Rewarding Resilience with Responsibility

On a sunny day in San Jose, California, Nicole, a San Jose Juma youth, strides across the field at Levi’s Stadium. She joins a crowd of San Francisco Forty-Niners players along with the referee for their upcoming game against the Dallas Cowboys. Soon, Nicole will have the honor of tossing the ceremonial coin that determines which team starts with the ball. Later that night she’ll also go on to win Juma’s own vendor competition, earning the most tips of any vendor on the shift and having hers doubled.

“It was pretty much Nicole’s best day ever,” says Kendra O’Donoghue, Juma San Jose Site Director. “It was really exciting to watch her take the confidence she gained from being on the field with the players and turn it into a personal triumph.” At Juma San Jose, being selected as a US Bank Coin Toss VIP Future Leader and getting to perform the ceremonial coin toss is a reward that comes with showing responsibility, consistency, and above all, resilience in both work and life. “A big thing we are really emphasizing is persistence–how youth persist through difficult situations, how they show that through ongoing education and career pathways,” Kendra adds.

In Sacramento, California, youth have the opportunity to apply for a promotion to a lead role and interview for that role in order to practice for future job application processes once they leave Juma. Thanks in part to the learnings they gain through that process, Sacramento youth who earn a leadership role often excel in their new position. “It’s been really exciting to watch youth become trainers,” says Claire Wheeler, Sacramento Site Manager. “I’ve designated some of our highest performing youth to specific roles I know they have an interest in–barista lead, vending lead, customer service lead. Each of them have their own specific set of skills that they train other youth on and they become masters in that. For example, our barista lead who is an amazing barista, he was able to really master that skill and now all of our baristas learn from him.”

While youth like [Steven from Sacramento (Link to other article here)] usually grow into their roles, the transition can sometimes be challenging, but ultimately, the challenge is a crucial part of the growing experience. “The biggest struggle we see is that these youth are the same age as everybody else,” says Claire. “Finding the line from coworker to lead can be really challenging.” To combat those challenges, Enterprise and Program staff have developed a variety of trainings to help newly promoted leads step into the role.

Youth come to Juma with a variety of experiences and levels of job-readiness. By meeting them where they are at through flexible programming and opportunities, Juma staff are able to deliver the appropriate level of challenge to make a youth’s time in the program engaging while keeping goals achievable. Across sites, staff seek out ways to provide youth who excel with further opportunities to develop. From direct pipelines to higher roles within the ballpark to more unique experiences like the coin toss in San Jose, youth are given opportunities to subvert the proverbial glass ceiling with expanded responsibility.

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