Who we are
Opportunity Junction is an Antioch-based nonprofit that fights poverty by helping low-income adults gain the skills and confidence to support themselves and their families. During the past year, more than 800 East Contra Costa residents participated in one or more of our programs: our Job Training and Placement Program that prepares participants for administrative careers through a combination of computer training, life skills, paid experience, career counseling, support services and long-term follow-up; our evening Technology Center that targets working adults with instruction in Computer Basics and English as a Second Language, as well as access to computers and the Internet; and our Do-It-Yourself Tax Assistance program that teaches low-income taxpayers to prepare and file their Federal and California tax returns using the I-CAN eFile web interface. All programs are offered at no charge to participants and are designed to help families along on the road to self-sufficiency.
Who we serve
Opportunity Junction serves the historically underserved communities of East Central and Eastern Contra Costa County. Within this area, our Job Training and Placement Program targets individuals who are considered “hard-to-serve”: those who are low-income and confront one or more barriers to employment, such as domestic violence, substance abuse, a criminal record, past job instability or limited out of home work experience. Job training participants are primarily women and reflect the diversity of those living in poverty in Contra Costa County. The average participant is responsible for two school-age dependents.
The Technology Center has a complementary focus, targeting the working poor of East County by providing drop-in, easy-access, modular learning and access opportunities designed to accommodate existing work schedules and family obligations. The Do-It-Yourself Tax Assistance program overlaps both of these populations, offering services to families earning less than $52,000 per year.
Johnnetta Gay: “Opportunity Junction offered me a new chance at life.”
Johnnetta Gay has been in her dream job working with pregnant teens and women in the Black Infant Health Program with Brighter Beginnings for almost two years. But her journey to self-sufficiency has not been easy. A teen mother at 17, Johnnetta struggled to stay in school while raising her son and taking care of her ill mother. She graduated from high school and started college courses shortly before her mother passed away.
“Without my mother’s support, I felt lost and alone,” Johnnetta shares. “Not only did I lose my mother, but my son, DeRon, missed the grandmother who helped raise him.” Unable to cope, she dropped out of school and out of her life. She survived by supporting herself and her family on welfare. But she had dreams of supporting her family on her own while also working to make a difference. She was able to find a position with a three-year pilot program working with pregnant teens and women.
Shortly after beginning the position, Johnnetta knew she had found her calling in life. When that position ended, she found herself lost again. She struggled through various positions to support her three children, DeRon, Ebony and Elijah, but never experienced the same joy she had while helping pregnant women. She lost confidence and began to think that she didn’t deserve anything better than working meaningless jobs that took her away from her family for limited pay.
That is when she stumbled across Opportunity Junction. Johnnetta immediately loved the personal feel and attention of the small classes and quickly blossomed. “I was able to take on a leadership role in her class,” Johnnetta remembers, “and feel like I was helping people again. Life Skills gave me a chance to open up and get my confidence back.” The internship empowered her to make decisions and share her opinions; she was ready for the next step. Shortly into her internship, Johnnetta found the perfect position. Brighter Beginnings was looking for a Family Advocate to work with pregnant African American women in their Antioch office. She had the experience from a previous position, but now she also had the confidence and the skills to get that position.
“Opportunity Junction gave me the confidence to know I could get my dream job — to pick a goal and go for it,” Johnnetta says. “I love my position, but what I really love is being able to refer new people to Opportunity Junction to share in a wonderful experience.”
How you can help
Opportunity Junction relies on the efforts of volunteers and the generosity of donors. We are always seeking computer, math, and English tutors, individuals or groups to staff special events like Graduation, and professionals who can help participants with resume development and interviewing skills — you can sign up at http://www.opportunityjunction.org/su_volunteer.html. Donations — which may be made online at http://www.opportunityjunction.org — are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law, because we are a charitable organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code (tax I.D. 68-0459131). In addition, employers can sign up as Hiring Partners to share job postings with us, and all supporters can hire our job training interns as temporary staff or for outsourced administrative projects like data entry and web research.