When I was growing up in San Francisco, one of the experiences that changed my life was my first paid internship — a summer job at The Family School. That internship taught me more than how to answer the phones or use a fax machine, although learning those skills was definitely important. It showed me that I was just as capable of success as anyone else, regardless of my background.
Our City prides itself on embracing diversity, promoting inclusion, and being a place where anyone, regardless of their background, can find success. But for too long, too many of our local youth have been overlooked just because they live in a different neighborhood, or their family has a different income status; they were labeled as being “too difficult” to employ, or “too lost” to ever break the cycle before anyone ever gave them a chance.
This summer, we launched Opportunities for All, an ambitious initiative to debunk this myth by providing paid internships for local youth with a focus on equity, inclusion, and mentorship. We set out to prove that when we provide these opportunities for all of our young people — but especially for those who may need a little extra support or tough love — they go above and beyond to prove themselves and be successful. They also help create a new normal for future generations of young people to believe that anything is possible if they roll up their sleeves and put in the work.
In just the first three months of Opportunities for All, we placed thousands of youth in new and existing internships with companies and organizations, ranging from tech and finance to construction and entertainment and the public sector. Because we focused on equity and inclusion, we had a truly diverse group of interns from neighborhoods that were previously underrepresented.
Most importantly, these interns were paid for their work. As a young girl growing up in poverty, I know firsthand how much a paycheck from a summer job can make a difference. That is why we also work to implement programs like Summer Jobs Connect, in partnership with the Citi Foundation and Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, to provide today’s youth with financial education and resources on how to set up a bank account or direct deposit, and put them on the path towards economic inclusion and a strong financial future. Money should never be a barrier to whether or not a young person is given the opportunity to succeed.
As we celebrate this incredible success, this summer also proved just how much this program is needed and how much further it has to go.
- While we were able to place thousands of youth, there were still hundreds of young people willing to work but unable to get an internship. To put it simply, we need more businesses, companies, and organizations to commit to hosting interns — especially in the private sector, so more youth can gain skills and exposure to high-wage employment opportunities.
- We also need to make sure our young people have opportunities to work for more than four weeks in the summer. Youth should have access to paid internships or jobs year-round, so they can keep developing important skills and earning income.
If a young girl growing up in poverty can become Mayor of San Francisco, imagine what all of our young people can do if we help them open the door — like Tiana, who worked at LinkedIn and learned how to code; or Joshua, who was placed at de Young Museum curating art; or Leanne, who learned about fine dining at Heat of the Kitchen; or Jaida, who got an inside look at the tourism and hospitality industry at Airbnb.
I am grateful to all of the businesses and organizations that stepped up to the plate this summer, and to everyone who chipped in to support this program and get Opportunities for All off the ground — including the Citi Foundation, Alaska Airlines, AT&T, Uber, Google, and Airbnb. But above all, I am so proud of all the young people who show the world what they are capable of when we open the door and believe in them.
That is why we are committed to making sure every young person in our City has access to opportunity — the opportunity to work, the opportunity to learn and pursue their passions, and above all, the opportunity to succeed and achieve their dreams.