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November 2014 Newsletter

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In This Edition:
  • Thanks to you: Amanda Breaks the Cycle
  • 20,000 Reasons to Donate Now!
  • The Cohort Experience: How Job Training Classmates Create a Second Family
  • Welcome to New Staffer Hang Ngo and "New" Staffer Michelle Wade
  • Amanda Barnes
    "Thank you Opportunity Junction for helping me achieve my dream career and feel like I deserve it."
    Thanks to You: Amanda Breaks the Cycle
    As a child, Amanda Barnes didn't know what kind of future she could expect. Her parents were both addicted to drugs, and her father was in and out of jail. Amanda found Opportunity Junction almost accidentally when she was just looking for a computer to use to job search. She received so much more as she learned valuable skills while building her self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Now, she has an administrative career with Rubicon Programs, Inc. "All the hard work and struggles in my life are starting to pay off. I am making more money than I ever thought I could and love the work I do. If it wasn't for Opportunity Junction, I would be making minimum wage in my retail life. I know my mom would be so proud of me and happy with the choices I have made and the person I have become." Read more about Amanda's life and career…
    Elizabeth and her daughter
    20,000 Reasons to Donate Now!
    Everyone who is willing to work hard deserves an opportunity to succeed, and thanks to your support and partnership, more low-income Contra Costa residents than ever before have been able to succeed. Opportunity Junction needs your help now more than ever. Please click here to donate now. All donations (up to $20,000) will be matched dollar for dollar through the end of the year. Learn more...
    Class 45 The Cohort Experience: How Job Training Classmates Create a Second Family
    Who do our Job Training and Placement Program trainees thank at their graduation ceremony? Of course, they thank their families, for both inspiring and supporting them. Most have kind and loving words for the Opportunity Junction staff. Many also thank the donors and volunteers who make the work possible. Almost universally, however, they thank each other. Read more about how this happens…
    Michelle Wade
    Welcome to New Staffer Hang Ngo and "New" Staffer Michelle Wade
    We are thrilled to announce the newest additions to Opportunity Junction's staff. Hang Ngo joins us as the new Director of Counseling, providing therapeutic workshops and individual therapy services to our trainees, interns, and alumni. And Michelle Wade rejoins us as the Manager of Alumni Programs and will serve as the primary point of contact for our Alumni by offering long term job placement and career development support. Learn more about them...

    New Grants | Wish List

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    Thanks to You: Amanda Breaks the Cycle

    Amanda Barnes and her husband

    Amanda Barnes can still remember a time when she believed that working two jobs as a waitress and cashier was the only career path for her. As a child, Amanda Barnes didn't know what kind of future she could expect. Her parents were both addicted to drugs, and her father was in and out of jail. They lived in a small mobile home in Bethel Island. "I clearly remember when I was 12 years old my mother telling me to make my own doctor's appointment. I knew early on that I was on my own," she shares.



    Amanda Barnes

    Amanda recalls a brief period when her father sobered up for a few years. "We were poor but happy," Amanda says. "But that all changed when my mom died at age 42 of congestive heart failure and my dad just fell apart and relapsed. It was such a pivotal time in my life. I had just started my senior year of high school with a high GPA and as a member of the honors society. My mother was the backbone of our family and my dad wasn't there-I just stopped caring. I didn't apply to a single college and took two menial jobs working from 4 am- 1pm at the first one and then until 11 pm at the other. I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) and thought that if my bills were paid, I was doing enough. But I was so unhappy with who I was, and it was all really taking a toll on me."

    Amanda's life seemed to take a turn for the better when she started taking classes at Los Medanos College and a frequent customer of her waitressing job offered her an administrative position at his chiropractic office. After five months, though, it was clear the position was not the right fit for her, and she was let go.

    Amanda and her husband

    With limited computer skills and without a computer to look for work or to revise her resume, Amanda didn't think her job prospects were very promising. "That's when I found Opportunity Junction. I only planned to try to use the computers, but Lynn (Kwasny, Program Associate) saw something in me. Her encouragement and support while I applied to the program absolutely changed my life.

