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Bucket Brigade Academy

Leadership Training for Life in A Changing World

Bucket Brigade Academy 2024 is made possible and accessible through the generous support of our sponsors:

Corporate, Family, and Individual Sponsorships Available - Click To Inquire

If you are ready to step up into leadership,
you have come to the right place.

Welcome to the Bucket Brigade Academy

The Bucket Brigade Academy (BBA) is a community resilience training program for high school student leaders.

At Bucket Brigade Academy…

  • Leaders are trained using time-tested methods to help their community in a positive “show me, don’t tell me” style
  • Community resilience is built and strengthened by real work in real time – each day
  • Young leaders build relationships with other community-minded student leaders in a safe, inclusive and empowering environment
  • Young people learn what it takes to become good at helping their community in a time of need

Through hands-on volunteer deployments and positive leadership development, Bucket Brigade Academy teaches high school students how to organize, train and deploy the power of community in response to natural disasters and crises.

Building on the Bucket Brigade Community Self-Rescue System, developed for decades and honed during the humanitarian response to the Thomas Fire and Debris Flow, the Global Pandemic, the Alisal Fire, and 2023 winter flooding, our trainers put an emphasis on relationship building and community organizing to help create a more connected and resilient Santa Barbara County.

BBA graduates will leave the programs with an understanding of the skills and abilities required to lead during a community crisis as well as to lead community service projects here in Santa Barbara County and beyond.


March 1, 2024 :  Application Process Open

June 17-21  Level 1 (Location: Santa Barbara – Elings Park)

June 24-28 Level 1 (Location: Santa Barbara – Elings Park)

July 1-3  Introduction to Heavy Equipment Operation (Location: Santa Barbara – Elings Park) — Prerequisites: Level 2 certification

July 8-12 Level 1  (Location: Lompoc – First Christian Church)

July 15-19  Level 2 – WFA (Location: Santa Barbara – Elings Park) —Prerequisites: Level 1 certification

July 22-27 Level 3 – WFR (Location: Santa Barbara – Elings Park) —Prerequisites: Level 1 and Level 2 certifications

July 29- August 2 Level 4 Captain’s Level Project  (Location: Santa Barbara – Elings Park) — Prerequisites: Level 1, 2 and 3 certifications

Apply Now: Space is limited for 2024!


What You'll Learn

Safety Training and Certification

ASHI Training and Certification in First aid, CPR/AED and bleeding control, Wilderness First Aid and Wilderness First Responder.

Volunteer Leadership Skills Development

Learn how to organize, train and deploy volunteers in the field. Learn strategy and tactics and employ different leadership techniques during practice deployments.

Volunteer Deployment

There is a 2 1/2 hour deployment each day. Students learn physical deployment skills, try different volunteer leadership roles and provide feedback to the team.

Relationship Building, Snack Breaks, and Chill Time

We will have a light breakfast, two snack breaks and a 30 minute lunch break each day. Food, drinks and snacks will be provided by the Bucket Brigade.

Bucket Brigade Academy Curriculum

ASHI Training + Certification

  • CPR All Ages
  • AED All Ages
  • Stop the Bleed
  • Epipen and Naloxone

Basic Deployment Principles of ICS

  • Planning
  • Logistics
  • Operations
  • Administration
  • Coordination

Introduction to Working With Tools

  • McCleod
  • Pulaski
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hammer
  • Drill

Deployment Skills

Team up, tool up, ride out, and get it done.

  • Food Forestry
  • Habitat Restoration
  • Fire Prevention
  • Regenerative Agriculture

ASHI Training + Certification

  • Wilderness First Aid
  • Psychological First Aid

Fundamentals of Disaster Relief

Applying The Deployment Principles of ICS

  • Planning
  • Logistics
  • Operations
  • Administration
  • Coordination

Teaching Volunteers to Work With Tools

  • McCleod
  • Pulaski
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hammer
  • Drill

Deployment Skills

Team up, tool up, ride out, and get it done.

