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Eckerd Connects helps Stockton youth find careers

Article by Julio Burgos of The Collegian

Eckerd Connects is a government-funded program designed to provide assistance to youth with disadvantaged backgrounds in San Joaquin County.

Eckerd Connects manages the WorkStartYES program in Stockton where they offer employment, training, and career guidance services to youth ages 16-24 years old.

“The mission is for youth to obtain employment and complete educational goals. Our youth are able to become independent and provide for themselves and get closer to their dreams,” said Natalia Hurtado, program manager for Eckerd Connect, who has worked closely with many teens and sees potential in every youth that enters the WorkStartYES program.

“Every youth that walks through the door of our program made the first step to change their lives which tells that they really want our support. I always tell them that we’ll never know our full potential unless you push yourself to find it and that’s what they do when they come to us,” said Hurtado.

The program focuses on youth that may be in or out of school, of low-income backgrounds, and face barriers in obtaining post-secondary education and/or securing employment.

According to an article posted by Brandeis University, Stockton ranked in the top 4 worst cities with opportunities for youth. This makes it difficult for Stockton youth to further their opportunities in life.

For a teen living in Stockton, this statistic not only puts them at a disadvantage but can also be discouraging.

WorkStartYES provides no-cost services such as paid incentives for completion of program goals, high school completion or GED assistance, career exploration opportunities, postsecondary and job site field trips, Resume building, application, and job search assistance, Paid work experience, supportive services, financial, educational, and career workshops, follow up services.

Marcy Delatorre is currently enrolled in the program and expressed how it has helped her get back on track.

“When entering the program I was just looking for a job but they helped me go back to school and now I’m working on my high school diploma and have a part time job. This program helped me get back on my feet with all their support,” said Delatorre.

Access to programs like this can help in the overall success of the youths’ futures and give them a chance to achieve in opportunities such as educational and societal positions.

Eligible individuals include but are not limited to school dropouts, previous offenders or justice-involved, homeless or runaway, individuals in foster care or aged-out of foster care, pregnant or youth parents, or an individual with a disability.

Anyone who wishes to learn more about the program or wants to find out whether they qualify can call outreach and enrollment at (209) 468-9043.

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