A flourishing partnership between the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) and a nonprofit helping to find sustainable solutions and the leaders to implement them will give three recent college graduates the experience they can use in public service and solving tomorrow’s problems.
This is the third year SJCOG has partnered with CivicWell to tackle emerging environmental and social equity issues such as climate impacts, water resource management, affordable housing, and mobility. CivicSpark is an AmeriCorps program under CivicWell and three new CivicSpark Fellows – Eva Pitts, Trishna Chowdhury and Racy Stephens – for 11 months will work alongside SJCOG planners resolving today’s real-world problems and gaining vital experience.
“This is a great situation for everyone,” SJCOG Executive Director Diane Nguyen said. “We get these smart, talented fellows to help make even greater progress in finding solutions to problems facing San Joaquin County. In return, they get to work with and are mentored by our seasoned staff. It’s very satisfying to see CivicSpark Fellows when they have that ‘a-ha’ moment and recognize they had a hand in crafting a solution to environmental or social challenges.”
Here is more on Pitts, Chowdhury and Stephens:
CivicSpark Fellow 2023
Born in San Joaquin County and has lived in Stockton and Manteca.
Stockton native Eva Pitts wants to use her training in political science to boost environmental policy and education in her hometown.
Pitts earned an associate degree in political science at San Joaquin Delta College before attending UC Davis where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in environmental policy and planning. She will be working on SJCOG’s Regional Climate Collaborative, a partnership among several groups across the San Joaquin Valley dedicated to expanding knowledge and information on current and future environmental challenges. Pitts, who will create educational workshops while at SJCOG so residents can learn about climate impacts, was interested in the RCC because she understands the importance of climate education and has seen how her hometown has been affected by environmental challenges.
Pitts hopes to hone skills she can use in local government, because she recognizes the importance of local government in championing disadvantaged communities.
She believes CivicSpark bridges environmental policy and advocacy work, and being at SJCOG will help her see the different avenues local government can take to boost environmental policies and education in communities.
CivicSpark Fellow 2023
Trishna Chowdhury’s strong commitment to public service in many ways helped guide her path to San Joaquin County.
Chowdhury earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Towson University in 2018 and a master’s in public health from Tulane University in 2021. She pursued her call to service by attending the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School for a time. She eventually shifted her path to CivicSpark because of previous experience with another AmeriCorps program as a VISTA summer fellow at The Radix Ecological Sustainability Center in Albany, New York. She is also enrolled in the Geographic Information Systems program at John Hopkins University.
Through her studies in public health, Chowdhury learned that having a strong public transportation system is important to the overall health of communities. Having just received her driver's license, she also feels that having an accessible public transit system is very important in supporting the people living in those communities. At SJCOG, she’ll be using her training and passion for public service by working with a SJCOG planner on projects promoting greenhouse gas reductions through transit and increasing access and mobility through active transportation projects and programs.
Chowdhury hopes to gain vital work experience while promoting projects that directly help the greater community. That is important to her because she can expand on the skills she learned in educational settings and use them in solving real-world problems.
CivicSpark Fellow 2023
Marin County and Reno, Nev.
A passion for environmental planning and management led Jacy Stephens to CivicSpark and the San Joaquin Council of Governments.
After graduating from Napa Valley College in 2021 and UC Davis with a bachelor’s in environmental policy analysis and planning in 2023, Stephens looked to CivicSpark to help him learn more about project management and community engagement. Working at SJCOG for 11 months will help Stephens expand his knowledge of transportation issues, especially in underserved communities in the San Joaquin Valley. He also saw CivicSpark as a perfect place to gain valuable experience and skills he will use for the rest of his working career.
Stephens will work on SJCOG’s Vamos EZHub Mobility App by reporting regularly on ticket sales, increasing customer signups and customer service, and helping to integrate Uber rides in the app. He’ll also work on a travel pattern assessment focusing on San Joaquin County residents commuting in San Joaquin County and to the San Francisco Bay Area and the environmental issues that can cause, such as increased traffic congestion, higher greenhouse gas emissions, and more vehicle miles traveled.
Stephens is also looking forward to working at SJCOG, which focuses on helping communities across the region, because it will give him a chance to explore California outside the Bay Area.