    "I knew this was where I was meant to be. Learning everything so quickly while finding support from my classmates helped me through my own feelings of worthlessness. I felt a lot of guilt for moving out of my house when my mom died and leaving my sister behind. Catherine Warren (Director of Counseling) helped me see that I was just a child at the time and that I could learn to forgive myself." Graduation from the Job Training and Placement Program was a particularly rewarding experience. Her dad, who has turned his life around, came with flowers and a balloon.

    Before the end of her internship, Amanda was hired by Rubicon Programs, Inc. as a Development Associate. One year later, she has already received two promotions and is currently the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director. She has a clear career plan. "I feel amazing. All the hard work and struggles in my life are starting to pay off. I feel like I spent my life living under a rock; now, I am making more money than I ever thought I could and love the work I do. If it weren't for Opportunity Junction, I would be making minimum wage in my retail life. I know my mom would be so proud of me. It's hard not having her around for the big moments like my wedding day and the launch of my career, but I know she'd be happy with the choices I have made and the person I have become."

    Donate Now Back to top

    20,000 Reasons to Donate Now!

    Everyone who is willing to work hard deserves an opportunity to succeed, and thanks to your support and partnership, more low-income Contra Costa residents than ever before have been able to succeed. Opportunity Junction needs your help now more than ever. Please click here to donate now. All donations (up to $20,000) will be matched dollar for dollar through the end of the year by members of the Board of Directors and a group of other donors who have pledged matching funds.

    Elizabeth and her daughter Here is some of what you've helped achieve in the last fiscal year:

    Job Placement Outcomes: Between the Job Training and Placement Program (JTPP) and Career Development Services (CDS), we increased our unique initial placements from 73 to 110!

    Overall Residents Served: The number of unique participants served in all of our programs, including the evening Technology Center and Do-It-Yourself Tax Assistance, increased to an all-time high of 878 this year.

    New Initiatives: We have a newly launched, Job-Seeker Designed Pathway into the Los Medanos College (LMC) Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. This has been in development over the past two years, and will take our LMC collaboration to a much deeper level.

    None of this would be possible without your partnership and support. There's a lot more work to do to help our low-income neighbors, please join us in giving this holiday season.

    Thank you for your part in creating opportunities and changing lives. Donations received by December 31st will be matched up to $20,000 and accomplish twice as much!

    Donate Now Back to top


    The Cohort Experience: How Job Training Classmates Create a Second Family

    Class 45 Who do our Job Training and Placement Program trainees thank at their graduation ceremony? Of course, they thank their families, for both inspiring them and supporting them during the arduous training phase of the program. Most have kind and loving words for the Opportunity Junction staff. Many also thank the donors and volunteers who make the work possible. Almost universally, however, they thank each other:

    "I want to thank my sisters from another mister."
    "I want to thank Mary, who drove me to school every morning."
    "I couldn't have made it without Andrew staying late to tutor me."
    "I gained much more than an education. I gained a new family."


    Natalie Georgia, Manager of Personal Development, has seen the power of the cohort experience and helps each group develop mutual trust. "There is something very powerful about sharing your experiences and frustrations and realizing that you're not alone. They cry together and laugh together, and it's a release."

    Just a few weeks into the program, the trainees agree. "I find that when times get rough in the classroom, having classmates around that are doing the same thing helps me vent my frustrations when I'm not getting something," explains Class 45 trainee Leah Abejuela. Leah appreciates being able to help her classmates in return, being "a fresh set of eyes."

    Sometimes, Natalie engineers a check-in question to bring the group together after a particularly grueling day in the computer lab: "There are a few questions that I can use to really get them into the room together. 'What is your most embarrassing moment?' is one of my favorites. It gets them to laugh and relieve some of the stress of the day."

