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Philanthropists work to break cycle of poverty

February 27, 2009 7:39:19 PM PST
There is a very different effort underway to fight poverty in the Bay Area that involves philanthropists who are young -- in their twenties and thirties. They are part of what is known as the Tipping Point community. In this Focus on Solutions report, a look at why these young people started this and who they are helping.

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"When I first got here, I was really shy, I was pretty unconfident. I would never look anyone in the eye, but through Year Up I've learned to gain a whole lot of professional skills, such as etiquette, learning how to make eye contact, the importance of body language and even active listening," said 18-year-old Ryan Antipuesto of San Leandro.

Antipuesto is one of many young people enrolled in a new program in San Francisco called Year Up.

"We provide opportunities for young adults to enter into the economic mainstream and into corporate careers," said Jay Banfield, executive director of Year Up.

Banfield says key businesses in the Bay Area are investing in the program because they want trained entry level workers with computer and business skills. Year Up offers that training to students 18 to 24, along with college credits at San Francisco City College, and an educational stipend.

"Prior to Year Up, a lot of students didn't know about resumes and a cover letter, and now going through Year Up, every student has a resume and a cover letter," said 20-year-old Simone Puckett of Antioch.

"I've learned great communication skills, how to practice interview techniques," said Year Up student Nekole Holmon.

The opportunities are there through Year Up for apprentice jobs at four major Bay Area employers, including Wells Fargo, SalesForce.com, Kaiser Permanente and California Pacific Medical Center.

"The MIT business school has done an analysis to show what the Year Up effect is of what your earning potential is if you go through the program, versus not. Over the lifetime, it's more than $400,000," said Banfield. "Think about their families and their children and what kind of ripple effect that has."

Year Up is one of nearly two dozen Bay Area groups that get support from the Tipping Point Community. Some agencies deal with education and youth development, others focus on employment and asset building. Tipping Point was founded in 2005 by 31-year-old Daniel Lurie who works with other very young philanthropists on his board of mostly thirty-somethings. They want to fight poverty by finding and helping the most effective organizations.

"What we're finding out is that people of our generation want to get involved and they want to get involved now," said Lurie. "They don't want to wait."

"I was looking for something where I would be involved -- not just writing a check," said board member Kate Harbin.

"I met Daniel, I went to an event where he was speaking and just was sort of immediately compelled by the whole idea," said Tipping Point president Alec Perkins. "Having taught in Hunter's Point for five years, I realized that there is a huge need out there."

"I was really shocked by the statistics on foster children. As I recall, it was something like 40 percent of the homeless population in San Francisco are former foster youth," said Harbin.

The Tipping Point Community also funds programs to help with homeless and housing assistance. It includes child and family wellness. It offers critical support in different ways.

"We provide legal trainings, technical support, we provide them with management assistance, we team up with consulting firms to provide strategic planning support for our groups so that they can plan for the future," said Lurie.

Every dollar that comes in will go out in the form of grants to non-profits like the Bayview Child Health Center or the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center. Tipping Point programs like Year Up are already making a difference in breaking the cycle of poverty by offering hope for the future.

"It's going to change my life for the better," said Puckett. "I'll be able to provide an income for myself and become more independent."

"I see success," said Year Up student Keymonica Johnson. "That's what I see for myself."

Board members each commit to around $100,000, more or less, per year -- no overhead, no salaries, no endowment.

To learn more about Tipping Point, visit www.tippoint.org.

For a list of all the organizations it supports and more about the organization, read The Back Story.

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