Young Community Developers Ramp Up Workforce Training

A new leader at a Bayview nonprofit expands its programs to get its young people hired in a hot job market. 

Young Community Developers, Inc staff pose for a team photo in December 2018.

When Shamann Walton was sworn in as the Supervisor for District 10 in January, he left his executive director post at Bayview nonprofit Young Community Developers during a period of growth.

The 46-year-old nonprofit that focuses on economic and workforce development for Bayview-Hunters Point residents now employs about 75 people across 25 programs. It helps formerly incarcerated folks re-enter the job field, builds career skills for youth, and even develops affordable housing. Armed with a $10.1 million budget in 2018, it served more than 1,000 people, placing nearly half of them in jobs through partners like the Golden State Warriors, developer Lennar Urban, and Wells Fargo.

Last month, deputy executive director Dion-Jay Brookter was tapped to replace Walton. Brookter, who also led the Southeast Community Facility Commission from 2016 to 2018 and who has sat on the Police Commission since September, now runs a nonprofit he’d managed in various positions for more than seven years.

But he insists he’s only there to provide the structure, because the youth are ultimately the ones deciding which paths to take.

“It’s driven by them,” Brookter says. “We as the adults spend so much time behind closed doors in City Hall creating programs for people who aren’t at the table.”

Calling many of the shots is what 23-year-old Bayview native Elijah Dale likes about YCD, which he has been involved with since middle school. He knew he was interested in grant-writing and budget plans, so they let him practice it and edited his work. He wanted to learn soft business skills, so he joins others in wearing a suit-and-tie once a week and takes leadership lessons monthly.

Now a recent college graduate, Dale is one of a few fellows in a new fellowship program that allows people like him to test working in different offices belonging to city departments or other nonprofits, while getting paid by YCD. He’s been stationed at the Department of Police Accountability since February, helping the oversight body review police body camera footage, edit bylaws, and do community outreach.

“One of the cool things of this fellowship is the flexibility,” Dale says, adding, “It’s not just a job where you’re going 8-5 or 9-5 to do your job and go home. You build relationships beyond that.”

He’s seen the nonprofit grow over the past decade from a small office with not many people in it to a thriving hub for Bayview-Hunters Point residents seeking to build a career, and to build relationships with fellow neighbors during events YCD holds.

“When they came back, they were having a hard time finding a job,” Brookter says of recent graduates like Dale, despite being in a job-rich area. “The real goal is to build the next stewards of nonprofits.”

Another Bayview native, Victoria Bryant, is interested in exactly that. She first joined their summer youth program as a sophomore at Balboa High School. Now, as a recent graduate of Paul Quinn College in Dallas, she’s leading a summer program of about eight teenagers who will learn about and work on clean power projects by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. She’s set to stay on as a fellow in August as she pursues a career working with nonprofits.

“Their summer programs definitely helped me strengthen my skills around public speaking and being an advocate,” Bryant says. “Initially, I was into architecture and engineering. I was able to understand that this wasn’t the direct career advancement that I wanted.”

Workforce development extends to Bayview youth ensnared by the criminal justice system by picking them up from school, helping them with homework, and taking them on tours to historically Black colleges and universities.

Brookter says his goal on the Police Commission is to be at least one voice to bring needed services to people in the neighborhood, like incarcerated youth. Though the Police Commission has felt some tension between Board of Supervisor appointees and mayoral appointees like him in recent months, Brookter says a paper with suggestions on youth policing will soon make the rounds at City Hall.

“We are the folks who are here on the ground on a daily basis, interacting with folks who are traditionally marginalized,” Brookter says. “I just lead with an understanding that there’s no reason I should be in the position for 30 or 40 years. It’s about the next generation that’s coming behind us.”

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