Getting Students Work Ready

CARMICHAEL, CA  |  By Jacqueline Fox
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Tytnisha M. gets some hands-on experience working in the kitchen at Matteo’s Pizza & Bistro in Carmichael. She is a second-year participant in the SJUSD’s Foster Youth Job Shadow Day program.

Foster Youth Job Shadow Day Prepares Students for the Real Thing

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - For a foster youth in high school, nothing can create a clearer pathway to success as they exit school and the foster care system than having some form of preparation for life on their own.

At the top of the list of areas that could arguably be deemed the most important is work-readiness, including some form of direct, hands-on exposure to various potential career opportunities. 

To that end, the San Juan Unified School District’s Foster Youth Services program will be holding is annual Foster Youth Job Shadow Day Friday, February 9th.  This year, 16 participating employers across the Sacramento region, including CBS Radio, SMUD, Nissan of Sacramento and Carmichael-based Mateo’s Pizza & Bistro, will host 56 youth for a day of job-readiness education, up close and personal.

“This is a great way for students who are in foster care to obtain knowledge and information about various possible careers as they prepare for their final days in school and, ultimately, exiting out of the foster care system,” said Kamika Hebbert, SJUSD’s Foster Youth Services Youth Employment and Independent Living Coordinator.

SJUSD Foster Youth Services in Carmichael is one of the four original “Core District Foster Youth Programs” in California.  It works in collaboration with Twin Rivers USD, Sac City USD, Elk Grove USD and the Sacramento County Independent Living Program (ILP), a federally funded entity, which assists current and former foster youth between the ages of 16 and 21 with their goals to achieve self-sufficiency prior to and after exiting the foster care system.

This is the fifth year SJUSD Foster Youth Services has offered foster youth students across the district the opportunity to shadow working professionals in a range of careers from tech to back-of-house culinary operations.

The Foster Youth Program, explains Hebbert, was launched in 1973.  In addition to the Job Shadow Day and work-readiness programs, the Foster Youth Services of SJUSD also provides foster youth with support through advocacy, academic counseling, tutoring, educational assessment, mentoring and links to community services, as well as crisis counseling.

Youth in foster care homes between 16 and 18 are eligible for the SJUSD programs and services and programs during the time they are in foster care placement and after emancipation from the system.

Most participants in the Job Shadow Day program and others are referred by social workers, probation officers, foster parents, other county ILP coordinators or by self-referral.  A social worker is assigned to each participant in ILP for case management and works with youth to craft and develop a Transitional Independent Living Skill plan.

Services available to help foster youth prepare for adulthood include independent life skill classes, education resources, assistance with applications for student financial aid, housing resources, training on money management, decision making, building self-esteem and advocacy.

The vocational training piece offered through the Job Shadow Day, and other programs at SJUSD, serves to support the goal of ensuring the district’s foster youth is provided with the skills needed to become an independent, productive member of their community.

Whether a student has a goal to pursue a career in public policy or policing, baking or banking, the best way for them to get a sense of whether a career is something they’d enjoy is to watch or, in this case, shadow someone who is already doing the job.

“The programs we provide through the San Juan Unified Foster Youth Services are multi-focused, but they all serve to help foster youth prepare themselves living independently and finding success in their career and educational goals,” said Hebbert. 

Matteo’s Pizza and Bistro has been participating in the Job Shadow Day since 2014, that’s four years running now that the Carmichael eatery has been supporting foster youth in preparation for their future.  This year will be Tytnisha M.’s second year participating in the job shadow day event and her second time at Matteo’s, where she is getting hands-on exposure to back-of-house operations in a real restaurant. 

“It’s the amazing businesses like Matteo’s who are helping students like Tytnisha, who has designs on pursuing the culinary field, find a way to break in and plan ahead for their futures,” said Hebbert.

On Feb. 9, all 56 students enrolled in the Job Shadow day will begin the adventure by convening for a kick-off breakfast where they will be given the details of their work site responsibilities.  Then, they will each spend roughly three hours of onsite job shadowing time at various employers’ locations.  After “work,” there’s a lunch and then the day will culminate in a slide show and group reflection on the day and future goals.

For participants like Tytnisha, having the experience of learning the ins and outs of a particular business operation before she starts actually heading in that career direction ensures an optimal chance of success.

“The purpose of the shadowing is to give them first-hand experience to see may or may not be a good fit,” Hebbert said.  “In Tytnisha’s case, it’s already pretty clear she’s in her element at Matteo’s.”