In This Edition:
Natalie

Thanks to you: Natalie is Setting Her Own Course

"Today, my life is better than it's ever been. Two years ago, I married the love of my life, and he and I have a wonderful life together. I'm blessed to have the means to support Opportunity Junction as a donor. I remember where I came from. I don't think I'd be where I am today without Opportunity Junction. And I know I can always come back." Click here to read Natalie's story in her own words...

Imagine Gala 2017

Join us for the 2017 Imagine Gala: You Can Do It!

Join Opportunity Junction on April 22nd at the Diablo Country Club for our annual fundraising gala that supports life-changing employment programs in East Contra Costa. It will be a fantastic night of imbibing, eating, dancing, and bidding! Tickets are $150.

Dionne

Road Map to College to Launch High Wage ETEC Cohort

Opportunity Junction partner Los Medanos College has recruited us to help assemble a cohort to complete the lucrative ETEC training program as an extension of our Road Map to College program. Now we're the ones recruiting! We want you to apply if you have an interest in learning to be an instrumentation technician by earning a certificate in Electrical Technology (ETEC). Read more...

Mary

Volunteer Mary Villa Jr. supports Opportunity Junction in any way she can

From picking up the lunch donation from Loaves and Fishes, to typing up bylaws revisions, to providing exceptional customer service at the receptionist desk, Mary loves to do it all. Read more...

Budget blueprint

America First" Budget Blueprint Cuts Would Devastate Effective Programs

President Trump's "America First" Budget Blueprint contains cuts to funding for job training, workforce services, and poverty fighting that would devastate Opportunity Junction's popular programs for job seekers. Read more...

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Thanks to You: Natalie is Setting Her Own Course

Natalie"In the years since I left Opportunity Junction with an Office Manager position, my path hasn't been a straight line. But more and more, I'm setting my own course."

Natalie's story in her own words:

My name is Natalie Pierre, and I am a Program Coordinator at Ujima Family Recovery Services. I lead a team that treats women in addiction. I truly believe that this is the path God put me on. But that path has been full of twists and turns. And I'm grateful that Opportunity Junction helped me get through the very hardest part of it.

Natalie's dadGrowing up wasn't easy. We were a blended family, and we had more than our share of family secrets. But one thing I could always count on was my dad. I felt safe with my dad, and I admired him. He was a business owner, so that's what I wanted to be, too. I worked at his heating and air conditioning business after high school, off and on, and even started a business of my own. I inherited a lot of my drive and leadership from him. Unfortunately, I also inherited a predisposition for addiction. It would be safe to say that both of my parents had a drinking problem, and I started using drugs at age 15, when they divorced.

For a while, I was a pretty functional addict. So when the addiction got out of control, I found a recovery program and started working the steps. But when Dad died, I almost completely fell apart. The rest of my family resented me and I felt like everybody was turning against me. I was out of work, struggling with sobriety, and truly felt alone in the world.

That's when my sponsor told me about Opportunity Junction. I was accepted to the Job Training and Placement Program and started class in May of 2007. I learned the computer skills and how to type faster.

But that wasn't the most important part. Their psychologist, Kate, saved my life. She really listened to what I had to say and validated my experience. I wasn't alone. Opportunity Junction gave me hope.

Natalie and her sistersIn the years since I left Opportunity Junction with an Office Manager position, my path hasn't been a straight line. But more and more, I'm setting my own course.

I went back to school to get my A.S. in addiction counseling. I joined Opportunity Junction's Alumni Advancement Academy to learn how to climb the career ladder. I even told my supervisor that I wanted her job. And now I have it.

I also sent my younger sister, Carla, to Opportunity Junction. And she's working at Chevron as a Records and Information Clerk. Which is funny, because that's the company I wanted to work for when I first enrolled at Opportunity Junction.

Natalie's wedding Today, my life is better than it's ever been. Two years ago, I married the love of my life, and he and I have a wonderful life together. And I'm blessed to have the means to support Opportunity Junction as a donor.

I remember where I came from. I don't think I'd be where I am today without Opportunity Junction. And I know I can always come back.

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Join us for the 2017 Imagine Gala: You Can Do It!

Imagine Gala 2017 It's been 17 years since Opportunity Junction opened our doors to help the local community and we couldn't have done it without your help. The lives of low-income families across East Contra Costa County have been transformed, thanks to the generosity of our many donors, sponsors, employers, and volunteers. With your help, we were able to serve more than 900 individuals last year!

