House Speaker Nancy Pelosi highlighted Jewish Vocational Service as a model for recipients of federal stimulus funds during a visit last week to the San Francisco nonprofit.
“I can’t wait to go back to Washington and … say to my colleagues that there are great things going on in the community,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi visited JVS on June 4 to talk about initiatives funded by the Recovery Act and its impact on job creation in the Bay Area.
She observed a class of 20 students enrolled in the Community Outreach Internship Program, a partnership between JVS and UCSF that offers intensive job training and field placement to people who are out of work, seeking a career change or needing a boost after earning a GED.
She listened carefully to their stories about how the program has broadened their skills, enhanced their self-confidence and recharged their careers.
“For me personally, and I think I speak for many of us, this is a second chance at a first-class life,” said Nicole Banks, who is interning at UCSF.
The students expressed gratitude to Pelosi for supporting the program, and were awed that the speaker not only gave them her ear but also her praise.
“I salute you for your courage and professionalism,” Pelosi said. “I am inspired by you … and will be sure to convey your success to President Obama.”
Her visit coincided with a disappointing May jobs report released the same day by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the 431,000 new jobs created nationwide in May, 411,000 were census workers hired on a temporary basis by the government.
Despite the numbers, Pelosi said the private sector is adding jobs, but slowly. “Today’s report says that the Recovery Act is working, but we really need to do more,” she said.
“I’m a grandma,” she continued. “I don’t want to leave my grandkids bills. I want to leave them with resources. Not a tab to pay, but a stake in the future.”
To kick-start growth, Pelosi said the House of Representatives soon will consider a bill to give $20 billion to community banks for the sole purpose of lending to small businesses, “the greatest creator of jobs,” she said.
UCSF started the Community Outreach Internship Program in 1999. Due to lack of funds, it went on hiatus in 2006. But thanks to the federal stimulus dollars secured by JVS, the two agencies in February partnered up to revive the program. It consists of 12 weeks of intensive training and a five-month stint as an administrative assistant at UCSF, during which participants continue to attend skills-building workshops at JVS.
“This proves that people can learn while they earn, that job training and work can go hand in hand,” said Abby Snay, director of JVS.
The number of clients JVS serves has doubled since the recession began. The nonprofit currently assists 5,000 people, Snay said.
Pelosi talked about how the 40-year-old agency continues to be guided by its founding principles, the Jewish values of tikkun olam and tzedakah.
“JVS has extended these principles to all San Franciscans,” Pelosi said, “providing job training, skills and placement, and living up to the highest level of charity in Jewish life — enabling people to stand on their own two feet.”