We Are the City Spotlight: Young Community Developers

By Dion-Jay Brookter, Executive Director

Young Community Developers’ (YCD) purpose and mission is to empower, inspire and assist the communities we serve, including residents (particularly the under-served and under-employed), fellow non-profit community-based organizations (CBOs) and businesses in achieving sustainable personal and professional development as well as the economic development of families and neighborhoods. In partnership with several City of San Francisco government agencies, CBOs and businesses, YCD’s focus is to assist the communities and residents we serve in moving from generational poverty to generational wealth!

To say that the last two years have been challenging would be an understatement. Despite the circumstances, we embraced our new reality by expanding upon the ways YCD serves our community.

March 12, 2020 is a date that will forever be etched in my mind. This is the day that we shut down services before our Mayor shut things down here in San Francisco. For me this was actually a very pivotal moment because I got to see how well and how great our team worked together, to be able to shut down in-person live services within three hours. And it wasn’t a “fire drill,” it was thoughtful. Our messaging leads with the thought process of our team members and community first. Their health and their well-being were first, and we’ve kept that a priority this entire time. Our team was able to completely shift from in-person services and programming to running the same programs with the same values virtually.

I’m still in awe of the work that is being done across our organization. Due to the pandemic and the needs of our community, our services had to expand. Traditionally, a workforce services organization, we had to adjust and help folks with unemployment documents and so much more. To address the most pressing needs we expanded to take on food distribution services and rental and eviction relief. I’m happy to say that our team was able to grow during this time and hire more people to serve the community. It’s really no secret, but what it all comes down to is communication: remaining steadfast and people-centered, being able to be vulnerable with our team and our community to let them all know that we’re in this together. We’ve learned that we have to stay flexible as we all navigate the pandemic, political and social unrest and ongoing racial injustices.

YCD and its team wholeheartedly believe that San Francisco is a great place to grow up. There are endless opportunities for youth throughout the city and so many amazing organizations and people who want the best for our young people. I know for myself and many of our team members that we always say, “I wish I had this program growing up” or “I wish I did this type of internship when I was younger.” Hearing that sort of validation and feedback from our young people is what inspires us to keep going and design programs that truly uplift and benefit our community.

If we all continue to collaborate with CBOs, city government and philanthropy, we can wrap our arms around our families here in San Francisco, not to make sure folks are able to merely survive but thrive. By working alongside organizations like us, we develop new collaborations and deepen current ones to increase our range of services and, ultimately, move our mission forward. Corporate partnerships in technology, science and other industries with the intent to establish direct pathways from training to internships/fellowships for young people. Establishing opportunities for our youth to build/develop wealth through corporate equity ownership.

The future for YCD looks bright. As we enter our 49th year of service, we are mindful of the critical work that lies before us. The YCD team feels that we are each called to show up with renewed commitment and passion for our community, and we look forward to assisting future generations of YCD’s community members.

As we approach the fifth decade of WHY we were founded as an organization, we are elated to be working on a branding strategy that we believe will launch us from being the good organization that we currently are to a great organization. Launching a new website, continued branding updates, District 10 billboards and an increased collaboration across the entire district is what’s in store for us as an organization. Now is the time for us to build upon the foundation of this amazing grassroots organization to leave behind a legacy of working tirelessly alongside all of our partners to uplift a community that has entrusted us as a vehicle to move the needle from generational poverty towards generational and economical wealth.

We are looking forward to continued growth across our organization that will allow us to serve the community in a multitude of ways. Our Community Economic Mobility Vehicle (CEMVe) is launching this year and was designed to provide connection and coordination to essential supportive services, workforce programming, and other strategies that lead to financial well-being. CEMVe will serve as an activation point for residents of District 10 in achieving economic well-being. The design of CEMVe is the result of ongoing conversations with District 10 residents who informed the design process. They shared the value of creating a program that could:

● Increase access and exposure to resources available to community residents.

● Be truly offered in a community setting, breaking barriers that limit community access such as limited transportation, neighbor violence and only offering services in traditional fashions such as brick and mortar locations.

● Embrace the concept of “meeting community where they are.”

● Build a greater sense of community through the sharing of positive cultural norms.

This new approach is allowing us to bring the services straight to communities and we are looking forward to seeing positive changes.

DCYF Senior Program & Planning Specialist Lamont Snaer also sat down with Dion-Jay along with YCD Program Manager LeNeac Weathersby for a fireside chat at DCYF’s January 6 All Staff Meeting. Watch the recording here.

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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