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Probationary young adults learn 'Your Start is Not Your Finish'

On August 18, the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) participated in the 8th Annual Passport to Life Career and Education Expo at San Diego City College. The event was open to young adults ages 14–24 who are currently on probation or have a probation history. The event focused on the importance of finishing high school, the value of obtaining higher education and building work-readiness skills.

“It is always inspiring and uplifting to see the Passport to Life attendees," says San Diego Superior Court Judge Carolyn M. Caietti. "They have such potential and ability to succeed. These young people may not always recognize that in themselves, but once they do, it is exciting to watch it unfold. They are appreciative of the efforts by our court and our community in showing them support, compassion and opportunity."

Jimmy Cha, the event's keynote speaker, is a former Los Angeles gang member. Growing up poor, his parents lost their entire business in the 1992 L.A. riots. Cha spent his youth involved in gangs and committing numerous crimes. By the time he was 24, his family had had enough and his brother convinced him to go back to school. He went to community college, received a partial scholarship from UCLA and then attended law school. Cha is now a highly successful criminal defense attorney who has been recognized by numerous legal organizations. He is also a certified gang expert, which means other attorneys often seek his advice on gangs and understanding gangs. He has testified in court as an expert on gangs, prison inmate classification and the perils of gang life. Cha strives to motivate and inspire hundreds of young people whose offenses have placed them in the juvenile justice system.

As part of Passport to Life, CONNECT2Careers (C2C) Training Specialists Taryell Simmons and Briana Bevill facilitated a Preparing for Interviews workshop. The young adults learned strategies on what to do before, during and after an interview. Simmons shared tips youth can use to answer common interview questions. The workshop was one of 14 offered to the young adults, including presentations about financial aid, exploring different science career paths, understanding college options after high school and peer advice from a San Diego City College student panel.

After the workshops, young adults were able to register for C2C at an expo where they learned more about upcoming work readiness workshops, job fairs and C2C's online portal. The San Diego Second Chance Program, South Bay Community Services, YMCA, San Diego Continuing Education, Access, Inc., Urban Corps and Job Corps also had exhibitor tables at the expo.

Passport to Life is a collaboration between the San Diego Superior Court and the County of San Diego’s Probation Department, along with numerous public and private organizations, including SDWP. 

“We are excited to once again team up with the Juvenile Court and Judge Caietti to host this important event,” said the County of San Diego’s Chief Probation Officer Adolfo Gonzales. “Passport to Life embodies the mission and goals of the Juvenile Court system, and we hope it will again expose and inspire youth in the system to seek educational and work opportunities they may not have known existed.”