  • Food Forestry
  • Habitat Restoration
  • Fire Prevention
  • Regenerative Agriculture

ASHI Training + Certification

  • Wilderness First Responder Training and Certification

Advanced Psychological First Aid

Incident Command System

  • Planning
  • Logistics
  • Operations
  • Administration
  • Coordination

Advanced Volunteer Leadership Techniques

  • Team Rescue
  • Disaster Triage
  • Problem-Solving

Testing and Certification

  • Night Rescue Simulation Exam (Thursday)
  • 2-Hour Written Exam (Friday)

Community Uplift Project

  • Develop you own CUP
  • Build a team
  • Start work

Advanced Training

  • Identification of needed skills
  • Developing a learning plan
  • Becoming an “autodidact”

Advanced Leadership Training for Life in a Changed Climate

Build capacity to change the physical world trough cooperative community action

Leadership Exercises

If you want to change the world, try changing something in your community first. This is where it starts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question that you don’t see answered here?

Email and we’ll get the answer for you.

Here are some clues:

  • You like helping people
  • You like working hard, physically, mentally or both
  • You like playing outside
  • You like learning new things
  • You have time to volunteer on the weekends during the school year
  • You are a great communicator

You might not be a good fit if:

  • Your parents want you to apply more than you do
  • You don’t like to get your hands dirty
  • You don’t enjoy working with groups of people
  • Your schedule is already fully booked with extra-curricular activities and this would just be another thing to do
  • You are not a risk-taker (stepping into leadership is always a risk)

Everyone ages 14-19. Everyone.  If you are 13 and going to be a freshman in high school in the fall of 2024, you can apply too. The general rule: high school students.

Yes – they are genuinely encouraged to apply. Please do. All are welcome here and the more diverse the community of leaders, the better the Cadre will be.

  • We will accept up to 500 applicants for initial consideration.  
  • Everyone who applies after the initial 500 will automatically be on an application waitlist.
  • Once applications are received they will be checked for completeness.  Incomplete applications will be rejected from the initial 500 and we will fill those slots with completed applications from the application waiting list in the order they are received.
  • Our Analytical Decision-Making Framework is focused on finding the best leadership candidates from each neighborhood as identified in our application. (This will be refined in the future – We know it is not perfect AND – we only have 80 seats this summer)  Applicants are competing with people from their own neighborhood. Not other neighborhoods. The desiderata are diverse cadres of people from different neighborhoods and backgrounds working together.  This is realistic training for “spontaneous volunteer” leadership.
  • What makes a best candidate?  Someone who has a strongest likelihood of using the training and community network connection we provide for the immediate benefit of their community.
  • The Goal of the Admission Process:  To create diverse cadres of “most likely to lead” people from each neighborhood in Santa Barbara County.  Our goal is to weave a safety net of compassionate and capable human beings throughout the County – to build the “human infrastructure” of resilience.  To accomplish this, we need people who want to help their community, who are trained to be good at helping others and who regularly, patiently and willingly collaborate with spontaneous volunteers.

Of course, but helping the community adapt to the challenges of a changing climate is what this course focuses on.

You are welcome to apply. 

This program will be taught in English in 2023 and in English AND Spanish in 2024.

We are very sorry not to offer it in both languages this year, but this is a new program and “you have to walk before you can run.”

We do have bilingual staff on site and can answer questions in English and Spanish, so if you struggle with English, (and speak Spanish) we can work with you and this is not a barrier to being admitted to the program. 

Seriously – don’t let this get in the way.

If you are a leader and are reading this in translation please apply.  We will do our absolute best to accommodate you if you are accepted.

You bet it is. Definitely a plus – at the Academy and in life as far as we are concerned.

The more languages you speak, the more people you can work with during a spontaneous volunteer deployment.

You can ask to be wait-listed on a week when you can make it.

No.  If you miss a day of training, you will not receive certification.

