Sponsored Employment Program (SEP)
The Sponsored Employment Program (SEP) is a successful, grassroots, summer youth jobs initiative in East Palo Alto (EPA), CA. One East Palo Alto (OEPA) has spearheaded this groundbreaking initiative since 2005 through its role as convener of the East Palo Alto Crime Reduction Task Force (EPACRTF) and agency lead of the Task Force’s Prevention and Alternatives Committee, which oversees SEP’s annual implementation. EPACRTF was established in 2004 by San Mateo County Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, who continued to co-convene the work until her term as Supervisor ended in January 2013.
Call to Action. In 2005, OEPA partnered with local agencies and residents to pilot SEP, initially called the Sponsored Employment Project, as an action-oriented community-wide response to then increasing incidents of crime and violence, especially those involving EPA youth and young adults. That response catalyzed a grassroots movement to reconnect with EPA youth, show them that we care, bring summer jobs back to the community and create positive income earning opportunities for those evidencing the greatest need to work.
History. In its pilot phase, SEP established jobs in local nonprofits and public agencies and mentoring relationships for 30 youth and young adults ages 14-24 with multiple challenges to employment. Three local organizations, in particular, have been lead implementing partners that have collaborated with OEPA to launch and sustain the SEP initiative -- JobTrain (formerly OICW), which has served as SEP’s employer of record, El Concilio of San Mateo County, which has coordinated SEP’s community mentoring component, and College Track, which recruited the first set of job placements and has continued to assist with outreach, community service training and overall program monitoring. In 2011, SEP implementing partners expanded to include Live in Peace, which now leads efforts to develop year-round for SEP graduates with high potential. Other youth- serving nonprofits have been a part of the initiative since 2006 as extended partners and have expanded the scope of income earning activities available to SEP participants as well as the number of individuals served. They include EPA.net, Leadership Training Academy/Community Development Institute, Mural, Music & Arts Project, New Perspectives East Palo Alto, Youth Community Service and Youth United for Community Action. In 2009, SEP partners decided to strengthen operations by adding a Program Coordinator, who was employed by OEPA; while OEPA, in turn, assumed the role of Employer of Record. In 2010, a Peer Mentor component was added. SEP has served over 800 EPA youth and young adults since 2005.
SEP Today. Now in its ninth year, SEP provides summer employment, mentoring relationships and community connectedness opportunities for up to 100 youth at highest risk in East Palo Alto. SEP‘s employment component places EPA youth with Employer-Sponsors in nonprofit and public sector job sites, as well as in a growing number of private sector organizations (Notably in 2012, Above All Insurance, Inc., Pentair Thermal Management, San Mateo Credit Union and Meru Networks joined our growing list of private sector Employer- Sponsors). All of the job placements give youth participants supportive and supervised work experiences. SEP’s mentoring relationship component matches young people with Community Mentors who aid them in becoming productive members of both the community and the labor force.
Budget. Each year, OEPA leads an extensive SEP fundraising campaign, which is supported by its implementing partners. Funds raised cover the costs of employing up to 100 EPA YYA participants and up to 10 EPA college student Peer Mentors who provide a robust component of team mentoring to augment the volunteer adult mentoring resources, program support services, and administration. SEP’s total 2013 budget of $300,645 will fund participant salary stipends, which constitute the largest expenditure (approximately 67%) as well as programmatic supports of mentoring, employment training and skills workshops, an orientation reception and a graduation ceremony. Based on this total, the cost per participant is $3,000.
Funding. In the first two years of implementing SEP, keystone funding was obtained from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Thereafter, collective fundraising efforts have succeeded in securing major funding from foundation, corporate, government, public sector and individual donors, to all of whom we extend heartfelt thanks. SEP organizers are equally grateful to the City of East Palo Alto and San Mateo County Human Services for making the largest major donations each year since 2007. We are also indebted to the Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley at East Palo Alto for underwriting, since 2008, OEPA's annual "Embracing East Palo Alto Youth" luncheon, the proceeds of which have provided generous support of SEP operations.
One thing is certain... it takes a village to embrace East Palo Alto youth in need and raise winners and SEP definitely has been and is “the place to be” when it comes to doing just that!
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