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July 2014 Newsletter

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In This Edition:
  • Thanks to you: Phil Drafts a New Future
  • A Record Setting Year Across the Board
  • Take a Swing for Opportunity Junction!
  • 15 Years of Creating Opportunities and Changing Lives
  • Phil Hammon
    "I was very thankful that Opportunity Junction took me in. I'm finally having the success I always wanted."
    Thanks to you: Phil Drafts a New Future
    After two tours of duty in the Navy and a rough childhood, Phil was ready to create a different future. "Opportunity Junction saw something in me, and showed me what it's like to be respected in the workplace and to want something better for myself. They polished off my hard edges so that I could present myself to the world." A contact Phil made during mock interviews in the internship led to a well-paying position with Chevron, where Phil has been working for over a year. Read how he did it here.
    Alissa Friedman
    A Record Setting Year Across the Board
    Thanks to you, our Opportunity Junction community, this year included more unique initial placements than ever before (110, up from 73 last year), more residents served (872, up from 861 last year), and our most successful Gala fundraiser yet. Staff and volunteers also designed and introduced several new programs to serve motivated job-seekers, including a career ladder program for our job training alumni. Read all about it here.
    Golf Tournament
    Take a Swing for Opportunity Junction!
    Opportunity Junction is the beneficiary of San Ramon based Summit Financial Group's 12th Annual Golf Tournament. The tournament will be held Monday, September 22 at the Blackhawk Lakes Course. The day includes a shot-gun start at noon, BBQ lunch, goody bag, silent auction and dinner. This event regularly sells out so please signup soon! The details are here.
    15 year anniversary 15 Years of Creating Opportunities and Changing Lives
    My how time flies… It's been 15 years since Opportunity Junction founder Meryl Natchez first opened the doors. In that time 492 people have graduated from the Job Training and Placement Program and have collectively earned over $19 Million! We're looking forward to celebrating with you all year long. Click here to see all that YOU have made possible.

    New Grants | Wish List

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    Thanks to you: Phil Drafts a New Future

    Phil Haddon

    At seventeen, when many teens are planning their future, Phil Hammon found himself with no clear path. He had just left a boarding school for troubled teens, where he spent the past few years because of problems dealing with authority figures.

    Friends there told him that joining the military was a way to see the world and have fun, so despite his authority issues, he enlisted in the Navy. His February enlistment was just months before 9/11, and his experience in the Navy was much different than what he expected. Two tours later as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom serving on the U.S.S. Boxer, Phil was uncertain if the Navy was the career for him.

    In his fourth year of service, a sudden personal loss sent his life into turmoil. Unable to focus and straining against the Navy's strict rules, he chose to leave with an Honorable Discharge. He spent the next years coping with the pain of his loss through substance abuse. But even in his distress, Phil knew he was meant for something better. Determined to get his life together, he eventually moved into his parents' home in Concord. "I thought if I only worked hard enough in retail jobs," he said, "I would get ahead." But retail led to a security job and then to unemployment. With no options, he began to consider re-enlisting, to a life he no longer truly wanted.

    And then came an unexpected break.

    Phil in the office

    One day, a veterans' representative with the Employment Development Department emailed Phil about the Job Training and Placement Program at Opportunity Junction.

    "I was very thankful that Opportunity Junction took me in. Listening to other people's stories helped me see what I could overcome. I felt privileged to be given the opportunity."

    At Opportunity Junction, Phil excelled, learning easily and becoming a leader who tutored other students. "If I can help someone else," he said, "it comes back in other ways." It also felt good to pick up new skills. With these tools, he thought, he might have a chance. In every earlier life opportunity, he had run away from his issues with authority; however, he knew he would eventually have to face them. "Opportunity Junction saw something in me, and showed me what it's like to be respected in the workplace and to want something better for myself. They polished off my hard edges so that I could present myself to the world."

    With our employer engagement help, Phil found a data entry job at a clothing manufacturer. A year into that position, a contact he made during mock interviews in the internship led him to a position with Chevron where he's been working for over a year. "Now if I want to go out to a movie, out with a friend, or on a trip, I can. I just bought a new car and am saving to buy a house. I'm also planning a vacation to New Zealand in the winter. I'm finally having the success I always wanted."

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    A Record Setting Year Across the Board

    Dear Opportunity Junction community,

    Everyone who is willing to work hard deserves an opportunity to succeed, and thanks to your support and partnership, this was a very good year for East Contra Costa job-seekers. At Opportunity Junction, it was a year of tremendously varied accomplishments, growth and creativity. Selecting the highlights for this letter has been particularly difficult, because there are so many different partners - employers, volunteers, donors, sponsors, foundation supporters, elected officials - pitching in. I'll cover our 1) placement outcomes, 2) service numbers, 3) systems improvements, 4) long-term outcome measurement, 5) self-evaluation, 6) fundraising highlights, 7) honors, and 8) new initiatives.