    Natalie uses the power of the more serious check-in question, too, in building the cohort. "The other one that's really good is 'What is the hardest thing you've ever done?' That one always evokes emotion."

    Class 45 trainee Yasmin Delgado summarizes the feelings we hear expressed so often: "Life is rocky, and when you have a group of people who are open to the challenge of working hard and helping each other out, it's a much smoother ride."

    That "smoother ride" contributes to higher retention, including graduating 19 trainees from the most recent class out of 21 who enrolled. It's part of Opportunity Junction's secret sauce: authentic relationships both with the staff and among the job-seekers themselves.

    Donate Now Back to top

    Welcome to New Staffer Hang Ngo and "New" Staffer Michelle Wade

    We are thrilled to announce the newest additions to Opportunity Junction's staff, working primarily in our flagship Job Training and Placement Program.

    Hang Ngo Hang Ngo joins us as the new Director of Counseling, providing therapeutic workshops and individual therapy services to our trainees, interns, and alumni. She has always worked in community mental health agencies and non-profit organizations serving low-income children, adults, and families in Alameda County and in San Francisco. "I am very excited to be a part of the team at Opportunity Junction," Hang said. "It is critically important to address the external and internal barriers that contribute to intergenerational poverty and JTPP does just that, by not only providing the job skills for participants, but also providing counseling and life skills so participants can build on their strengths to ensure continued success while they're employed." Hang holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) from the Wright Institute.

    Michelle Wade Michelle Wade, meanwhile, has rejoined us as our not-so-new Manager of Alumni Programs and serves as the primary point of contact for our Alumni by offering long-term job placement and career development support. Michelle brings over 10 years of experience as a hiring manager and several years of experience retaining top talent through employee training and development for large businesses.

    For much of her childhood Michelle lived in communities where poverty was rampant and community members had to overcome negative stereotypes. As a result, she developed a strong desire to become a part of the solution to these challenges. While she always had a desire to help others, it was her own mother's experience with unemployment that introduced her to Opportunity Junction and its mission to fight poverty.

    "I am grateful to be a part of an organization that helps the economically disadvantaged earn a living wage. I hope to utilize both my professional and personal experiences to help others understand that no barrier is insurmountable, especially with the help of a team that is dedicated to their success."

    Donate Now Back to top


    New Grants and Support for our Programs

    We are proud and grateful to announce the following new grants and funding partnerships:

    • Diablo Country Club Foundation: Diablo Country Club Foundation has been a consistent supporter of Opportunity Junction’s Job Training and Placement Program. The Foundation exists to provide financial support for projects and activities that offer individuals in need tools to make a better life for themselves and their families.
    • The Kirby Fund at the East Bay Community Foundation: The Kirby Fund at the East Bay Community Foundation has issued a grant of extremely valuable core operating support. While we allocate most unrestricted funds to program support, core operating support also enables us to maintain a strong infrastructure (technology, finance) and to pilot promising new initiatives.
    Donate Now Back to top


    Newsletter Contributors: Brianna Burkman, Natasha DeAlmeida, Alissa Friedman, and Kaila Vidal. Photographs by PhotoSophistry (Gala), Brianna Burkman, and Kaila Vidal, and edited by Natasha DeAlmeida. Newsletter assembled by Lea Mason. (Thanks, Lea!)

    On the Road to Self-Sufficiency — Opportunity Junction fights poverty by helping low-income Contra Costa residents gain the skills and confidence to get and keep jobs that support themselves and their families.

    Opportunity Junction is exempt from federal income taxation under Section 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
    © Opportunity Junction 2014

     

     
     
     
     

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    Programs

    Opportunity Junction’s programs help struggling job-seekers transform themselves into breadwinners and role models.

    > Job Training and Placement
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    > Technology Center
    > Do-It-Yourself Tax Assistance

    For Alumni

    Job Training and Placement Program alumni are eligible for:

    > Alumni Council
    > Employment Incentives
    > Active Job Seekers Program