Monday, June 24, 2013
Juma aims to end the cycle of poverty by providing mentorship, counseling and college prep for low-income students, while also giving them a way to earn money at the Qualcomm café.
If you've ever been to Qualcomm stadium, you might've visited Café Juma for ice cream or coffee. But you may not have known the students working behind the counter are doing more than just counting change and running the espresso machine.
They are part of a special program called Juma Ventures, which helps them become first-generation college students. Juma aims to end the cycle of poverty by providing mentorship, financial counseling and college prep to low-income students while giving them an after-school job, said Brittany Russell, the director of Juma's San Diego site.
"The goal is to really allow these young people to go to college and get that experience," Russell said. "The great thing about Juma is that we're not with them until they graduate high school – we're with them until they graduate college."
About 30 students from the program gathered last week in a Qualcomm Stadium banquet room for the San Diego site's first graduation ceremony. But while the teenagers may be finishing high school, they are not finished with Juma. The college-bound students celebrated with barbecue food and cake.
At the ceremony, Juma student Hannah Medina won a $500 scholarship. She'll put it toward her tuition at San Diego State University, where she'll enroll this summer. Medina hopes to become a social worker and said she owes a lot to Juma.
"It's brought me from a rough childhood to doing something greater and knowing that I always have someone I can turn to if I need anyone," she said. "Or, someone that can be there for me in a time of need, and I never had that growing up."
To accept her award, Medina read a poem she'd written about Juma. She finished it by saying where she'd be without the program.
"I'd be lost at sea, awaiting to be rescued," she read. "A savior no longer needed. With Juma, I've found my course."