    Shunlonda Job Placement Outcomes: This year, for job-seekers enrolled in the Job Training and Placement Program (JTPP) or in Career Development Services (CDS), we increased our unique initial placements from 73 to 110! Our career counseling team at SparkPoint Contra Costa in Bay Point refined their systems and approach this year and increased unique initial placements by 100% over the previous year (27 in FY2012-13 versus 55 in FY2013-14). Meanwhile, the Job Training and Placement Program (JTPP) increased average starting wages to almost $14, with alumni who reached the 18-month mark post-placement this year earning an average of $16.09 an hour. This improvement in long-term wage levels was helped by the launch of a new career ladder program for JTPP alumni, funded by the Y & H Soda Foundation.

    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 877 this year, even though we temporarily closed the Technology Center on Wednesday evenings (it has now been reopened).

    Systems Improvement: With Brianna Burkman now in the role of full-time Director of Programs, both the JTPP and our SparkPoint and Antioch CDS teams also made significant process improvements, particularly in the areas of recruitment and screening. We have improved our focus on the customer experience during the application process, deploying JTPP interns to greet and manage the traffic flow while, on the back end, using a new calendaring system to speed up the intake process. In screening candidates, we have sharpened our focus on the target population we serve - motivated job-seekers with addressable barriers to employment - and have developed a rubric to guide decision-making. By focusing our resources on job-seekers who need our help, and who can succeed if provided that help, we have become more efficient and have substantially reduced our cost per placement.

    Long Term Success: This year, we also made strides in measuring the long-term impact of our programs. One element of the long-term impact our programs are designed to achieve is that participants will have adequate income to meet their basic needs. During the previous year, we developed the concept of a Functional Income Adequacy Rubric (FIAR) that would use a limited set of questions to effectively probe whether a family's income is, indeed, adequate to cover food, shelter, childcare, transportation, communications, and health. The important distinction in using the FIAR is that we are asking functional questions, like whether the respondent has had to skip meals during the past three months. In contrast to most poverty measures, we do not tally up income and compare it to a hypothetical list of expenses; instead, we ask questions that indicate whether basic expenses are in fact adequately funded. Without needing to probe too deeply, this would account for each family's variable and individualized resources (e.g. grandparents who can babysit) and expenses (e.g. chronic disease). This year, with funding from the Y & H Soda Foundation, we were able to hire consultant Jamie Austin to develop and test a super-set of questions that have bearing on whether a family's income is adequate to meet their needs. Nearly 200 alumni responded to a 45-minute online survey, yielding a rich source of data that enabled us to select eight key questions. We are now administering the rubric to all entering participants, as well as collecting the information from alumni as part of our follow-up contacts. By the end of this fiscal year, we will have benchmarks for past performance and be able to set targets for the future improvement.

    Evaluation: This year, in addition to tracking our success with the participants we accept and serve in our employment programs, we completed a two-year comparison study with participants who did not participate in our programs. In September 2013, Director of Programs Brianna Burkman completed this study of participants in the JTPP versus a comparable group of job-seekers who either opted out of the program or narrowly missed being admitted. Although the two groups were not identical, the differences were stark. Only half of the comparison group entered employment during the two year period, and their average starting wages were only 75% of the wage level of the JTPP alumni, with weekly hours only 50% those of the JTPP alumni. The jobs the comparison groups got were things like retail or in-home care; none were employed in the administrative field. The full report, which describes the process for recruiting and incentivizing participation in the study, is available upon request.

    Fundraising highlights:
    The results from Opportunity Junction's 7th Annual Imagine Gala presented by Chevron are particularly noteworthy this year! In addition to the fun had by all, we raised more than $125,000 to help get Contra Costa families on the road to self- sufficiency. Net revenues were up by 35% over the 2013 gala. This was our best year ever - many thanks to all who supported the event and attended the party. Increased gala revenue is helping us manage the decreased revenues from government funding. Unfortunately, we know there will be additional cuts to government funding this coming year.

    Featured alumnus Andrew Laeeatoa and his wife Chloe were in attendance at the Gala, looking poised, successful and happy. Watch his video here.

    Gala 2014 pictures

    Awards: This year, we were one of three Tipping Point Community grantees selected for a $50,000 award issued at their annual breakfast for donors. This is a tremendous honor, since Tipping Point's portfolio includes the most effective poverty-fighting organizations from the entire Bay Area. There was no formal application process, which is typical for Tipping Point, but we believe that a key driver of our selection is our use of data and Brianna's Comparison Study, described above. I highly recommend alumna Rasheeda Davis's speech at the event, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDoj3YwIOxw.

    Norman Cheng New Initiatives: In June, our proposal to the state Workforce Investment Board's Workforce Accelerator Fund to develop a Job-Seeker Designed Pathway into Los Medanos College (LMC) Career Technical Education (CTE) programs was selected for funding. Our collaboration with LMC has been developing over the past two years, and this contract will take that collaboration to a much deeper level. In this program, the job-seekers themselves will determine the design of a pathway program that will combine Opportunity Junction's support services with LMC's CTE programs. We are honored to have submitted one of only 18 proposals selected for funding out of 130 statewide, and we are excited to engage deeply with interested job-seekers as full partners in the program design.

