Individuals with criminal backgrounds face many barriers when it comes to
landing a job. During these tough economic times the challenges are far greater
for juvenile offender who, the majority of the time, have little to no job
experience. For nearly 800 San Diego County Juvenile offenders, the fourth
annual Passport to Life Career and Education Expo provided a second chance to
hope for a positive and successful future.
The event, designed to aide
students to triumph over their spotty histories and expose them to options for
future employment and education, comes from a consortium of agencies throughout
San Diego County. The Career and Education Expo held at San Diego City College
hosted youth, 14 to 24 years of age, who are currently on probation, or have a
probation history. The theme of the event focused on higher education, positive
transitions and work readiness skills.
Juvenile Court Judge Carolyn M.
Caietti dreamed up the idea of such an expo to empower juvenile offenders to
finish high school and overcome their criminal pasts.
“Thanks to Judge
Carolyn Caietti’s vision and leadership, this event has grown to include over 80
agencies including support providers, public and private employers, and
institutes of higher learning,” said JCCS Senior Director Sean Morrill. “Many
JCCS staff are deeply involved in the planning and logistics of Passport to
Life. To stage an event like this, with over 800 student participants, from all
across the County, requires an enormous amount of planning.”
kicked-off with a powerful and inspiring keynote from Food Network television
personality Chef Jeff, who shared his personal testimony of a positive life
change after spending 15 years in prison. A native of South Central L.A. and
South East San Diego, Jeff Henderson ran a cocaine operation that at the age of
24 landed him in prison. During his incarceration, Henderson discovered his
passion for cooking and overcame his criminal past. “Many of us are where we are
today because of what we saw, heard and experienced,” said Henderson. “But just
because we have been exposed to all of these negative things doesn’t mean its ok
to allow it to dictate our future.” Henderson’s keynote address elaborated on
reaching one’s full potential and using your gifts towards something positive.
“Your gifts are only revealed when you expose yourself to something that
changes the way you currently think, “said Henderson. “It’s important to know
what you’re good at and build on that to help you find your passion in life.”
Following the chef’s keynote, students interacted with more than 80
exhibitors representing training services, educational institutions, and
branches of the military. The organizations provided resources and informational
one-on-one sessions with students on topics such as: Don’t Allow Your Past to
Punish Your Future, Landing and Keeping a Job, Pathways to Completing High
School, Education Beyond High School, and Being Responsible On-Line. Students on
probation earned up to 12 hours of community service credit for attending the
expo and providing a short essay for exhibitors.
For the fourth
consecutive year the SDCOE JCCS program collaborated with several organizations
to produce the event. The organizations include: San Diego Superior Court, San
Diego County Probation Department, San Diego City College, San Diego Workforce
Partnership, San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, San Diego County
Public Defender’s Office and the Off the Street organization.