Allies in Youth Development: Creating New Roles to Meet Youth Where They’re At

Today’s Juma youth face a host of difficult challenges. Barriers like access to stable housing, foster care, and involvement with the criminal justice system can pose enormous difficulties when making the transition from a first job to a career. As Juma program staff began working with young people facing multiple barriers, it became clear that the addition of a Case Manager and an Education Coordinator to the Juma team could help young people overcome their challenges and connect to the most appropriate resources and opportunities.

This year, Juma welcomes Case Manager CJ Whitt and Education Coordinator Becca Hammar. While CJ will work exclusively with youth in Sacramento to assess barriers, connect them to the appropriate barrier removal services, Becca will support young people in both Sacramento and San Jose in setting their educational goals, identifying local education institutions, and creating peer learning circles. Becca will also provide assistance with higher education applications, registration, and enrollment.

“One of our principles is that youth need to achieve stability before they can hope to achieve mobility,” explains Tara DeRosa, Chief Program and Grants Officer. “By addressing barriers, the Case Manager helps the youth achieve stability. For example, a young person may come to Juma struggling with insecure housing. Because housing insecurity interferes with one’s ability to succeed in work and education, addressing this barrier is critical. By doing so, Juma is increasing the chances that youth will succeed in the Juma program and in subsequent jobs.”

In considering next steps beyond Juma, the Education Coordinator role will also be vital to removing barriers and opening up pathways. “Many of our youth come to Juma without a plan for post secondary education. They may believe college to be out of reach, either financially or academically,” says Tara. “By focusing on accessible education pathways–primarily community colleges–and helping youth connect to those institutions we are investing in a young person’s economic and educational mobility.”

“I want youth to know that a college degree is one of many pathways to a gainful career and financial stability, and that taking advantage of available resources is a key piece of the puzzle, especially for marginalized youth,” explains Becca, who is excited to hit the ground running. Since coming onboard in April, she’s enjoyed getting to know Sacramento and San Jose’s young people and learning about their goals.

In the future, Juma aims to expand both roles so that each Juma site has access to a Case Manager and an Education Coordinator. Juma’s team hopes to meet this goal by 2025. In the meantime, CJ and Becca will be paving the way and helping more young people access the tools and resources they need to realize their greatest potential.