Opportunities for All
I grew up in Plaza East public housing in the Western Addition. For those who grew up in the area, it had a different name: “OCP” or “Outta Control Projects.” Violence and drugs were never far away, and poverty was the default condition in our lives.
When I was 14 years old, I signed up for the Mayor’s Youth Employment and Training Program, which is how I got my first job and my first paycheck. I can say without a doubt that if it were not for that decision, I would not have gone to college and I would not be mayor of the city and County of San Francisco today.
The unfortunate reality is that too many people I grew up with, and too many young people today, never had this opportunity. This needs to change, and it is why I launched a program called Opportunities for All to provide paid internships for all San Francisco high school students who want one.
Most kids cannot afford to work for free in order to gain a leg up later in life and we cannot afford to let them fall behind.
It was my first internship that taught me the skills I needed to succeed. It was where I was taught to answer the phone not by saying “hello?” but instead, “Hello this is London Breed speaking, how may I help you?” It was where I connected with mentors who saw potential in me and encouraged me to apply for college.
In our first year of the program, we have worked with our city departments, non-profits, and local businesses both large and small to create more than 3,000 new opportunities this summer, with 1,000 spaces reserved for intensive curriculum and job training for at-risk youth. As part the program, youth will work an average of four weeks and earn $15 per hour for up to 20 hours a week, receive mentorship, visit local businesses to help them identify careers of interest, and begin to plan for their future. With each year we will expand and partner with more companies and organizations.
For too many kids, “normal” means poverty, violence, and drugs. This was my normal growing up. It is our responsibility to change what is normal for the next generation growing up in our city. Normal should be mentorships. Normal should be getting paid for your work. Normal should be opportunities to succeed.
I could never imagine when I was growing up that I could serve as mayor. These young people will be exposed to opportunities they never knew existed. They will see a future in an industry they never had access to. They will see themselves making a difference in the world in a way they never thought possible.
They will flourish, and we will grow a workforce right here in our city.
They have the potential. Now let’s give them the opportunity.
June 14, 2019