Confidence in Community: Leslie’s Juma Story

When Leslie, a Juma youth from San Jose, started her junior year of high school, she was ready to take on new challenges. After more than a year of experiencing high school from behind a screen during the pandemic, she was ready to dive headfirst into every experience. When a friend told her about Juma, Leslie immediately saw a chance to expand her horizons while earning a paycheck.

As the daughter of two immigrants, Leslie has always been grateful for every opportunity that came her way. She lived in a small studio apartment with her parents and sister until recently when they were able to move to a larger space.. Today, Leslie reflects on the way the room she shares with her sister is the size of the entire apartment she used to share with her parents and how their determination and hard work paid off.

“Sometimes resources are hard to come across and intimidating to find but I am lucky enough to have a great support system,” Leslie reflects. When she heard about Juma, she knew it would be a great fit because Juma’s built-in network of support would help her to prioritize her future. “I hold a lot of responsibilities at school,” Leslie explains. “I wanted to work in an environment where my time would be respected.”

At Juma, Leslie found a host of mentors who were ready to guide her through some of the toughest transitions from childhood to adulthood. The day she was hired, she met Juma San Jose Program Manager Michela Chatmon. “Her job is so necessary because the resources we’ve been given [at Juma]–such as workshops, one-on-one meetings, and financial capability resources–especially in our teen years, are the things we need the most help on.” Michela would also be the first person Leslie turned to when it was time to get a letter of recommendation to include in her college applications.

Aside from Michela’s support, Leslie also found the guidance she needed to grow in her role at the ballpark in Enterprise Manager Jesus Rojas. She learned to love the high pace of a professional sports venue with Jesus’s supportive management style. “He makes us feel comfortable and heard,” Leslie explains.

As she looks to the next steps toward her bright future, Leslie is leaning on the support of Juma Education Coordinator Becca Hammar. Becca has helped Leslie–a first generation college student–navigate the college application process, from actual applications to scholarships to entrance essays. 

When Leslie started her job at Juma, she set a goal for herself: to pay for all of her college applications. Thanks to her hard-earned income working at Juma, and in part to Michela’s budgeting class, Leslie has been able to accomplish that feat. She’s saved over $1,000 since beginning work at Juma and has still been able to meet all of her commitments at school and at home.