In This Edition:
KZiaand her children

Thanks to you: K'Zia has a new beginning

K'Zia fought through an abusive marriage and depression to find Opportunity Junction and start her career. K'Zia shares, "I love my job. I am able to support my children on my own. I have clothes and food. If we have to go to the doctor, we can just go. For the first time in years, I can just laugh and enjoy what was going on. For the first time, I am relying on myself. Without Opportunity Junction, I would not be able to be the mother I am today for my kids." Here's her story in her own words...

Planning Process

Opportunity Junction college partnership earns Accelerator Fund replication

Opportunity Junction's program to help job seekers navigate and succeed in community college tracks will be replicated by a network of organizations in West Contra Costa and Alameda counties this coming year, thanks to support from the California Workforce Development Board. The collaboration was one of only three Innovation Network Awardees selected from across the entire state to be funded through the Workforce Accelerator Fund. Read more...

We salute you for making your $115,000 mark on the world!

Our 2016 Imagine Gala, Make Your Mark on the World, was a great success! Over 150 supporters gathered at Diablo County Club on Saturday, April 23rd for an upbeat night of festivities and fundraising presented by Chevron. With support of sponsors, gala committee members, board members, and guests, this event helped us net over $115,000 to support our life changing employment programs. The program featured the success story of alumna Tracie Long. Read more...

New Staff Members

Meet the newest additions to the Opportunity Junction team!

Please join us in welcoming Opportunity Junction's most recent additions to our staff! Flor Lopez and Chris Jackson joined us as Career Counselors in our Bay Point location and Melinda Johnson joined us as Administrative Manager. Get to know our new staffers...

graduate and her child

Join us Thursday for Class 49 Graduation

Join us Thursday for Class 49 Graduation: Please join us and guest speaker Ben Johnson, Mayor of Pittsburg, in celebrating the graduation of Class 49 of the Job Training and Placement Program. When: Thursday, May 26, 2016, at 7 pm. Where: El Campanil Theater, 602 W. 2nd St., Antioch, CA 94509. Click here to RSVP.

Online form for volunteers

Volunteers can see and report hours online

Our website now allows volunteers to report and see their total hours using Volunteers for Salesforce. Existing volunteers can request a link to their personal site be sent to their email address. New volunteers can sign up without leaving our website. Check it out...

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Thanks to You: K'Zia has a new beginning

KZia and her children"Before I applied to Opportunity Junction, I was just starting to move past the most challenging period of my life. Although I had a few years as a rebellious teen, I tried hard to lead a good life and settled down with my husband and two children. But my life was not what I expected. I spent the next several years in a marriage full of alcohol, verbal abuse, mental abuse, and physical abuse. Our fights and my depression were severe, and I was turning into someone I was not happy with. I separated from my husband in September 2013: one of the hardest things I have ever done.

"I was lucky to have the support of my parents who allowed me and my children to move back home to California. I needed to pick up the pieces and learn to support my kids alone, but I had not worked in almost six years staying home to raise my children. Finding a job seemed impossible, and I didn't know where to start. I also didn't want to leave my kids who were struggling with the changes. I spiraled into horrible depression.

"After filing for divorce and moving back home, it took over a year to build up my confidence to realize that enough was enough, and I was not setting a good example for my children. They were hurting emotionally after their father and I split, so I needed to be their rock. I wanted to show them that I could be resilient; that life moves on after something bad happens.

KZia at graduation"I walked into Opportunity Junction, and my social anxiety went through the roof. I dropped out of high school because I was too afraid to speak in front of anyone; it took everything I had not to turn around and run.

"I felt the support of the staff immediately, and the program challenged me every day. I am so thankful for Natalie (Manager of Personal Development) and her Life Skills lessons. We laughed and cried, and we got to learn about each other, which brought us closer together as a class. I made new friendships and realized that there are still good people in the world. I just needed to take a chance and open up.

KZia"Through an OJ employer connection, I found a position with Terence J. O'Sullivan Laborers Training Center as an office assistant. And I love my job. I am able to support my children on my own. I have clothes and food. If we have to go to the doctor, we can just go.

"Sometimes I just start laughing and my children ask me why. For the first time in years, I can just laugh and enjoy what was going on. For the first time, I am relying on myself. I don't have to borrow from my husband or my parents. I am doing it now, and I don't have to listen to anyone who didn't believe in me.

"I will forever be thankful for this experience. Without Opportunity Junction, I would not be able to be the mother I am today for my kids."

