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Success Center's mission — breaking records by breaking barriers

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 20:09:00
4.5 / 5 (5 Votes)
Article by:
Zak Huffaker
Success Center team at the Western Addition Career Center. Photo by Zak Huffaker.
By breaking the barriers that lie between disenfranchised, disconnected people and meaningful careers, the Success Center’s Western Addition Career Center has also managed to break records in job placement at this previously floundering neighborhood access point, and bring a sense of hope and purpose to the community it serves.
  
In November 2014, Liz “Mama Lizze” Jackson-Simpson, executive director of the Success Center San Francisco — SCSF — took the helm of The Western Addition Access Point Career Center at 1449 Webster St. She quickly went to work assembling a crew of big-hearted, passionate team members — each of whom brings a sincere desire to help disconnected, marginalized individuals launch their own careers and gain a sense of pride, self sufficiency, and empowerment.
   
Established in 1983 by the Superior Court, SCSF — originally known as Youth Guidance Center Improvement Committee — has expanded far beyond its initial goal of serving the city’s youths in juvenile detention. Today, the core focus of SCSF is encapsulated in the phrase “Empowerment Through Education and Employment,” and the organization now offers “TAYs” — Transitional Aged Youth ages 16?24 — guidance, mentorship, education, GED classes, and service learning programs.
   
The continuing evolution of SCSF and its extraordinary commitment to the community is particularly evident when struggling job seekers visit the Western Addition Career Center. There, they are greeted by a team of caring professionals who are eager to help with writing a polished resume, career exploration, interviewing with confidence and charisma, computer access, and — in the caring hands of Job Developer Supervisor, Patricia Tu — even assistance with a sharp outfit or stylish hairdo that will give an applicant that extra edge needed to land a new job.
 
“It’s these little personal touches that really let the community know that we genuinely care about this. We have agape love for folks.” explains Liz Jackson-Simpson.
   
And this love is especially palpable when the Western Addition Career Center takes its mission outside of the center and directly into the community itself through its interactive “Breaking Barriers” events in partnership with Westside Community Services and the Street Violence Intervention Program. Center staff goes straight into locations such as the Fillmore-Turk Mini Park and San Francisco’s housing sites. One of these is Adrian Owens — a Career Center Service Connector with an innate knack for “connecting with folks on a deeper level” and forming trusting relationships while emphasizing, “We’re not just going to have a table with information, we’re going to engage in a conversation with you.”
   
Whether an individual’s issue is housing, legal issues, health, or lack of a diploma, Owens will proactively work to find out exactly what a struggling individual’s barriers are, determine what resources are available to fit specific needs, and get to work breaking these barriers so that that person can get started down a path towards a productive, fulfilling future.
   
Michael, a man living in a San Francisco housing site who had personally been deeply invested in his community, but who had recently experienced a profound loss within his own family which resulted in deep depression, is just one example of an individual that Adrian helped by “making sure he understood his own qualities and the value of what he had to offer.”
  
Although Michael initially struggled to follow through and take the steps necessary to break his own personal barriers, Owens was committed to helping him succeed. Through many meetings, conversations and a steadfast desire to build a trusting rapport, Owens finally helped Michael start serving the community he cares so much about again — and he is now employed with Tenderloin Housing Clinic.
   
Since November of 2014, the Western Addition Career Center has helped place 692 other people similar to Michael, each having a unique story and set of challenges. Liz Jackson-Simpson and her team are focused solely on helping people succeed, regardless of their background or circumstances. She resolutely conveys, “We color outside the lines all the time, and we have to because each individual that comes in here needs something different. There’s no direct pathway. We need to be able to look at individuals differently and not blame them for what’s happened to them.”
 
At an early age, Jackson-Simpson was herself involved in a similar program — the Summer Youth Employment and Training Program. Being an accomplished musician, she was offered a position teaching the neighborhood youth to play stringed instruments, and when she graduated high school, she became an administrator of the program, which enabled her to start forging lasting relationships in every community in San Francisco.
   
One such relationship is SCSF’s partnership with City College and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. These organizations are working together with the Western Addition Career Center at 1300 Restaurant and Lounge, where job seekers receive hands-on, real-world experience in their Hospitality Boot Camp. Fully supported by London Breed, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, this program provides job seekers with excellent preparation for working in The Hospitality Industry -- a sector with an extremely high demand for qualified, hardworking candidates.
  
The Western Addition Career Center also partners with other community centered professionals such as Antonio Solano, Manager at Tacobar, as well as with Mountain Taylor, District Recruiter for a premier provider of security services. These resources are producing a wealth of ambitious candidates who are being placed in jobs in both Hospitality and Security.
  
Additionally, the Career Center is continuing to branch out into new fields, teaming up with Hack Reactor and Microsoft in new Coding Bootcamps for homeless youth, single parents, and youth who have been involved in the justice system. They are also developing a blossoming Construction Program in partnership with MUNI, MTA, Local 261, and the Ironworkers.
   
The Western Addition Career Center is also becoming a true hub for San Francisco’s youth, such as Geoffrey Simpson. A graduate of SCSF’s Early Morning Study Academy, he and a group of like-minded entrepreneurs are forming a budding program “My Homie’s Couch” and answering the question, “What do youth in San Francisco need to succeed?”
   
With funding from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, United Way, Morris Stulsaft Foundation, Wells Fargo, and PG&E, SCSF has become a truly valuable asset to San Francisco.
  
To get involved or take the first step on your own path to a successful career, be sure to the Western Addition Career Center and get more information on upcoming events. These include “The Huddle” and “Ladies Night” on Thursday, January 19, as well as “Breaking Barriers” on Friday, January 20. Join in, as SCSF continues to bring empowerment through education and employment to the communities of San Francisco.
  
The Western Addition Career Center is located at 1449 Webster St. Their phone number is 415.549.7000, and the website link is www.successcentersf.org.

 
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