Co-Founder & Executive Director
Dawn has worked with young people in San Francisco for more than two decades, starting campus-based girls’ support groups at Lincoln High School and A.P. Giannini Middle School in the early 1990s and co-founding in 1992 the organization that would later become Sunset Youth Services. In addition to providing leadership for the nonprofit, managing staff, connecting with donors, and building relationships with young people served by Sunset Youth Services, Dawn partners with numerous community coalitions and city agencies as an advisor, change agent, and voice for the disenfranchised youth of the city.
In 2018 Dawn was elected to co-chair the Juvenile Justice Providers Association (JJPA)–– a consortium of community-based organizations that she helped establish in 2004 and which plays an important role in local policy-making, youth advocacy and has a strong voice in how funds are used to meet the needs of vulnerable youth.
Our Workforce Development Program helps youth and young adults rekindle hope and break free from destructive patterns by providing supportive healing-centered services, incentivized job training, and employment opportunities needed to build stable lives. Nearly 90% of the youth who complete our program land jobs and 4% pursue further education.
Youth who come to SYS for employment meet with our Employment Facilitator for an interview and skill assessment, participate in a comprehensive Pre-Employment Training Program, engage in one of four job-readiness or employment tracks below, and receive transition assistance to further education and employment beyond our walls.
We hire graduates of our Digital Arts Program and train them as leaders in our youth-run record label, where they work as marketing associates, live-sound engineers, and music producers.
Educated by industry professionals, youth receive hands-on experience recording, mixing, mastering, releasing, distributing, and promoting their music.
In turn they train Digital Arts rogram peers and collaborate on writing, recording, and producing original songs for a culminating album.
Throughout the year, our interns work together with other young artists in our community to produce a Monthly Artists Showcase at our Youth Center, featuring ongoing musical collaborations and original work. They take ownership of the event, performing live, shooting video for Upstar TV (channel 29 on SF Commons public access TV), and conducting artist interviews.
We offer restaurant-readiness training in our youth cafe where young people work with our Life Skills Coach to gain hands-on cooking experience, such as how to safely handle and prepare food, use kitchen knives, and practice simple cooking techniques. They put new skills to work weekly: preparing, cooking, and serving a nutritious meal to our youth community, using donated fresh ingredients. Along the way staff help youth prepare and apply for their Food Handlers card, which opens the door for work in the food industry.
The Clear Path Transitional-Age Employment Program provides a restorative alternative to incarceration and a clear pathway for young people in the justice system to get support, work towards obtaining a clean criminal record, and gain critical employment skills and experience.
In a pioneering partnership with the Young Adult Court and California Academy of Sciences, we work with court-appointed youth to provide intensive case management while helping them remove employment barriers, learn job-readiness skills, and successfully complete a 12-week paid employment experience at the Academy. Graduates earn a certificate of completion, referral, a reduced or expunged criminal record, and possible permanent employment at the Academy. A criminal record can adversely affect employment, housing, and college financial aid.
OTHER EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
We also employ young people in a variety of odd jobs and short-term projects that include providing live sound at community festivals and youth events, writing grants for youth-led ideas—such as open mic nights, arts festivals, and a young women’s empowerment party—and acting as skatepark custodians.