For Youth, From Poverty to Prosperity

Levi Strauss & Co.
September 10, 2013

After a day of school, Adriana would head over to San Francisco’s AT&T Park, excited to grab her black visor, strap on her vending bag and hit the stands, hawking ice cream and hot chocolate to the sold-out baseball crowds. (Given San Francisco’s unpredictable summers, hot chocolate can be a big seller.)

For Adriana, each shift at work meant increased savings towards her college education. Now that she’s attending San Francisco State University to become a therapist, she knows her hard work paid off.

As the head of Juma Ventures and a former high school teacher, I’ve worked with hundreds of students like Adriana, who live in low-income neighborhoods where youth of color or first-generation Americans too often drop out of high school or can’t afford college.

Juma Group Levi Strauss Foundation

But research shows having a college education quadruples their chances of earning above poverty-level income.

With support from the Levi Strauss Foundation, Juma is one of the country’s largest youth-run social enterprises, helping hundreds of teenagers work their way up toward higher education in San Francisco, Oakland, New Orleans, New York, San Diego and Seattle.

Over the past two decades, Juma youth have earned $3 million in wages and saved $2 million for higher education.

The Levi Strauss Foundation’s partnership with Juma dates back to 1996, when our focus was primarily on youth employment. The Foundation’s continued support has helped us shift our focus to include an array of financial literacy services and savings products that allows students to build their confidence about their present — and invest in their future.

Through our CollegeSet program, we set up fee-free bank accounts for high school students, and we match every dollar the students save.

Every step of the way, we also provide them with academic support and career services, as well as training on budgeting, building financial credit, and avoiding unnecessarily high interest loans.


Adriana says that Juma taught her about the importance of professionalism, self-reliance, and saving for long-term goals. And she’s not alone: last year, 94 percent of Juma youth successfully transitioned from high school to post-secondary education, and 83 percent are on track to graduate within five years.

Now a Park Assistant Manager at the Cow Palace in Daly City, Adriana is on track to graduate from San Francisco State University in 2016 with a degree in psychology.

I’m proud to know that Juma has instilled her with the job skills, education and financial confidence to become a positive influence within her family and in her community.

You can also be part of the solution and help students reach their goals of going to college. Watch Edgar’s story below and sponsor a CollegeSet student here.


Edgar from Juma Ventures on Vimeo.