Leo Sosa woke up early Wednesday morning in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley neighborhood, the fog-laden sky affording just enough light for MEDA’s Technology Training Manager to give his shoes that extra shine he desired.
A couple of miles away, Job Coach Olivia Quinonez sorted through her closet to find her most professional of outfits and then made sure her hair was perfectly coiffed before she stepped out her Bernal Heights door for a busy, exciting day.
What was the reason for all this extra care? The pair were welcoming two score of youths to MEDA’s free summer programs–part of the nonprofit’s Workforce Development Department–which meant setting the quintessential example of professionalism.
MEDA’s youth-based sector training is available to financially challenged 17- to 24-year-olds, who mostly reside in San Francisco’s less affluent southeastern quadrant. These are generally youths who are looking for ways to enter the workforce, but see few options. Many are from John O’Connell High School, one of the four schools of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.
The three classes for summer 2014 include: Mission Techies, where computer-hardware skills are learned; Bilingual Bank Teller, with preparation for entry into the financial world; and the first-ever Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Customer Service program, generously funded by United Way of the Bay Area, with undocumented youths learning needed job skills as they are also assisted in their endeavor to win safe haven in the United States.
Because of their challenged backgrounds, the young adults who showed up yesterday will need a little more guidance than most MEDA clients. Some are recent immigrants, have had trouble studying in the past, were raised in abject poverty or never received proper counseling in the home.
That was evidenced as Sosa welcomed the new students with a talk that was inviting while still keeping it real. Sosa told one rapt group, “MEDA is glad you have made the choice to attend a workshop to put you on the path to success. Class starts at 9am on Monday. That’s 9:00am. Not 9:01am. Not 9:05am. You will receive a stipend, but that is based on attendance, performance and how you work as a team.”
Courses will run over the next couple of months, so Plaza Adelante will be abuzz with youthful energy all summer. As the students move along in the curriculum, Job Coach Quinonez will be stepping in to prep them for the real world of the workforce–a world she knows all too well. Past career choices have taken her into top-tier banks and even as a business development specialist at renowned job-staffing firm, Manpower.
States Quinonez, “I’m a passionate about guiding today’s youth to become tomorrow’s leaders. I pride myself in the success of my candidates and their ability to achieve their dream with my constant coaching and goal setting.”
That is evidenced every day in Suite 203, where Quinonez can be seen helping job seekers refine soft skills so that they have the ability to politely and professionally deal with the public. Prep work also focuses on resume refinement and mock interviews.
Sosa summed up yesterday’s experience after his trio of orientation speeches were complete: “I’m looking forward to seeing where these young people go. I am hopeful they will seize this opportunity to better themselves. It’s going to be an interesting summer at MEDA!”
It was time for Sosa to kick up his well-shined heels . . . for just a bit.