by Stephanie Paniagua | Staff Writer |
Your new gardener may be a recent parolee who is an aspiring entrepreneur, thanks to a local city employment agency.
The Water Efficient Landscape, Entrepreneurial Skills and Soft Skills program (WELESS), is a program similar to the Day Reporting Center (DRC) reported on last week’s edition of the Chronicle.
WELESS, administrated by the San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency (SBETA), is a program designed to assist parolees with reintegrating back into the community as well as to teach them how to start a business.
“We looked at it as a training program,” said Patrick Larkin, executive director of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens. “This program is classroom based, hands-on learning out in the field about various plants that are water efficient,” Larkin continued.
“One of the outcomes that we want from the program is for each and every participant to come out with a business plan,” said Nicole Kinney, director of the Inland Empire Women’s Business Center (IEWBC). “We want them to leave here with something,” Kinney continued.
Mayra Garcia, a participant and trainee in the program, said that she wants to own a business that produces gift baskets.
“If one plan doesn’t work out, another one most likely will. This program is going to help me better myself, and that’s why I joined,” said Garcia.
Edward Blackman, another a trainee and participant in the WELESS program, explained that he was in a similar program aimed at the same goal of entrepreneurship.
“When you’re on parole it’s like there’s a black cloud over your shoulder,” said Blackman, “Luckily I already had a business plan, but this program is going to help me make sure that I pursue it.”.
Blackman also said he wants to pursue businesses in water irrigation, efficiency, and landscaping.
Aaron Daniels, a participant of the DRC, also said that he would like to pursue water efficiency as a business.
Daniels explained that he was not aware of the fact that landscaping possessed so many different avenues of work. He further explained that he never thought water efficiency and preservation were such problems until he joined the WELESS program which sparked his interest in the subject.
Daniels also praised the DRC and said that he is grateful the organization found a program such as this.
“I felt excitement and joy when they told me about the WELESS program,” said Daniels. “I honestly thank God for the DRC and all of their help they have given me,” he said.
The WELESS program is broken down into three stages.
These consist of training and instruction in water irrigation and landscaping, training in entrepreneurship and training in soft skills which include teaching the trainees business etiquette such as how to dress, speak and be professional in a business setting, explained Kinney.
“At the end of the day we are helping save and preserve water. We are helping the workforce in this field and giving the trainees an opportunity for success,” said Larkin.
SBETA is working in conjunction with CSUSB’s College of Extended Learning and the Water Resource Institute. IEWBC is a grant administered through University Enterprise Corporation’s (UEC) Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA).
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens is located in the city of Claremont.