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Volunteer Spotlight: The Ventura Training Center

On Dec. 22, 2023, Surfrider staff and volunteers attended the Ventura Training Center’s (VTC) 2023 graduation. The VTC community has been a tremendous supporter of Surfrider's various beach cleanup programs, bringing positivity and motivation to every cleanup they attend. Surfrider VC would like to take this opportunity to spotlight the work that the VTC has done this year and highlight the graduation of the VTC class of 2023.

What is the Ventura Training Center?

The Ventura Training Center (VTC) is a collaborative program between CAL FIRE, Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO), the California Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). The 18-month program offers previously incarcerated individuals the opportunity to train and develop careers in firefighting, providing emergency response, and resource conservation. Participants also receive rehabilitation and support services in life skills, health & wellness, education, and human development. Of the 150 paroled graduates of the program, over half now have full-time positions with local, state, and federal firefighting agencies.

Surfrider with ARC employee

Photo: Deby Tygell, Ally Alejo, Jose Olmedo, and Joan Tharp at the 2023 VTC graduation.

Of the 38 graduates, 19 were paroled individuals and 19 were California Conservation Corps members – all having officially completed enhanced firefighter training. The graduation hall was lively and packed full, filled with friends and family members of the graduates proudly cheering them on – a testament to the widespread impact this program has on the community. 

Surfrider and the Ventura Training Center


Photo: Group of VTC members at the Oct. 21, 2023 Ormond Cleanup.

The vision of the program is for participants to “become contributing members of society.” VTC honors that through activism within the local community, including volunteering at Surfrider events. The group was introduced to Surfrider through Jose Olmedo, the ARC/VTC Life Coach at the center. Though they have volunteered at many of our cleanup locations, the VTC team has dedicated much of their time to our Ormond Beach & Wetlands cleanups, going above and beyond in their support.

The VTC team brings dedication, motivation, and innovation to every cleanup, going as far as hauling hundreds of pounds of trash by hand in a plastic kiddie pool to and from the dumpster or even (literally) getting their hands dirty pulling water-logged mattresses straight out of the Ormond Lagoon.


Photo: VTC members pulling a mattress out of Ormond Lagoon on Oct. 21, 2023.

According to VC Beach Cleanup Coordinator Ally Alejo, “Jose and his team have been nothing short of inspiring in their commitment and enthusiasm for helping to clean up Ormond Beach & Wetlands. The VTC team never misses a beat, and removes hundreds if not thousands of pounds of trash every cleanup they attend without a single complaint or question asked.” 

VTC trash removal

Photo: VTC hauling trash to a dumpster at the Dec. 16, 2023 Ormond cleanup. 

Integration and engagement with community-based organizations is integral to the success of the Ormond Cleanups program. Without the support of local programs like the VTC, we would not be able to get done what we do each month at our Ormond and various other cleanups. Surfrider VC would like to give a special congratulations and thanks to the 2023 VTC graduates!