Being the Change: The Juma Youth Leadership Council

If you ever walk into Juma’s main office, perched on the edge of San Francisco’s picturesque Bay by the Embarcadero, there’s a good chance you’ll be greeted by a Juma youth. Outside of the administrative work and collaboration which take place there on a daily basis, the office is also the hub for Juma San Francisco’s Juma Youth Leadership Council–frequently referred to by youth as “The JLC.” The JLC was originally envisioned as a means of boosting youth voice but their work is as varied as the council’s members. 

With Juma youth regularly cycling out of the program to move on to their next school or career opportunity, the council functions as a kind of time capsule for each generation of Juma’s young people. The council’s priorities and actions are defined by what matters most to the young people in any given cohort. For Jesus Rojas, a former Juma youth and current Juma staff member, the JLC started as a chance to spend more time in the office but became a way to flex his leadership muscles. Today, he uses those same leadership skills as Juma’s Regional Enterprise Manager, serving both the Sacramento and San Jose sites.

“Because I was on the JLC, whenever other kids saw me working, they recognized me and knew I was someone they could ask questions or ask for help from,” Jesus recalls. At that time in his life, Jesus was shy and quiet, but through his work as a JLC member, he grew in confidence. He was also able to leverage the leadership skills he honed through his JLC activities on college applications–a piece which he feels gave him the extra boost to really stand out from the crowd of applicants.

Today, the JLC is coming back after a two year pandemic-induced hiatus. On a recent weekday, you could find Trinidad, Saba, and Alexis–members of the current five-youth JLC–hanging out in the Juma office. Nominated by the San Francisco Enterprise Manager and Site Manager, the group works together on projects ranging from volunteer opportunities to event planning.  Currently, the project they are working to help bring to life is JumaLink–an annual event where Juma youth have the chance to network with professionals from a variety of industries to hone their networking skills and ask questions about a multitude of roles they could one day work in. But when they’re not actively planning an event, the JLC are still functioning as ambassadors and leaders.

“My favorite part [of being a JLC member] is having an opportunity to improve my leadership skills while building connections with my fellow co-workers through community work and projects,” describes Alexis. Some of the group’s current priorities include improving some of the in-stadium equipment for greater efficiency and creating more connections within the Jumaverse–more face-to-face contact among youth now that the pandemic is more under control.

In the future, the JLC will continue to develop and change based on the young people who currently represent their peers as members, but for now, both Juma youth and staff are happy to be working together once again.