Many community college students have little idea about what career path they want to follow. This was the case for Juan Gomez after he graduated from high school a few years ago. Unsure what he wanted to do next, Gomez heard from a friend about a program offered at Diablo Valley College, called Year Up. The program teaches students skills they need for a technology-based career, while also providing internships that give them practical experience in the working world.
After doing some research, Gomez was shocked to discover how many resources the program provided. He also learned that he could earn 32 credits.
“I thought, ‘How could I not do it?’” Gomez said. When applications opened for Year Up, he jumped at the chance.
Although the Bay Area’s Year Up chapter started working with DVC in August 2017, the program has been around since 2000 when CEO Gerald Chertavian founded the non-profit organization in Boston, Mass. Chertavian said he started the program to close what they called the Opportunity Divide.
“Five million bright young adults are without access to opportunities to connect to the economic mainstream,” according to the Year Up website. “Meanwhile, over the next decade, American companies will face a shortage of over 12 million qualified workers.”
The program has a high success rate: over 80 percent of Year Up participants get employed in a full-time position at a starting wage of $25 an hour after graduation.
To fulfill the eligibility requirements, students must be between the ages of 18 and 24, have a high school diploma or GED, legal right to work in the U.S., proof of enrollment at DVC, and low to moderate income.
The Year Up program is split into two semesters. In the first semester, students take classes that focus on skills in IT helpdesk/desktop or project management support. Some of those classes include Computer Literacy, Public Speaking and Business Ethics.
The courses last approximately five months, and are structured to provide students with the most important information from all the required classes in a short amount of time.
“Our corporate engagement team finds out from our corporate partners what is important to know in order to be successful in these roles,” said Vio Stanley, a member of the Year Up recruitment team.
During the second semester of the program, students spend around thirty-five hours per week at a professional internship at any of Year Up’s 50-plus corporate partners. Some of those organizations include Google, Amazon, Facebook and Electronic Arts, among others.
The program also works to ensure that students who cannot afford to complete the program will receive the necessary resources.
“I was homeless during (Year Up) and they offered housing, food resources, as well as clothing,” said Destiny Marzetti, an alumna of Year Up. “They also gave me vouchers for transportation.”
The program also offers a stipend of anywhere between $200 and $1,000 per month. This has allowed some students to take more time off work to focus their efforts on Year Up.
Gomez, currently enrolled with Year Up, said he only works during weekends. Since he started receiving the stipend, he is able to support himself while he centers attention on the program.
For many, the program has been a great opportunity to kickstart careers.
“If you are struggling to find your way in life, and aren’t sure where to start, then this program is for you,” said Marzetti. “It’s worth the year.”