The EXCELent Life of Chris Zures

Zaneta Encarnacion

Thu February 26, 2015 6:40pm

Behind the row of shops across from Heritage Park, Chris Zures works above the leasing office at Sunrose Apartments to change lives. Zures is a program coordinator for South Bay Community Services’s EXCEL program.
The EXCEL program prepares youths and adults to achieve academic and employment success. Funded by the San Diego Workforce Partnership, EXCEL provides work readiness training, paid and unpaid internships, life skills classes, housing assistance, financial literacy and more.
Most of the youths participating in the program are considered at-risk due to life circumstances such as homelessness, foster youths who are aging out of the system, youths on probation, etc. Participants meet one-on-one with case managers who assist them with job searches, resume writing and spend time with them discussing goals and addressing barriers to employment.
Zures has worked for more than three years in a variety of youth development roles at SBCS.
“I enjoy working with a diverse group of youths who are at various stages of their development. The best part of the job is working with the youths to set and reach their goals.”
There are many barriers these youths can face such as lack of transportation to classes or work, or lack of confidence to be consistent in their goal setting. This is where Zures’ work, and those of the other case managers, can make all the difference. Zures and his colleagues spend time with the youths developing strong relationships that rest somewhere between mentor, coach and friend.
“I worked with a youth who was on probation and was a high school dropout. He enrolled into our program and excelled during the classes. He eventually earned a paid internship at Gamestop that turned into a full-time managerial position. His accomplishment reiterated the importance of my work and our program. It is personally and professionally rewarding to know that our work not only gained this youth a job, but set him on a career path.”
Zures lives in North Park, but the work he is doing to change lives in Otay Ranch earns him the badge of honorary community member. If you would like to learn more about the EXCEL program in Otay Ranch, visit www.southbaycommunityservices.org.
Zaneta Encarnacion is engagement director of communications and external affairs at South Bay Community Services.