Meet Chris Blood, Education Director for the Chavez Environmental Corp.

Following a decade as a Trail Crew Foreman and Logistics Officer with the National Park Service and USDA Forest Service in the Sierra Nevada, then another decade as a college English professor in the Bay Area, Chris Blood joined FIELD in the Summer of 2022, bringing his considerable experience in education to the organization. He now heads up education for the Chavez Corp and its 80 students. Chris talks about his background, his love of the outdoors, and the challenges to teaching this unique group of students.

Chris spoke with us about his work, education and his dedication to the principals of the FIELD and the corpsmembers in the Chavez Corps.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you arrived at the FIELD Institute.

I’ve always had a dual love for literature and for the great outdoors. After I graduated from college, I got a jobworking for the National Park Service in the North Coast Redwoods and Sierra Nevada. Then I switched for the next decade to become a college English professor and lecturer at Cal State University East Bay. I decided sometime in the Fall of 2021, when the spirit and energy at Bay Area colleges were really lagging, that it was time to take a step away from academia and follow a new challenge and a new way to serve students.

How did you come into this position?

I was initially hired as the Career Technical Education (CTE) manager several years ago, but since then my role has evolved. Now I am focused on managing our education programs for the Chavez Environmental Corp.

My connection to this new path began nearly two decades ago through my acquaintance with David Villarino, affectionately known here as David Chavez. He was in the process of recruiting Dave Weaver to lead the Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps, and I found myself at a crossroads.

David mentioned their need for someone to spearhead an education program, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a fresh start. I decided to take a two-year leave. And here I am.

Can you explain more about the significance of the Career Technical Education program?

We work to bridge high school and college-level courses with vocational training. It’s practical, offering certificates in various fields like solar construction and early childhood education. Our program emphasizes both classroom learning and hands-on experience, preparing students for the workforce with valuable skills.

The unique aspect of CTE is its focus on hands-on training without granting a degree; instead, students receive certificates, and we’re working towards integrating industry certifications and college credits into some pathways.

How does the Chavez Environmental Corps fit into this?

The Corps is more of an umbrella for our activities, including the CTE. Most corpsmembers participate in CTE as part of their developmental journey, gaining skills for future employment. My current focus is ensuring they’re enrolled in education programs that match their needs and aspirations.

What does your day-to-day work involve now compared to your previous life in academia?

Previously, I was managing faculty and curriculum for CTE pathways. Now, I act as a mentor or guide, ensuring Corpsmembers are progressing in their educational journeys, from enrollment to meeting their academic and training requirements and to support them in their educational endeavors.

My primary responsibility now involves overseeing the educational engagement of approximately 80 Corps members, ensuring they’re enrolled in and progressing through their chosen educational tracks.

Where are most of your students from?

Our students, or Corpsmembers, are predominantly from the Southern Central Valley and Bakersfield area, with a diverse range of backgrounds and aspirations.

Lastly, what does success look like in your role? What are you aiming to achieve?

Success means ensuring each Corpsmember benefits from our programs, whether they’re pursuing a high school diploma, a CTE certificate, or college courses. It’s about providing the support they need to succeed in their educational and career paths.