In a blur of activity, beaming students led visitors through an open house Sept. 17 at the Menlo Park JobTrain facilities on O'Brien Drive, where hundreds of people are receiving job training and career placement services at no cost to them.
Students in the carpentry program helped guests build toolboxes, and enrollees in the medical assistant program gave CPR tutorials.
Lushorn Lee, a recent graduate of the carpentry program, proudly pointed out that after only 17 weeks in the program, she had gained admission to the carpentry union, and plans to enroll in a four year apprenticeship program.
Patrick Gin eagerly showed off a website he helped design, accessible in desktop, tablet, and mobile formats. Culinary students encouraged guests to sample warm, fluffy cinnamon rolls.
Visitors then filed into one of the facility's large classrooms to hear about a $1.5 million grant and the news that San Mateo County is forgiving JobTrain's building loan, valued at $330,000.
The grant comes from four people with strong ties to JobTrain. Patrick Pichette, former CFO of Google, and Alan Eustace, former vice president of knowledge at Google, have been keynote speakers at JobTrain's annual Breakfast of Champions fundraiser.
Tamar Prichette and Kathy Kwan have worked together to develop JobTrain's "Essential Skills" curriculum, which teaches students the "soft skills" needed to obtain and keep a job, such as attendance, attitude, communication, and taking directions from a supervisor.
The grant will be used to enhance existing programs and enable JobTrain to serve younger, high school age students and people beyond the organization's current geographic reach, said executive director Nora Sobolov.
JobTrain may develop new partnerships and expand satellite programs, such as the Rendezvous Cafe, a recently opened Redwood Shores cafe that provides apprenticeships to graduates of JobTrain's culinary program. (The cafe served appetizers at the open house).
"JobTrain is blessed with a number of people who have taken the time to become invested and learn about what we are and how important the work is," Ms. Sobolov said.
Ms. Kwan said that as a philanthropist, and as the director of the Eustace-Kwan Family Foundation, her priorities are geared toward funding "things I can see and touch." She said she is especially interested in broadening local educational opportunities, and saw the value that an organization like JobTrain offers by targeting populations such as the formerly incarcerated or unemployed for whom traditional educational avenues may not be available.
Ms. Prichette echoed these sentiments, and said, "The best social welfare program is a job."
Over its 50 years, more than 190,000 people have benefited from a JobTrain services, the organization said.
One of those is Stephanie Castillo, 24, who spoke at the open house. A recent mother, she said she faced doubts about her ability to find a job to support herself and her child. She enrolled in JobTrain's business administration program, and in addition to learning how to use programs like Access and Excel, she found herself developing new confidence.
"Now I can say that I have what it takes," she said with a smile.