Nonprofit’s training offers young adults a hopeful future


Each year, about 200 young adults looking to build job skills and earn a chance at a new career enroll in training offered by Hope Builders.

The Orange County residents, most of whom stay in the program for just over a year, get marketable skills, a mentor and a $100 weekly stipend. Local employers get a new supply of job-ready, vetted employees.

Anna Garcia, 23, and the mother of two toddlers, credits Hope Builders for training her and finding her a job as a medical assistant at Providence St. Joseph. Her lucky break came after years of hard work at jobs that did not offer a path to future success. Thanks to Hope Builders’ training and job-placement services, she has been working at a neurosurgery office at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton while waiting for her Irvine job to start this month. She checks in patients, takes their vitals and prepares them for scans or surgery. “Hope Builders showed me what I’m capable of,” she says, adding: “I’m a people person, and I love interacting with the patients.”

Twenty-year-old Samuel Chavez Cortez, of Anaheim, who recently began a 13-week course in basic construction skills, is also counting on Hope Builders for a fresh start. The eldest of seven children of a single mother, he had no mentors and no idea what to do after high school until he heard about Hope Builders, where now for the first time, he says, “I see a bright future for myself.”

“Hope Builders showed me what I’m capable of. I’m a people person, and I love interacting with the patients.” – Anna Garcia

In his first two weeks of training, Cortez demonstrated his dedication by traveling 90 minutes each way, by bus and by foot, before he made friends with other trainees who offered rides.

He now dreams of becoming an electrician, a profession that one day might pay enough for him to support a family. And he has reason for hope: More than 9 out of 10 of the program’s graduates are placed in a job.

Hope Builders is funded by contributions from Orange County corporations and individuals. Irvine employers include Providence Health Center, the 24 HRC construction firm, and Smart Systems Technologies.

Earlier this year, Irvine Company and the Donald Bren Foundation donated $50,000, funds that Hope Builders’ Executive Director Shawna Smith says will help increase enrollment to another 50 young adults.

By 2024, Hope Builders expects to double the number of participants it connects to careers.

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