Backed by PIC and County Agencies, “Highway to Work” Provides Youth Jobs

Ramon Gonzales at Soulciety

Dominic Gates at Berkeley Youth Alternatives.

Highway to Work (H2W), Alameda County’s summer and year-round youth employment program, has provided approximately 500 young people with employment opportunities over the past year. A highlight of H2W is that youth can keep their jobs by working after-school, providing them fully subsidized employment through June. The program began with the support of the Alameda County Social Services Agency, which awarded Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC) a youth employment contract. PIC partnered with 10 organizations throughout the county to administer the contract and put youth to work. So far, worksites include Rubicon, City of Oakland, Dig Deep Farms, Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Cal State University Eastbay, Joyce Gordon Gallery and Silliman Aquatic Center. “All of our partnering agencies have their own unique gifts, and they continue to utilize those gifts to the maximum benefit of our youth,” said  Rayna Lett-Bell, programs coordinator at PIC, who has spearheaded the H2W program from its inception, and has been one of the driving forces keeping the program on track. One participant is Ramon Gonzales. Since he started with Soulciety in Hayward, he has become extremely active in school and the Culinary Regional Occupational Program. Because of his interest in cooking, the program placed him at a restaurant for work experience. The restaurant, Buddy’s, speaks very highly of Gonzales and sees the potential for him to move up within the company. “Soulciety taught me a variety of things such as managing money, how to keep a job, punctuality and so much more,” said Gonzales. “They showed me how to communicate with others in a positive way and to not be afraid to ask questions or ask for help.” Another H2W participant is Dominic Gates, who found a job through Berkeley Youth Alternatives. He is now working at Rubicon and Farm Fresh Choice.   He says that working at Rubicon has made him more confident around professional adults, while his job at Farm Fresh Choice makes him feel like he’s making a difference in people’s lives. “Highway to Work really changes lives,” Gates said. “It is helping me become more successful in my life.”
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