We Are the City Spotlight: Japanese Community Youth Council

By the Japanese Community Youth Council Staff

The mission of the Japanese Community Youth Council (JCYC) is to cultivate and enrich the lives of children and youth from diverse, multicultural communities throughout San Francisco and beyond. JCYC was incorporated as a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization in 1970. While the organization continues to serve the Japantown community, JCYC has evolved into a county-wide child and youth development organization, annually serving over 7,000 young people from all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds and neighborhoods throughout San Francisco and San Mateo County. JCYC programs support children and youth from the time they start preschool until the time they graduate from college.

JCYC has over 16 programs that operate under our four core programs — Child Development, Youth Development, Youth Workforce, and College Access — below are anecdotes of programs that showcased a form of creativity, dynamism, and perseverance, as we transitioned from in-person to virtual and back to in-person programming for the children and youth JCYC serve.

JCYC’s Chibi Chan Preschools, Chibi Chan, and Chibi Chan Too have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide full-time, in-person care. The pandemic created both operational and financial challenges for the preschools due to constant changes in enrollment and COVID-19 safety protocols.

Reopening our preschools involved complex challenges to re-organize space to maximize safety and comply with social distancing requirements, securing adequate personal protective equipment, and establishing new safety protocols. Chibi Chan staff have been extremely dedicated and courageous in their response to the urgent needs of essential worker families and others who needed childcare to go to work.

JCYC is incredibly proud of our preschools and the amazing staff who provide vital childcare for families who desperately need it.

JCYC’s Youth Development staff brought career professionals into their virtual weekly Friday meetings. JYL’s career panel format focused on one career professional each week, which delivered an in-depth look into each professional’s career, the path that the professional took to get there, and allowed JYL’s participants to engage in plenty of one-on-one time to ask questions.

JYL participants also listed careers they were interested in learning about for their annual Career Day program: Career Talk Fridays. JYL’s first Career Talk Friday included a number of professionals, including a Civil Engineer, Software Developer, Marriage and Family Therapist with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Senior Designer at GTL Architects, and more. After each Career Talk Friday, JYL participants were asked to complete a survey, which JYL’s Career Day committee used to improve their upcoming virtual presentations.

JYL is very thankful for the speakers who took the time to create engaging presentations for JYL’s youth participants and for sharing all aspects of their careers and journey in getting to where they are today.

MYEEP staff implemented virtual programming to quickly transition their youth participants to the new world of distance learning and to ensure their youth continued developing their workforce skills.

One example: MYEEP’s Counselors-In-Training (CITs) shared their Presentations of Learning (POL) as they approached the end of the program year. Their POLs captured moments such as the top three lessons they have learned, what they learned about their community and working with people from all backgrounds, advice they have for next year’s CIT Cohort, and general words of wisdom.

The MYEEP staff’s dynamic ability to quickly adapt to a new form of programming via Zoom, and the strength and motivation of MYEEP’s youth CITs to push their development forward regardless of the circumstances, was amazing.

When the Shelter-In-Place order hit our communities, JCYC’s Educational Talent Search (ETS) Educational Advisor Charissa Liu embodied the JCYC values of “Community” and “Compassion” throughout her work as an advisor at Thomas R. Policita Middle School. The first thought that came to Charissa was how she could continue connecting with and supporting her students. One week later, Charissa created and launched an all-inclusive website where students were able to seek homework help, receive college and career presentations, and view a list of resources for their families during our Shelter-In-Place conditions. Check it out here.

Charissa also collaborated with the other JCYC College Access middle school advisors to create YouTube videos and a Tik Tok account for a fun and interactive way to connect with students. With all of the barriers that we faced during this pandemic, Charissa continued to develop ways to overcome these challenges to offer her support to students. Her passion to help people is an inspiration to all of us.

JCYC believes San Francisco is great place to grow up. San Francisco is a world-renowned city, which has a very diverse cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic makeup. This diversity naturally teaches our children the importance of being comfortable with and accepting of individuals and groups from different cultures, while also working in solidarity with those from different backgrounds — this makes our community and world a more free, more inclusive, and better place to live. San Francisco ingrains the importance of open-mindedness and working with others to achieve a common goal, be it happiness, social justice, or economic growth and vitality. Also, San Francisco has top-rated public schools from preschool through high school, as well as parks and family-friendly museums that offer plentiful healthy outdoor and indoor play space for our children to enjoy and learn. Finally, as a children and youth services provider for over the past 50 years, JCYC is proud of the vital services we and other similar organizations provide, in large part, thanks to funding from the City and County of San Francisco and DCYF.

The City can continue to bolster the health and capacity of the community-based network of service providers who maintain a vital safety net of services for children and youth in San Francisco. The collective health of the non-profit sector and schools of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) are vital to producing positive long-term outcomes for children and youth.

JCYC was the first post-war, nonprofit organization in San Francisco’s Japantown to celebrate 50 years of serving the community. JCYC has the unique distinction of being an organization that was founded by young people who were seeking to have a voice in Japantown.

Beyond the services that JCYC offered, the organization provided critical opportunities to cultivate the leadership potential of young people. Many of the early organizers and participants of JCYC would go on to assume key leadership roles in San Francisco. The following are just a few examples of individuals who were participants of JCYC and continue to serve the community today: Rev. Ron Kobata — JCYC Founder, former Minister of the San Francisco Buddhist Church; Kaz Maniwa — currently Senior Vice President, U.S.-Japan Council; Steve Nakajo — Founder of Kimochi Inc., and former Executive Director of the Japantown Task Force; Patricia Wada — Regional Director, Northern California-Western Nevada-Pacific District — JACL; Paul Osaki — currently Executive Director of the Japanese Community and Cultural Center of Northern California; and Jon Osaki — currently Executive Director of JCYC.

A key element of JCYC’s success is the organization’s ability to organize and lead some of the largest and most successful youth collaborations in San Francisco, such as the Asian Youth Prevention Services Program, Mayor’s Youth Employment and Education Program, and the San Francisco College Access Center. In addition, JCYC has been consistently called upon by the City of San Francisco to launch, expand, and manage new initiatives for youth, including the Opportunities for All initiative. JCYC has also received national and local recognition from groups such as the National Youth Employment Coalition and others for developing and integrating promising and effective practices.

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Making San Francisco a great place to grow up, DCYF has led the City's investments in children, youth, TAY and their families since 1991. www.dcyf.org

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SF Department of Children, Youth & Their Families

Making San Francisco a great place to grow up, DCYF has led the City's investments in children, youth, TAY and their families since 1991. www.dcyf.org