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August 10, 2015

CONNECT2Careers exhibition table at Passport to Life 2015

On Friday, August 7, an estimated 800 young people attended the Passport to Life Career and Education Expo at San Diego City College, featuring more than 75 exhibitors representing schools, branches of the military, career opportunities, training services and other resources.

The expo, open to youth ages 14 to 24 who currently are or have been on probation in San Diego County, offered user-friendly information about resources and opportunities available as the young men and women transition from being a youth on probation into adulthood with adult responsibilities. The goal was to provide them with ideas, tools, motivation, encouragement, and hope for their future. It was based on the premise that all youth, including adjudicated youth with probation histories, have the ability to succeed if they have the right training, support and opportunities.

Fabian Debora shares his story at Passport to Life 2015Keynote speaker Fabian Debora, world-renowned muralist, and Director of Art for the Latino Producers Action Network (LPAN) and the Director of Substance Abuse Services at Homeboy Industries, shared the story of how his life was transformed by multiple near-death experiences, including having a last-minute epiphany as he was trying to take his own life on the I-5. His story of incarceration, drug addiction, and how art further changed his life offered hope and alternative lifestyle choices for expo attendees.

He stressed the importance of finding mentors. For him, that mentor was Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, whom he credits along with his mom, his partner and his children, for helping him get out of the gang life.

Until he was in his teens, no one had ever paid attention to his talents before. “Father Greg asked me to work on my art,” said Debora. “It was the best gift he could have given me.”

Other activities throughout the day included a “Dress for Success” fashion show illustrating appropriate attire for a job interview, school and the workplace, and workshops on a variety of topics related to education and careers, including education beyond high school, healthy relationships, overcoming barriers, landing and keeping a job and using the internet responsibly.

Stephen Colon of CONNECT2Careers presents a workshop on Landing and Keeping a JobStephen Colón of SDWP’s youth employment program, CONNECT2Careers, presented a workshop on “How to Land and Keep a Job” using storytelling as a way to stand out. Like Debora mentioned in his keynote speech, Colón also talked about finding mentors to help you along the way. CONNECT2Careers, along with SDWP-funded providers Turning the Hearts Center, South Bay Community Services, San Diego Futures Foundation, YMCA Urban Teacher Fellows, Juvenile Court and Community Schools’ Pathways 2 Success, and Access, Inc., had exhibitor tables at the expo.

Superior Court Judge Carolyn M. Caietti was among those offering opening remarks. “We all make mistakes. You don’t have to let a mistake define you,” she told attendees.

Of the event, she said, “When we hear of the accomplishments—young offenders finishing high school, completing college, getting jobs, it makes this program so worthwhile. Passport to Life changes lives. Other cities are taking notice and asking about our program.”

In his plenary speech, Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins encouraged attendees to strive for more. “Failure is comfortable,” he says. “Success is a little more comfortable. Challenge yourself.”

Jenkins said of the event, “This is one of the highlights of our year. It is both heartwarming and inspiring to see this effort come together to provide opportunities for youth. We know, after having done this for several years now, that many youth will take advantage of Passport to Life to chart a course to go to college or perhaps pursue a career.”

The Passport to Life Career and Education Expo was presented by the San Diego Workforce Partnership; San Diego County Probation Department; San Diego City College; San Diego County Office of Education, Juvenile Court and Community Schools; San Diego County District Attorney’s Office; San Diego County Public Defender’s Office; and San Diego Superior Court.

For more information on Passport to Life, visit

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