Don’t apply. Certification requires attendance to the fully scheduled training program.

You will not receive certification at the time of training.

However, with a doctor’s note, we will allow you to make up the required training on a weekend during the following 6 months.

Absolutely.  We fly the pride flag high at the Bucket Brigade and BB Academy.

You are welcome and encouraged to apply and the Bucket Brigade Academy is a safe space.

If any cadet is unable to treat other with total respect, we will kick them out.

The first thing we teach is “All Positive Communication.” Volunteer leadership demands total respect for others. Anything less will not get it done.

Mean comments, inappropriate comments, rude behavior, harassment or anything deemed to be “not respectful and kind” will not be allowed at the Academy.

Common Misconceptions About The Bucket Brigade

Misconception #1: “Volunteer deployment is not for everyone”

We recruit for brains, compassion, positivity and communication skills.  Leadership takes many forms and the BB Academy is a place where we learn to leave our preconceptions behind and to see each other and the world as clearly as possible in the moment.

Everyone is welcome.

There are so many different ways to lead and so many different kinds of leadership.  Come and find your jam and build upon that foundation with help and support from other leaders.

Misconception #2: “The Bucket Brigade is just a bunch of people digging out the mud.”

Also nonsense. Consider our history:

  • 2018 – Yeah, ok, a lot of mud digging
  • but also
    • 66 acres of public open space cleared
    • 5 miles of trail – restored
    • 2 miles of new trail – blazed
  • 2020 volunteers design, sew, sort and deliver 40,000+ cloth face coverings to essential service workers.
  • 2021 Growing Community Project – growing and sharing food with people in need. Raised bed garden delivery. Online Victory Garden Classes.
  • 2022 Alisal Fire Assistance Project: Helping uninsured people recover from a wildfire.
  • 2023 Winter Storm Deployment: OK – some more mud and shovels sure, but also:
    • emergency erosion control
    • home repair and psychological first-aid
    • lots and lots of communication and outreach.

We respond to the challenges that arise. To do that, we learn how to be responsive.  This means, we try to develop a broad set of skills that we can lean on in times of crisis.

How Much Does The Bucket Brigade Academy Cost?

Our cost to train a student at the Bucket Brigade academy is $600 per week.
For this reason, the requested donation is $600 per week.
However, you should only pay what you can afford.
Here are some of the costs that go into each week of training:

  • 2 meals every day
  • Snacks and beverages
  • Bucket Brigade Academy gear
  • ASHI Certifications
  • Bucket Brigade Medic First Aid Kits
  • Expert trainers
  • Professional training and certification for the trainers
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Building supplies
  • Native plant and tree seedlings
  • And more…

As you can see, the Bucket Brigade Academy values elite training and certification. We also believe that money shouldn’t be a barrier to this level of training, so in order to make our program accessible to everyone we have set up the:

BBA Honor System Scholarship Fund

Brought to you for access and inclusion with the help of our sponsors:

The Honor System is this: we ask everyone who participates in the program to financially support the program. The suggested donation for a week of training is $600.

However, contribute only as much as you can afford.

It’s that simple.

For example:

  • If your family can afford to, we ask that you donate the full $600 and consider donating additional funds to help make this accessible to others.
  • If your family can’t afford to contribute to the program, then don’t pay anything.
  • If your family can afford to contribute $200, then that will be good enough.
  • If you can afford $10, then that is what you should contribute.

Every contribution helps us provide this training, no matter the size.

We won’t ask what you can contribute during the admission process, so finances will not be part of that.

If you get accepted, we want you to be there – so you are in – with or without a suggested donation.

  • No financial aid application
  • No tax returns
  • No financial statements required

We trust that you value this week of training and ask that you do your best to support it.

That’s how the honor system works.

Trust - Honor - Community

That's it.

Bucket Brigade Academy is made possible and accessible through the support of our Sponsors

Corporate, Family, and Individual Sponsorships Available - Click To Inquire