Creative Industries Program students share why it pays to go through “Boot Camp”

img_2547Inspired and grateful are two words to describe the students of the inaugural class of the Jacobs Center’s Creative Industries Program. Many have overcome challenges to be in the program and are taking advantage of this second chance to reclaim their future. The Creative Industries Program has launched the Jacobs Center’s Inspire Youth Careers industry partnership aimed at training youth disconnected from jobs and school and employing them in our region’s priority job sectors. San Diego is home to approximately 43,000 “opportunity youth” who are unemployed or underemployed. Forty percent of these youth reside in historically underserved communities including Southeastern San Diego.

The Creative Industries Program takes individuals with an interest in the arts and provides them with the training and skill set they need make their passion their profession. Young adults (ages 18–24) receive soft skills development, paid technical training in graphic design and web development, and paid on-the-job experience with various partner design firms. The program builds on past youth-focused arts education offered by the Jacobs Center’s graffiti art program Writerz Blok, which merges urban art with graphic design to establish pathways to creative careers. It is funded in part with Community Development Block Grant Program funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the City of San Diego.

img_2528The first class of the Creative Industries Program recently completed Phase 1, the unpaid soft skills training or “boot camp” as it’s referred to by students and teachers. This initial two-week introduction to the program determines which students are eligible to move on to the paid design training and job placement phases. During this portion of the program, students receive training in the skills needed to help them land a job and move up in it. These soft skills include effective communication, goal setting, decision-making, conflict resolution, problem solving, and living on your own. Students also created elevator pitches and résumés in workshops taught by program partner San Diego Workforce Partnership and its CONNECT2Careers program.

Devon Gonzalez and Jessie Zelayandia are two students who successfully completed the soft skills boot camp and are on their way to the paid design training.

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devonDevon Gonzalez, 24

“This program is making things clearer for me. I’m so stoked to be here.”

Devon is a local award-winning graffiti artist and muralist who has lived in Southeastern San Diego for the past two and a half years. He was introduced to the Creative Industries Program after spending time painting at Writerz Blok. Before the program, Devon made a living off of freelance art projects, not knowing where his next paycheck was coming from. When he learned about the Creative Industries Program, he jumped at the opportunity to get paid to further his skills and to have a stable career pathway. He considers landing a spot in the program a breakthrough.

“The biggest challenge was trying to find the next job. When I got one job, I knew it was already going to be over, so I had to try to find ways to have a constant flow of income,” said Devon.

The soft skills boot camp challenged Devon to tackle his anxiety around interviewing. The program’s guided activities and role playing exercises helped him relax and boosted his confidence. Workshops in elevator pitches, goal-setting, and business helped Devon to learn how to sell himself and his craft and have a better understanding of what is needed to be successful as a professional.

“There is so much more to contracts,” said Devon. “I didn’t realize there were pages of other stuff, like insurance, and so many little things. It’s so interesting to learn.”

In Phase 2 of the program, Devon looks forward to learning to screen print and how he can transfer his designs to T-shirts and sell them to make a profit.
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“Screen printing is something I tried a little in the past. Getting designs ready from graphic design to screen printing is what I really want to learn how to do,” he said.

After the program, Devon hopes to work toward opening an art business that creates beautiful murals and exterior designs for businesses.

“I got to know people in the class, and they have really high goals. People want to open up businesses, be graphic designers, do interior design. To hear all these things from different people who come from different backgrounds, it’s almost like a big collaboration of students. We’re all in it together.”

jessieJessie Zelayandia, 20

“Coming back to this area makes me feel really good. It makes me see how much I have grown from how my life was before to how it is now. Being able to have an opportunity to see if maybe I can work here? It’s amazing. All of the lessons they are giving us give me a really huge boost.”

Jessie’s life has been anything but easy. She grew up homeless, transitioning with her mother between Los Angeles, San Diego, and Mexico. She eventually ended up attending and graduating from San Diego’s Monarch School, a K-12 comprehensive school designed to educate homeless youth. Jessie learned about the Creative Industries Program from information the Monarch School sends to its alumni.

This Creative Industries Program came at a great time for Jessie, as she had taken a semester off from studying studio art at San Diego City College where she plans to return next semester to study graphic design. For Jessie, the opportunity to be paid to hone her skills and receive on-the-job experience was also a draw.

“It’s a really good opportunity — it’s great! I’m going to go back to City College, and it really helps out a lot. It’s hard for me…. I’m not too great with computers, so this is a boost up because I’m going to go into college, and I’m going to already know basic things and things I can use. Apart from that, I’m getting to where I want to be in my career.”

While Jessie had previously received much of the soft skills training provided in boot camp at the Monarch School, this phase helped refresh what she had learned and gave her the opportunity to think more in depth about how to approach certain aspects of a professional job, like how to dress.

“I’m an artist, and at my other job, I do murals, so my dress is usually overalls and sneakers, and there is paint everywhere, so it’s really different. I also have another job doing reports and getting information from different businesses, so I have to dress more professional, so it’s two different environments,” she said.

Jessie is looking forward to learning more digital design in Phase 2 of the program. She has invested in a heat press and screen printer and wants to learn how to create designs digitally, so she can produce them using these tools.

unknown-23In addition to studying in the Creative Industries Program, Jessie serves as a community artist for A Reason to Survive, a nationally recognized, multidisciplinary creative youth development agency. In this role, she has designed benches at Kimble Park as part of an Arts for Veterans project, created sculptures, demonstrated live art at community events, and worked with volunteers. She also supports herself by working at American Systems Group.

After completing the program, Jessie has one simple, yet very important goal: to be happy.

“To be able to be happy for me means getting my education, and not just being in a class and sitting there and getting the degree, but actually learning everything I need to know. I love to learn. I want to take in as much information about art as possible because I’m passionate about it, and I want to make a difference in the community with it,” she said.

By furthering her education in the arts, Jessie is hoping to someday open her own arts-focused organization in San Diego and in Mexico that helps youth who have faced adversity.

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We’ll be back with more student stories from the Jacobs Center’s Creative Industries Program as the students transition from boot camp to the paid design training phase and on-the-job experience with the program’s partners.

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