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SVCF 2019 2019 Annual Report
Our Work

Personal Connection Inspires a Decade of Support and Advocacy

SVCF donor and board member George Brown looks forward to each opportunity he has to connect with youth from Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY). “Every time I am in a room with the young people [at least prior to COVID-19, and hopefully again in the near future], I am inspired. Going to one of their showcase breakfasts and hearing [a FLY program participant] speak is extremely inspirational.”

Dedicated to interrupting the pipeline to prison for youth and supporting them on their path to healthy, free and productive lives, FLY educates young people about the laws that affect them, supports them to become leaders in their communities and gives them positive mentors and role models. The organization works in three counties in the Bay Area, including in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

One of FLY’s challenges is making the case to donate to its work. Programs to support incarcerated youth and teens who are at risk of incarceration is not always a popular donor choice. “This is not an area of philanthropic priority for people,” explains Christa Gannon, FLY’s founder and former CEO. “A lot of people think it’s too late, these kids can’t be reached, the issue isn’t that important or ‘These aren’t my kids.’”

But for Brown, the personal connection he feels to FLY’s young adults and teens is exactly what has inspired him to be a supporter for 10 years through advocacy and funding from his donor advised fund at SVCF: “As an African American,” notes Brown, “FLY resonates with me because of the target population it serves. There’s a disproportionate number of Black and Latino youth who get incarcerated, relative to other populations in Silicon Valley.”

In addition to being a financial supporter of FLY, Brown also maintains a personal connection to the organization and the teens it serves. Recognizing the value of young adults being able to relate to examples of success, Brown makes sure he has opportunities to meet with the teens FLY serves. In describing the importance of Brown’s support, the organization’s managing director for Santa Clara County, Susie Rivera, explains, “Having someone as caring as George, and who comes out and says hello to the youth and to the staff, creates this opportunity — especially as a man of color — that shows our young people you can occupy these spaces and circles. They are not excluded from these elite tables.”

One example of the power of FLY’s work is the journey Nick Jasso took. Now a student at UCLA who will intern in Sacramento and spend a quarter studying in Europe, Jasso remembers very clearly being 16 and mad at the world. “When I was in school, I was just angry,” recalls Jasso. “I talked back to teachers; I talked back to principals. I got into fights with other kids. I didn’t think I needed to change because I was just so angry — angry at my mom for being on drugs, angry at my dad for being in prison, not being there.”

After getting arrested, Jasso came to FLY. During the first night of a retreat early in the program, Jasso experienced a new feeling — one of belonging: “I remember feeling so good, and feeling so safe and connected. [That first night] FLY did for me what I had wanted my whole life.” Jasso’s future plans are to attend law school or pursue a master’s in public policy after he graduates from college. Thinking back on FLY’s impact, Jasso says the organization’s support ignited him: “My whole life I was a candle, waiting to be lit.”

Brown believes it’s more people’s responsibility to support FLY and other organizations working with young adults and teens who may otherwise end up in prison. “If I could speak to other donors, and explain my passion for FLY, I would hope they could find some of the same reasons as I have found,” observes Brown. “If we don’t support FLY, who will? This is a group of young people who are often ignored, who people don’t have high on their list when they are making lists of who they want to support. It’s not the No. 1 issue everyone is talking about. And yet, the FLY staff and leaders are saving lives every day.”

Donor Circle Envisions a Community Everyone Can Call Home
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Donor Circle Envisions a Community Everyone Can Call Home