Some say the best way to stop a bullet is with a job, and there is a San Jose program that aims to do just that.
At 14, Elizabeth Campos, a former self-described gang banger, is now finding her way through a Green Cadre work program. She's now 21, and attending San Jose City College - a feat she attributes to innovative program that provides job training for low-income and at-risk youth and adults.
“It’s a second chance for me,” Campos said.
And she is just one of the success stories.
“The kids we have are typically kids out of school. Many don’t have a diploma, the kind of kid ripe for gang activity,” said Richard Martinez, the program director at Work2future's Green Cadre program.
The program is run with funds from the Federal Workforce Reinvestment Act, and helps roughly 300 teens and young adults per year. Work2future operates centers that serve San Jose, Campbell Morgan Hill, Los Altos Hills, Gilroy, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Monte Sereno and parts of Santa Clara County.
It’s the kind of program touted by Mayor Chuck Reed and Police Chief Chris Moore as solutions to the growing youth violence.
The Green Cadre program is also a component of the city’s effort, with an office right in the San Jose Office of Economic Development, training youth for green jobs.
That’s what helped Isaiah Garcia land a job at Green Mouse Recycling.
“It’s helped me out a lot,” Garcia said. “I got out of prison, got a bad start, was looking for a new start.”
Green Mouse has given five graduates of the Green Cadre program that new start.
The company partners with the city to provide jobs for the participants, and they don’t like to hear that they’re taking a risk hiring the youth with a shady past.
“We look at the future, not the past,” said Green Mouse president Evelyn O’Donell. “I’m giving them a chance because it’s a chance for me to give back to my community.”