When the Jacobs Center launched its Inspire Youth Careers program, it had a few goals in mind. One of them was to provide its participants – Opportunity Youth ages 16-24 who are disconnected from school and work – with the chance learn and build a creative career in a paid, real-world working environment.
Participants went through a rigorous boot camp where they were trained in important soft skills, including effective communication, conflict resolution, managing your time, and other important factors for being employable and successful in your chosen education and career path.
Among the participants was Jessie Zelayandia.
Jessie is a 20-year-old woman with a passion for art. She has created murals around San Diego and Los Angeles and aspires to create a clothing line someday. Despite having big dreams and talent to match, Jessie found herself at a disadvantage. She spent many years homeless with her mother, bouncing from San Diego and Los Angeles to find a stable home. She was educated in part at San Diego’s Monarch School, which works specifically with homeless youth. Her upbringing created barriers to building the future career she’s always dreamt of.
During the boot camp phase of Inspire Youth Careers, however, Jessie found a great start.
A while back she told us, “All of the lessons they are giving us give me a really huge boost.” Jessie, and other students who made it past Phase 1 – Boot Camp, went on to phase 2, the 200-hour skill building/technical training portion of the program, during which she learned basic graphic design, web design, and digital media skills.
“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,” Jessie previously told us. “Apart from that, I’m getting to where I want to be in my career.”
That was the next step: setting Jessie into her career.
The third phase of the Inspire Youth Careers program is the paid work experience portion. Jessie and a few of her Inspire Careers colleagues went to work for the Diamond Business Association (BID), designing fliers, posters, social media posts, and more for local small business in need of services.
One exciting project was designing light post banners celebrating Bicycle Awareness Month. Jessie and her fellow Inspire Careers co-workers collaborated on the banners’ design. They now hang along Euclid Avenue and Market Street.
Seeing the banners in her neighborhood has been exciting for Jessie as well as her mom.
“I passed by them with my mom and she was really happy and proud,” she says. “From seeing where I started and how far along I’ve come, it’s really cool. I think about how when I was younger I always wanted to make my art be out there, and this is just another way of doing that.”
Like many others, Jessie believed that art can only be a hobby and not a career that can provide a livable wage. However, through the Inspire Youth Careers program and work experience, she has not seen the possibility but also given an opportunity to make it happen for herself.
The program also empowered Jessie to push pass the doubts and fears that have kept her from pursuing a higher education. She admits to wanting to learn graphic design but didn’t feel comfortable attending City College.
“I didn’t want the professors to get frustrated with me because I didn’t know those programs,” she says. “To have Ron and Laura (Inspire Youth Career instructor and project manager, respectively) and the whole team made it really easy to learn and for it to stick. I’m really happy I joined the program because now I don’t feel insecure. Everyday I’m still working on my skills and trying to get better.”
Jessie’s next step? Keeping up the momentum! Through a partnership with the Jacobs Center and San Diego Continuing Education, she is working to receive a certification in graphic design. Then she hopes to have her own clothing line someday so she can put her art on shirts and hats. We can’t wait to rock our own Jessie original!