. Every day I woke up with sore muscles and a headache. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that all the sweat and loss of sleep were going to get me to where I needed to go. And although it’s easy to say “yeah, I made it,” I’ve still got a lot more sweating to do before I get that nice air conditioned office, or own my own business. I still don’t know what it is I want to be, but I’m sure glad I made it to where I am. I’m proud of how far I’ve come and how fast I am getting to where is it I want to be.

GCF Alum Wilson Feliz at work at Community Environmental Center in Long Island City

Community Environmental Center (CEC), a key partner of Green City Force, is the largest not-for-profit energy conservation organization in New York State and holds the state’s largest contract for weatherization assistance services. Find out more about CEC here.

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