Gala guests The 2017 Imagine Gala honors the hard work and giving spirit of the Opportunity Junction community. Join us on April 22nd at the Diablo Country Club for our annual fundraising gala that supports life-changing employment programs in East Contra Costa. It will be a fantastic night of imbibing, eating, dancing, and bidding! Delicious hors d'oeuvres, wine, and a silent auction start the night followed by a gourmet dinner, an alumni success story, live auction, and dancing.

Please join our presenting sponsor Chevron, platinum sponsor A.D. Seeno Construction Co., media sponsor Diablo Magazine, gold sponsors Future State, J. Stokes Agency, and Temen, Kaiser, and Cameron, and many others in breaking the cycle of poverty for our Contra Costa neighbors.

Opportunity Junction's 2017 Imagine Gala
Saturday, April 22nd
5:30-11 pm

Diablo Country Club
1700 Club House Road
Diablo, CA 94528

RSVP online at https://www.opportunityjunction.org/tickets. Tickets are $150 each. Cocktail attire, no denim please.

Call Eva at (925) 776-1133 for more information. See you there!

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Road Map to College to Launch High Wage ETEC Cohort

Opportunity Junction partner Los Medanos College (LMC) has recruited us to help assemble a cohort to complete the lucrative ETEC training program as an extension of our Road Map to College program. Now we're the ones recruiting! We want you to apply if you have an interest in learning to be an instrumentation technician by earning a certificate in Electrical Technology (ETEC). Contact Brianna Robinson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if that might be you.

Like a map application on your cell phone, Road Map to College gives prospective LMC students support and directions on how to apply to, enroll in, attend, and succeed in college. And rather than a disembodied voice, there is a personable, knowledgeable College and Career Counselor to lead the way.

DionneEnter Opportunity Junction's new College and Career Counselor, Dionne Moeller. Dionne knows how confusing it can be to navigate the college system. She attended LMC, earning her AA, and then transferring to Cal State East Bay where she earned her BA in Sociology.

Being an LMC graduate gives her a distinct perspective on students' challenges, as well as available resources. Says Dionne, "I'm able to use my own experience as a map to help students. I was able to advocate for myself, but many of the students I've met need someone to advocate for them and direct them to support services that can help them succeed in school." Students can't help but be drawn in by Dionne's enthusiasm and outlook. Says Dionne, "I'm looking forward to watching students as they gain confidence, as doors open and they get jobs, and as they grow into the people they want to be."

Now in its third year, Road Map to College helps East Contra Costa County residents complete one of LMC's Career Technical Education (CTE) certificate programs and obtain employment. The CTE programs are designed to give students specialized skills to succeed in a highly competitive economy. Initially, Road Map broadly targeted low-income East Contra Costa residents, but this year we narrowed the focus, targeting 18-24 year old, low-income, high need youth, with a focus on those involved in foster care. These youth are eager to succeed, but they are uncertain of the best path to follow and lack the support to make that happen.

Since Road Map's inception in 2015, 70% of participants have been retained into their fifth semester or have completed their education and been placed into employment. We are also assisting two other organizations who are replicating Road Map for different target populations.

We are recruiting students interested in becoming specialized technicians. Through a new Electrical and Instrumentation Technology (ETEC) Sector Partnership, funded by the Bay Area Workforce Funders Collaborative and led by LMC, students can graduate in just four semesters, ready to be hired as trained electrical technicians or instrumentation technicians.

Slated to start classes in late July 2017, the cohort of 20-35 students will start with a two-week intensive course on College and Career Success. During the fall semester, students will take a 3-unit contextualized ETEC math course and a new ETEC class that provides an introduction to ETEC careers. Interested in finding out more? Contact Brianna Robinson at Contact Brianna Robinson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Double Duty Volunteer: Mary Villa Jr.

Mary Opportunity Junction volunteers commit their time and energy in support of our organization's mission so that we can continue to offer high-quality programs. This dedication is exactly what volunteer Mary Villa Jr. has shown since joining the volunteer family in July 2016.

Mary came to Opportunity Junction after the Vocational Coordinator at the East Bay Functional Restoration in Walnut Creek suggested she volunteer at an organization near her home in Antioch. Two years prior to finding Opportunity Junction, Mary was injured at work and was unable to continue in that position. Mary felt depressed at home because she was not doing much with her day, and she wanted to use her time to make a positive impact in the community. After completing the rehabilitation program, Mary started to volunteer at Opportunity Junction.

Mary was interested in doing everything but wanted to provide help in what Opportunity Junction needed the most. Every Monday and Wednesday, Mary picks up hot lunch from the local Loaves and Fishes in Pittsburg for our participants of the Job Training and Placement Program. After delivering the food, Mary covers the receptionist desk. With a smile on her face and a positive attitude, Mary provides exceptional customer service to everyone. While covering reception, Mary accepts administrative projects like typing up bylaws revisions.

