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May 8, 2024

At just 19 years old, Summer’s workforce journey is just getting started. Born and raised in East Oakland, influenced by her mother’s strong work ethic and desire for independence, she began working at 16. As a former foster youth, Summer’s life was filled with many uncertainties and shifting circumstances, which taught her to be self-reliant. With the help of different community organizations and nonprofits like the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP), as a part of the Access to Career Pathways for Foster Youth program, she is offered a reliable support system while she navigates her career journey. Below she tells us about her experience in San Diego so far.

Summer Hero

Even though I don’t have the best relationship with my mom, I did learn independence from her, which has helped me navigate the foster care system and find ways to take care of myself. At 16, I went through the Independent Living Program (ILP), which prepares foster youth to be self-sufficient. At 16, I took the first steps to become my own person.  

When I turned 18, I decided it was time to leave the Bay Area and build a life for myself beyond my family and the foster care system that I grew up in. I randomly chose San Diego and booked a flight. Before finding my footing here, I went back and forth from the Bay Area in search of opportunities that would allow me to make a living. 

My work experience in San Diego has been marked by a series of jobs, from a stint at a dry-cleaning place to a brief day at McDonald’s. Even though fast-food chain jobs are typically easy for me to get, I found it challenging to land one in San Diego, mainly due to the language barriers with Spanish-speaking customers because I do not speak Spanish. Despite facing challenges, I remained steadfast in my pursuit of finding the right place to gain the experience I needed to take the next step. 

Even though I wanted to do things independently, as I matured, I became more comfortable asking for help. Working with nonprofits like Just in Time (JIT) and SDWP allowed me to receive much-needed support while navigating a new area and learning more about my goals. When I confided in JIT that I was having trouble landing a stable job, they connected me with SDWP to help me with workforce development. This was one of the few organizations that provided constructive tools and resources to help me grow while also helping me financially during my search for stable employment. Many organizations say they can help, but they often have many barriers and exceptions to what they can do. SDWP continues to surprise me with the different ways they can help me. 

Summer Thumb

Even before working with SDWP and JIT, I knew that I wanted to work in culinary, a passion that was sparked during my time working in a café in San Francisco. At the café, I worked a few different positions, including serving and hosting, but it wasn’t until I was dishwashing that I got to be in the back of the kitchen and learned how the food was prepared. I got fast at my job, and eventually, they promoted me to a line cook, where I learned the basics of food safety and preparation. In the kitchen, I felt free; food has this unique ability to bring people together, and I loved contributing to that. 

A few years ago, a previous roommate told me about a place called Kitchens for Good, a local nonprofit that teaches people culinary skills. I was not in a place where I could commit to their program, but I always remembered their name and knew I would one day apply. After working with SDWP, I felt ready to submit my application, and finally, in March, I got accepted into their 10-week apprenticeship program and began my training in April. As an apprentice, I am finally diving deeper into baking, learning the fundamentals while getting paid weekly—it’s been an incredible experience.

As I pursue my dreams, I often think about a quote from one of my favorite movies, “Meet the Robinsons.” The main character was also a foster youth and would say, “Keep moving forward,” which is a testament to the power of perseverance and the transformative impact of believing in myself even if I fail.  I have big dreams, from owning a Ram truck to working in a restaurant or bakery. I continue to learn and grow and I’m determined to turn my passion into a career.

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