Facilitated panel and discussion featured a Year Up graduate, a social justice advocate, the San Jose Chief of Police, and San Jose’s Community Outreach Specialist

Panel participants included: Eddie Garcia, San Jose’s Chief of Police; Laurie Valdez, a Social Justice Advocate whose partner died during an encounter with the San Jose State University Police; Peter Ortiz, a graduate of Year Up Bay Area and School Board member-elect for Mount Pleasant School District; and Telina Martinez Barrientos, Community Outreach Specialist with the City of San Jose’s Office of Independent Police Auditor.

As an organization that works closely with young adults from under-served communities, Year Up Bay Area hosted this discussion to address an issue that’s critically important to our students,” said Emily Schaffer, Executive Director of Year Up Bay Area. Our panel participants addressed questions around negative stereotypes — of both police and young people of color — as well as harassment, excessive force, and how communities can start to heal.”

The panel also helped to educate young adults on their rights during a police encounter, and was designed to facilitate a constructive, solutions-oriented conversation.

“There is fear on both sides and we are trying to work on getting people home safe,” said Eddie Garcia, San Jose’s Chief of Police. “These meetings are important to me because there is a perception of law enforcement and I think these dialogues can help change that perception. We are trying to find more innovative ways to connect with the community and to make changes based on these conversations. At the end of day, we are more than what we wear―we are dads, we are moms, we are sons, brothers, and sisters as well.”

Peter-Ortiz---GT“Excessive force used by police officers is an inconvenient truth that every person of color needs to be aware of. That being said, it is important that we do not channel those emotions in ways that could lead towards aggression or criminal behavior. It does us no good to make ourselves targets to the system that we are trying to change,” said Peter Ortiz, a graduate of Year Up Bay Area and School Board member-elect for Mount Pleasant School District. I understand people who act in anger, I don’t judge people of color who sometimes act in an aggression because I’ve been there, I feel that pain. Police offers get to go home and take off their uniform but I cannot take off my skin. However, if we want to enact change, we have to participate civically, we have to organize, and that is the only way I can see us moving forward.”

Year Up Bay Area currently serves more than 400 students each year at campuses in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. The program provides local young adults (ages 18-24, without college degrees) with technical, professional and communication skills including: desktop and network support; quality assurance; cyber security; sales and project management; business writing; time management; and working in teams. Students earn college credits for completing their coursework during the first six months of the program. The next six months consist of an internship at corporate partner firms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google.

Eighty-six percent of Year Up Bay Area graduates are employed or enrolled in college full-time within four months of completing the program, with average starting salaries of $41,600/year. Learn more about Year Up Bay Area by following us on Twitter @YearUpBayArea and on Facebook.

About Year Up Inc.

Year Up’s mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. Year Up achieves this mission through a high support, high expectation model that combines marketable job skills, stipends, internships and college credits. Its holistic approach focuses on students’ professional and personal development to place these young adults on a viable path to economic self-sufficiency. Year Up currently serves more than 3,000 students a year at sites in Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Jacksonville, the National Capital Region, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay Area, and South Florida. To learn more, visit http://www.yearup.org or http://www.youtube.com/yearupinc.