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Opportunity Junction college partnership earns Accelerator Fund replication

Planning process Opportunity Junction's program to help job seekers navigate and succeed in community college tracks will be replicated by a network of organizations in West Contra Costa and Alameda counties this coming year, thanks to support from the California Workforce Development Board. The collaboration was one of only three Innovation Network Awardees selected from across the entire state to be funded through the Workforce Accelerator Fund (WAF).

The original project, launched in 2014, was named the Job Seeker Designed Pathway. The partners - Opportunity Junction, the Opportunity Junction Alumni Council, Los Medanos College, and Pathways Consultants - agreed to design the program based on job seeker input. That input included changing the name of the program to Road Map to College for purposes of reaching the target population: low-income and long-term unemployed job seekers.

The program design was individualized and helped participants connect to the existing support available at LMC. Participants were provided uniforms, books, transportation assistance, computers, and much more. LMC staff came to Opportunity Junction to meet the participants and help them complete the matriculation process: Academic Counseling, Financial Aid, the Welcome Center, and the Assessment Center. Importantly, Opportunity Junction's College and Career Counselor, Natasha DeAlmeida, served as a single point of contact to help participants with any issues that arose along the way. Natasha has also provided career counseling to the participants and connected them to placement opportunities.

Retention numbers have been impressive: 75% for the cohort that enrolled at LMC in January 2015, and 90% for the cohort that enrolled in January 2016. As a result, both SparkPoint Contra Costa and The Stride Center sought to replicate the program. With Opportunity Junction and Pathways Consultants serving as "Innovation Impact Advisors" and the Richmond Community Foundation serving as the network's "Hub," each organization will be replicating the Job Seeker Designed Pathway this coming year.

The design that emerges from each project will depend on the input of the job seekers served. SparkPoint Contra Costa will be partnering with Contra Costa College and recruiting clients from the Richmond SparkPoint office to enroll in Career Technical Education tracks there. The Stride Center will recruit from its offices in both San Pablo and Oakland and will be working both with Contra Costa College and the Peralta Community College District. Lessons learned will be shared throughout the network.

Opportunity Junction was also selected to receive a Workforce Accelerator Fund contract to launch a new project targeting youth aged 18-24, called the College and Career Concierge. The roster of partners for the new project is impressive, including Los Medanos College, the Contra Costa County Office of Education's Foster Youth Service Coordination Program, the Contra Costa County Workforce Development Board, Pathways Consultants, and Larry Robbins. We are honored to be working with this team and to have had our project selected for funding by the WAF!

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We salute you for making your $115,000 mark on the world!

Alissa Friedman

Our 2016 Imagine Gala, Make Your Mark on the World, was a great success! Over 150 supporters gathered at Diablo Country Club on Saturday, April 23rd for an upbeat night of festivities and fundraising presented by Chevron. With support of sponsors, gala committee members, board members, and guests, this event helped us net over $115,000 to support our life changing employment programs.

Guests arrived and immediately secured their chance at winning one of our coveted raffle prizes. While sipping wine and enjoying passed hors d'oeuvres, attendees placed their bids for a variety of unique silent auction items. The excitement continued in the dining room with a program emceed by KTVU Fox News weatherman Steve Paulson, followed by a spirited live auction. Our Auctioneer, Bryan Eaton and his team kept the energy high during the auction that we ended up with two high bidders for the six-night stay in a lovely Mendocino home, donated by Tom and Rebecca Riley. On the spot they agreed to allow both bidders to win and this raised $6,000 for OJ!

We can't forget the rousing tribute that Alissa made to the sponsors with their very own song. Alissa outdid herself this year AND we captured it on video here!

While fun was a word that was heard throughout the evening, guests knew we were there to raise critical funds to keep our organization thriving. We featured the success story of alumna Tracie Long through a video created by Chris Verdugo of CCTV. See Tracie's Success Story.

Gala Committee Opportunity Junction is exceptionally grateful to the small and mighty crew of volunteers who made this event possible. Special thanks to the volunteer Gala Committee: Kathy Leahy, Betty Stokes, Mary Ann Shattuck, Carol Altwarg, and Elinor Axup. From soliciting and organizing auction items, to inviting their networks to attend, and making personal contributions, we could not do this without their hard work and generosity.