    None of this would be possible without your partnership and support. I've been here long enough to remember, with gratitude, the key transitions in our development as an organization that were led or supported by you, our community of partners.

    Thank you for your part in creating opportunities and changing lives,
    Alissa's signature

    Alissa Friedman, Executive Director

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    Take a Swing for Opportunity Junction!

    Golf Tournament We are delighted and honored to be the beneficiary of San Ramon based Summit Financial Group's 12th Annual Golf Tournament. The tournament will be held Monday, September 22 at the Blackhawk Lakes Course. Each year the tournament serves as a fun-filled day of golf for members of the Summit family, whether they are clients, friends, strategic business partners or charity supporters. This year, of course, we're hoping to add some Opportunity Junction fans to the mix. We're especially looking for sponsors. Sponsorships run anywhere from $300 to $3,000 and come with a variety of visibility and promotion options. An individual golf package is available for $200. Click here for the flyer.

    In addition to the golf tournament, there is a terrific dinner afterwards for any non-golfers.

    You may know Summit from the gala; they've been sponsors or attendees for the last two years and hired one of our interns.

    We invite you to join us on Monday September 22nd at Blackhawk Country Club for a great day of golf and to support Opportunity Junction. You can find the registration flyer here. For more information please contact Kaila Vidal at (925) 776-1133 or kaila@opportunityjunction.org.

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    15 Years of Creating Opportunities and Changing Lives

    15 year anniversary This fiscal year we are celebrating Opportunity Junction's 15 year anniversary.

    Founded in 1999 under the name Opportunities for Technology Information Careers (OPTIC), the organization was the brainchild of Meryl Natchez, the CEO of TechProse, then serving as chair of the Technology Task Force of the Contra Costa Council. When Natchez took over as chair of that task force in 1997, she saw a tremendous need for workers with strong technology and workplace skills at the same time as she knew that Welfare Reform had mandated that many single mothers move from welfare to full-time employment. Natchez saw the technology sector as holding the promise of true economic self-sufficiency for these women. The founding Board, a collaboration of the private sector, government, and the education community, developed a Job Training and Placement Program based on best practices in workforce development, with a focus on computer skills. That program was launched in February of 2000, the year of the organization's incorporation.

    Since then we've added individualized Career Development Services for those not suited for the Job Training and Placement Program, the Technology Center, free income tax preparation classes, and a full-suite of alumni classes and services.

    Here are some great statistics from over the years:

    • 492 people have graduated from the Job Training and Placement Program
    • Those 492 graduates have collectively earned over $19 Million since they graduated.
    • 153 people have gotten jobs through our individualized Career Development Services (since 2010 inception)
    • Approximately 3,200 people have used the Technology Center (since 2003 inception)
    • Our tax filers have received over $2 Million back in tax refunds and credits (since 2004 inception)
    We continue to change and evolve as needs change here in the East Bay. The next fifteen years will likely be as exciting and unpredictable as the last fifteen have been. Opportunity Junction is committed to providing what the community needs to create a strong, vibrant economically inclusive Bay Area. We'll keep you apprised of our upcoming plans (see the Year-in-Review article). Thank you for your support; we couldn't have done it without you.

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    New Grants and Support for our Programs

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

    Thomas J. Long Foundation The Thomas J. Long Foundation has awarded Opportunity Junction a grant to support the Job Training and Placement Program, ensuring that the full range of training and services remains available to participants seeking to launch administrative careers. Thomas J. Long was a firm believer that one should give, for the benefit of others, a portion of what one has received, and the Foundation makes grants in the fields of Arts & Culture, Conservation, Education, Health, and Human Services.

    Strive for Change Foundation The Strive for Change Foundation made a grant to support our programs that help the working poor in the East Bay achieve economic self-sufficiency. Each year, the Foundation starts from scratch to raise all of the money it gives away to Opportunity Junction and other effective East Bay organizations.

    AT&T AT&T has issued a grant to support our evening Technology Center, which bridges the digital divide by offering low-income adults free classes in computer applications, as well as general access to computers and the internet

    Contra Costa County Community Service Bureau Contra Costa County Community Services Bureau: The Community Services Bureau has contracted with Opportunity Junction to provide job training and placement services to Contra Costa residents in poverty. The Bureau's mission is to support individuals and families to thrive as contributing members of the community by providing high quality services and learning opportunities.

    The San Francisco Foundation San Francisco Foundation: The San Francisco Foundation is providing core operating support for our Job Training and Placement Program, which combines skills training, work experience, support services and long-term follow-up that enable participants to launch administrative careers.

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    Newsletter Contributors: Brianna Burkman, Lisa Franklin, Alissa Friedman,and Rebecca Riley. Photographs by PhotoSophistry (Gala), Skyhawk Photography (NRG volunteers), Lisa Franklin, Brianna Burkman, and Alissa Friedman, 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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