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 JCCS Students Receive a 'Passport to Life'

​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.”

The program 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. ​