Mary Volunteering at Opportunity Junction helped Mary become part of something meaningful. Mary says, "I love when a participant walks through the doors with a smile on their face, feeling confident about their interview. My favorite part of volunteering is when I get to see the intern ring the bell and talk about the new job. It just warms my heart. I've even convinced some of my friends to take classes in the evening Technology Center."

We are so grateful for our volunteers. Without the dedication of Mary and many others, we would not be able to provide the same level of service we currently offer.

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"America First" Budget Blueprint Cuts Would Devastate Effective Programs

Budget BlueprintPresident Trump's "America First" Budget Blueprint contains cuts to funding for job training, workforce services, and poverty fighting that would devastate Opportunity Junction's popular programs for job seekers.

Opportunity Junction's flagship Job Training and Placement Program receives funding through both the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program. Both CDBG and CSBG are slated for complete elimination by the Budget Blueprint.

Also targeted by the Budget Blueprint are "job training and workforce services" provided under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. "I really don't understand the thinking," says Executive Director Alissa Friedman. "Helping people launch self-sustaining careers has a long-term impact on both them and their families."

By combining federal funds with private donations, Opportunity Junction has been highly effective in helping job seekers overcome barriers and launch administrative careers. "Since 2000, our alumni have earned more than $42 million," states Friedman. "More than 72% are still employed five years after placement into employment."

"I would love to show them our classrooms, our job seekers, our staff, and even our database and outcome tracking processes," adds Friedman. "Our local elected officials, who've seen our job seekers' hard work and success, are among our strongest allies."

All of Opportunity Junction's government funding, about 25% of the budget, is "pass-through" federal funding. That means that although the contracts are decided on by local officials, the source of the funding is federal and at risk.

The Job Training and Placement Program has been effective, continues Friedman, because it combines computer training with life skills, paid work experience, case management, mental health services, career skills, job placement, and robust alumni programs. "Each element is an important component of long-term success," she says.

Opportunity Junction will begin accepting applications for the next Job Training and Placement class on May 1st. There are weekly information sessions about all of their programs for job seekers Tuesdays at 10 am at Opportunity Junction's Antioch office.

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New Grants and Support for our Programs

We are proud and grateful to announce the following new grants and funding partnerships:

BAC Community Bank: BAC Community Bank approved a grant to support the Job Training and Placement Program. The family-owned bank first began business in Brentwood over 50 years ago and remains focused on providing high quality local community banking to the families and businesses it serves throughout eastern Contra Costa, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus counties.

Bay Area Workforce Funders Collaborative: The collaborative provided funding for the ETEC/PTEC pilot project, a partnership with Los Medanos College aimed at helping low-income students successfully complete an ETEC (Electrical and Instrumentation Technology) or PTEC (Process Technology) certificate program and obtain related employment.

The Anonymous Fund at the East Bay Community Foundation: The Anonymous Fund at the East Bay Community Foundation has issued a renewal grant of extremely valuable core operating support. While we allocate most unrestricted funds to program support, core operating support also enables us to maintain a strong infrastructure (technology, finance) and to pilot promising new initiatives.

ETS (Educational Testing Service: The mission of nonprofit ETS is to advance quality and equity in education for all people worldwide. ETS renewed its support for Opportunity Junction through a grant to help Road Map to College students in the form of books, tools, uniforms, and other unmet financial needs.

First Republic Bank The bank recently awarded a grant for operating support. First Republic Bank is committed to developing deeper partnerships with nonprofits and believes that donating time, money and knowledge to those who are best placed to make a difference to the lives of many is the right thing to do.

Pacific Service Credit Union: Pacific Service Credit Union, a new funding partner for Opportunity Junction, issued a grant to support the Job Training and Placement Program, providing students with financial resources to meet college expenses. Pacific Service Credit Union takes pride in being a good corporate citizen and an active part of the communities they serve.

U.S. Bank: U.S. Bank renewed its commitment to our Job Training and Placement Program with a grant. U.S. Bank funds organizations that provide training for small business development, as well as programs that support individuals across all skill and experience levels, to ensure they have the capability to gain employment that supports individuals and their families.

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Newsletter Contributors: Eva Luo, Brianna Robinson, Cynthia Dial, and Alissa Friedman. Photographs by Brianna Robinson, Eva Luo, and PhotoSophistry.com. Newsletter assembled by Lea Mason. (Thanks, Lea!)

On the Road to Self-Sufficiency — Opportunity Junction fights poverty by helping low-income Contra Costa residents gain the skills and confidence to get and keep jobs that support themselves and their families.

Opportunity Junction is exempt from federal income taxation under Section 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
© Opportunity Junction 2017