Juan Matos of the PowerCorpsPHL GSI Maintenance Program with President Obama on July 14.
We’re always talking about what a great relationship we have with PowerCorpsPHL, and we love to point out when the young Philadelphians who help maintain Green City, Clean Waters infrastructure enrich their lives and even turn the experience into jobs in the green industry.
But here’s one benefit we never could have imagined: Meeting the President of the United States.
That’s exactly what happened to Assistant Crew Leader Juan Matos of the PowerCorpsPHL GSI (Green Stormwater Infrastructure) Maintenance Program when President Obama visited the city for this week’s NAACP convention.
Matos, a 23-year-old dad from North Philadelphia, is in his second term of service as an AmeriCorps member with PowerCorpsPHL and joined the program in September 2014.
He didn’t find out that he was going to meet with Obama, who wanted to learn more about successful re-entry programs for those who have been incarcerated, until Sunday night.
Apparently, the president was impressed with Matos' bio, which PowerCorps provided. For Matos, it all came as a pretty big shock.
“It was, like, out of the blue,” says Matos. “I had no clue what he was going to say or what I was going to ask him.”
During their Tuesday meeting at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Matos says Obama put him at ease with a relaxed conversation.
“We talked about what it was like for me after I got out and about my family, and how PowerCorps helped me out and gave me guidance and skills I didn’t have before,” says Matos.
Still, he was in for another surprise during Obama’s speech: Matos, PowerCorps, and green jobs got a special mention.
Watch a clip of his comments about the program and Matos here:
Obama’s words, Matos says, really stood out.
“I was impressed that he was really paying attention to what I said, because he brought up details of the things we talked about in his speech,” Matos reflected on Wednesday.
In particular, Obama mentioned that Matos’ biggest motivation to succeed—his daughters, Kyleigh, 3, and Jaylianis, 5—was something he could relate to as a dad of two girls.
Obama also talked about the value of the green jobs training that PowerCorps provides:
"[Juan] was given an opportunity to get trained on green jobs that are helping the environment, but also gave him a marketable skill," Obama told the audience.
Matos agreed with the president, noting that he’s learned much through the program that will help him when he begins a job search.
"Before, I didn’t know what GSI even was,” says Matos. “Now, I work with a crew that does maintenance all over the city on bumpouts, rain gardens, tree trenches, all of that, making sure they work properly. I’ve gained a lot of skills; I got brotherhood, I got a mentor. PowerCorps is a great program for helping people."
Today, Matos is confident that he can have a bright future. But before he learned how to work with green infrastructure, that future wasn't so clear.
“If it wasn’t for PowerCorps, I could have been back out on the street. They helped with school, they kept me working. They gave me a real second chance.”
To learn more about PowerCorpsPHL and how they help us maintain Green City, Clean Waters, vist their Service Partners page.