Seeno table at galaA huge thank you to our sponsors: Presenting Sponsor Chevron, Platinum Sponsor Seeno Homes, Media Sponsor Diablo Magazine, Gold Sponsors (Craig Communications, Future State, J. Stokes Agency, and Temen, Kaiser, & Cameron LLP); Silver Sponsors (Adhesive Products, Inc., Berkeley Patients Group, Cosmetic Dental Spa, Dow Chemical Company, Mt. Diablo Recycling, a Garaventa Company, Mechanics Bank, NRG Energy, and Wells Fargo); and Bronze Sponsors (Bishop-Wisecarver Group, Comcast, BAC Community Bank, Kaiser Permanente, Peterson Properties, Phillips66, Pittsburg Power, Summit Financial Group, and USS-POSCO). Your support and attendance helps us change lives for job seekers and their families, making a lasting and generational mark on this community.

We also extend our gratitude to the staff members and alumni volunteers who ran the event, guests who attended and participated in various ways, and to the elected officials who attended or sent representatives. Also, to the many donors who donated items to support our silent and live auction, this event would not have been as successful without your generosity. Last but certainly not least, we thank our Board Members and Advisory Council members who purchased tables, donated auction items, brought guests, and gave donations at the event. Your guidance and leadership are invaluable. Because of your support, Opportunity Junction can remain a beacon of hope for motivated job seekers in East Contra Costa. We salute you for making your mark on the worlld.

See more of the photos from the gala here! Thank you, David and Nicola Fraser of PhotoSophistry.

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Meet the newest additions to the Opportunity Junction team!

Please join us in welcoming Opportunity Junction's most recent additions to our staff! Flor Lopez and Chris Jackson both joined us as Career Counselors in our Bay Point SparkPoint location and Melinda Johnson joined us in the newly created position of Administrative Manager. Melinda replaced our Office Manager, Gloria Holbrook, who left us to pursue a finance career in San Francisco after eight years of impressive service with Opportunity Junction. We are thrilled to have Flor, Chris, and Melinda on board!

Flor Lopez

Flor joined Opportunity Junction in March as a Career Counselor at our Bay Point location helping SparkPoint clients achieve financial stability. Prior to joining Opportunity Junction, Flor served as a Hiring Coordinator/Team Leader for Camp Augusta, a Research Assistant for Transforming Local Communities, and an Americorps Team Leader and Youth Mentor for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools. She holds a B.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara in Sociology and Spanish, and she holds a Masters of Public Administration from Cal State University at Bakersfield.

Melinda Johnson

Melinda joined our staff as Administrative Manager in April and brings with her over 20 years of experience working in all areas of administration. Prior to joining us, Melinda worked as the Accounting & Human Resources Manager at an auto broker in Sausalito. We have it on good authority that she is as thrilled with her new 5-mile commute as she is with managing our office administration! A native Californian, animal lover and yarn-a-holic, Melinda holds a B.A. degree in Creative Arts from Bradford College in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Chris Jackson

Chris, our newest addition, comes to us with a BA in Communications and Urban Studies from San Francisco State University. He has almost ten years of career counseling and case management experience working for organizations such as Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), SamaUSA, San Francisco Labor Council, and Visitacion Valley Community Center. Chris has a true commitment to social justice and serving vulnerable populations and we know he will bring his passionate enthusiasm to our Bay Point location!

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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:

East Bay Community Foundation The Anonymous Fund at the East Bay Community Foundation: The Anonymous 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.

AT&T AT&T Aspire has made a contribution to support our evening Technology Center, including basic computer training and career coaching to both English and English as a second language adult learners from East Contra Costa.

Contra Costa County, Pittsburg, Antioch Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Programs of Antioch, Pittsburg, and Contra Costa: : The CDBG programs of the City of Antioch, the City of Pittsburg, and Contra Costa County have all renewed their contracts for support of the Job Training and Placement Program. In addition, the City of Pittsburg CDBG program has renewed its support for the evening Technology Center, providing their residents with classes in computer applications, English as a Second Language, and Spanish, and Contra Costa's CDBG program is extending its support for our individualized Career Development Services at SparkPoint Contra Costa in Bay Point.

The Strive for Change Foundation The Strive for Change Foundation: The Foundation renewed its support for our programs that help the working poor in Contra Costa County 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.

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Newsletter Contributors: Eva Luo, Brianna Robinson, Samantha Seals-Martin, Melinda Johnson, Flor Lopez, Chris Jackson, and Alissa Friedman. Photographs by PhotoSophistry,Eva Luo, Brianna Robinson, and Samantha Seals-Martin (with editing 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 2016