Bernal Heights hosting youth employment program


The Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center is hosting its second annual Fast Access! seminar from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 515 Cortland Ave.

The program aims to prepare those between 16 to 24 years old for successful job interviews. About 20 local businesses have volunteered to conduct mock interviews with the applicants so they can get immediate feedback about their skills.

The businesses will conduct rotating three-minute interviews in a format similar to speed dating.

Anahita Modaresi, director of Youth and Employment Services for the community center, said the program is as much about building connections between the youth and the community as it is about career education.

The event should simultaneously encourage local businesses to stay connected to their community by hiring from the local youth pool and make the young people seeking work feel supported, Modaresi said.

While only one or two youths are returning for the program's second year - most of the original participants are now employed - about 75 percent of the participating local businesses are returning to both help educate job seekers and look for potential new hires.

The Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center also conducts an ongoing employment education program, Youth Empowerment Services, which helps community youngsters learn about resume writing and job skills, like computer training both at the community center and in local schools.

Modaresi said the program employs about 80 percent of the youths involved in it. That number is impressive considering that most participating youths are highly at-risk due to low income and substance abuse, she said.

However, despite the steep odds against them and the dire outlook of today's job market, the youths of Bernal Heights are optimistic and excited about tonight's event, she said.

"They're so resilient. They want jobs," she said. "They want to be independent and self-sufficient, and they're really motivated to get those skills."

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