“I get emotional when I go to the site and see the steel going up and the cement being poured.”
For Etta Jones, her new job has brought her career and passions full circle. Jones has deep roots with the jobsite at 1550 Evans Avenue where her new job as a Data Entry Clerk for construction manager and general contractor, Pankow Builders (Pankow), is located. When the former building housed classrooms, she worked as a Community Resource Coordinator for the San Francisco Unified School District, mentoring and advocating for education and the care of youth and their families. Jones, ever curious and always learning, has embarked on a new era for herself, and the Bayview-Hunters Point community, by being part of the team that is constructing the new Southeast Community Center.
“The building will be significant to the community because a lot people put in a lot work to make sure it would really happen. We had a lot of community warriors who advocated for this important facility,” Jones recognized, referring to the dedication of the Big Six of the Bayview, which included Dr. Espanola Jackson, Harold Madison, Eloise Westbrook, Ethel Garlington, Shirley Jones, and Alex Pitcher, who were all instrumental in advocating for the development of the original facilities and ensuring it was designed to bring equity to the community.
“From looking at the drawings, the new center is going to be fantastic! It’s going to house an educational institution, as well as a childcare center, so you can go to school and bring your children. The Alex Pitcher Pavilion will include space for Community Based Organizations to meet. The community is going to be elated,” Jones said.
“It’s significant for Pankow, too. For the company, it’s not just about building the building. They have a sign with a subheading, ‘Thinking Beyond the Building’,” Jones explained. “It is about providing opportunities for residents and building something more than just walls and a foundation. It’s about working together to create inclusion for Bayview-Hunters Point workers and deliberately making investments into Bayview-Hunters Point residents, families and community.”
Jones prepared for her new career in Construction Administration and Document Control by participating in the Professional Services Job Training and Opportunities Program (PS-JTOP), which helped her advance the computer software skills that she relies on daily.
She also credited the SFPUC’s community nonprofit partners that made it a success. For those that needed childcare or had outstanding traffic tickets, Young Community Developers (YCD) provided barrier removal funds. With their help, Jones was able to tackle one barrier after the next.
“If we needed professional attire, we went to a ‘Dress for Success’ workshop where they allow you to select one or two outfits,” she explained.
Jones views programs like PS-JTOP as key to empowering the next generation in the community. “My desire is to see another cohort recruitment for the PS-JTOP training program. We need to encourage and engage young people, get them involved acquiring skills in carpentry, electrical and other trades. Construction jobs, as well as construction administration jobs, offer financial security and increase one’s self-image,” she notes.
Like the excitement she felt as the new Southeast Community Center began to take shape, Jones’ desire is to share her excitement about similar opportunities with the next generation. Jones explains, “They get to see improvements in their community and learn about construction management. A young person who is employed with a construction company on a long-term project like this one, receiving weekly wages and benefits, imagine where they would be in five years!” As one example, Jones cites a young man she is working with from Alice Griffith Housing Development. He is majoring in Civil Engineering and is an intern with Pankow, She enjoys the chance to work with, and see firsthand, people from the community getting involved and pursuing meaningful careers.
The SFPUC is committed to supporting the communities impacted by its operations. As the agency invests in its infrastructure, it is also investing in local, underserved communities by connecting youth and adults with learning, apprenticeship, job training, employment, and business opportunities. These programs support a strong, inclusive, local economy and a skilled, diverse, local workforce for today and tomorrow. Jones is one of the many individuals the SFPUC has been able to assist and the agency is proud to share her story.