San Francisco is known for having a highly educated population. Yet despite its reputation, approximately 50% of African American and Latino high school students in the city test below proficient in language arts skills, and an astonishing 85% test below proficient in math. This lack of skills is very problematic because almost all jobs in the San Francisco region require proficiency in language arts and math.

In addition to the school system failing to prepare African American and Latino youth for the 21st century economy and society, large numbers of African American and Latino youth in San Francisco are dropping out of school. For every four youth who graduate from high school or complete their GED in San Francisco, one youth will drop out and never finish his or her education. This rate is substantially higher than the national average for all racial groups, and is particularly troubling for African American and Latino youth whose dropout rates are more than double those of their Asian and white peers. Even more troubling, among the San Francisco youth who drop out of school, on average, 69% will be detained at the city’s Juvenile Justice Center (source: Success Center SF, February 2017).

This is where the nonprofit organization Success Center San Francisco plays an important role in the city. Success Center SF’s mission is to empower young adults through education and employment. Formally known as the Youth Guidance Center Improvement Committee, Success Center SF was established in 1983 by San Francisco Superior Court Judges to provide educational and employment opportunities to youth in SF’s juvenile detention. Since then, Success Center SF has expanded to serve any youth engaged in the justice system as well as marginalized youth at high risk for disconnection from society.

Success Center SF offers education and employment services for youth ages 16–24. Their staff teach, guide, counsel, and mentor youth and provide them with GED classes, service learning, job-readiness workshops, life skills and linkages to employment, workforce training and post-secondary education.

Starting April 2017, Success Center SF will add environmental literacy, work readiness, and preparation for over 125 STEM-based jobs to the list of services it provides for youth in their program. To do so, staff members Kentara Gaines, Job Coach/Case Manager and Reymon LaChaux, Business Relations Coordinator, went through a one-day Roots of Success training in February 2017. Kentara and Reymon plan to teach all ten modules of Roots of Success to 15-20 youth in each cohort.