Making a Difference West Edition

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: LeadersUp helps young people find — and keep — jobs

By Dorany Pineda

Contributing Writer

Although Jeffery Wallace has seen many success stories since LeadersUp launched in 2013, Emmanuel stands out more than anyone.

Emmanuel (only his first name is being used here for privacy) was a young man pursuing his dreams in college, but he had to drop out to look for work when he ran into financial issues.

That’s when LeadersUp — a nonprofit that helps young adults find employment and employers spot and maintain talent — stepped in.

The organization recruited Emmanuel with the help of a partner agency. After attending one of the organization’s programs, he got hired at Nordstrom Rack, worked hard and eventually was promoted to shift leader.

“But the real success story of Emmanuel, beyond him getting the job, was that he also fell in love with the idea of how could he give back to the community,” said Wallace, LeadersUp’s president and chief executive officer.

While Emmanuel continues to move up the ranks at Nordstroms, he also is a senior fellow with the organization and hosts its digital series.

“This is a young man from South L.A. who could have easily slipped into the industrial prison complex because he needed opportunities,” Wallace said. “And he was able to seize opportunities with LeadersUp, and now he’s an empowered leader.”

Jeffery Wallace

For five years, the nonprofit has worked to empower young people like Emmanuel between 18 and 24 with career opportunities. Its goal is to ensure that young adults have equitable access to employment and economic mobility opportunities, Wallace said.

And it does so in numerous ways. One is with its Winning in the Workplace curriculum, which teaches young people the essential skills needed to find and maintain employment.

These professional “power skills,” as Wallace calls them, include grit, perserverance, teamwork, a strong work ethic, effective communication, relationship building, and a strong orientation to goals, actions and results.

Its one-day lab then teaches work seekers how to demonstrate their power skills during an interview.

For those on social media, “Power Talk,” a talk show digital series on Facebook and Instagram, invites professional guest speakers to reinforce the skills sets that young people need.

On the employers side, there’s the Future At Work Leadership Network, which works with company executives and managers on strengthening their productivity, increasing employee engagement and achieving their social responsibility goals.

Its goal is to ensure that corporations “have the capabilities to effectively manage [employees] and win with that talent base,” Wallace said. In working with LeadersUp, employers learn that young people from low-income communities, who are often overlooked, have talent.

“We gives the employers a new perspective around what diverse talent looks like,” Wallace said. “…[LeadersUp] helps ensure that communities like South L.A., Watts and Compton are seen not as negative aspects of our cities but, more importantly, as generators of new tax revenue because we can get these young people to work.”

And with the more than 5,000 young people they have helped employ, LeadersUp is helping solve youth unemployment and the opportunity divide with its programs and job fairs.

In October, the organization will host a major hiring event in South L.A. featuring more than 30 employers who will be interviewing and hiring people on the spot.

“Our big thing is that we are a community asset and we want to make sure that every young person has the opportunity to maximize their potential,” Wallace said. “That’s our goal.”


President and CEO: Jeffery Wallace

Years in operation: 5

Number of employees: 20

Annual budget: $4.8 million

Location: 830 Traction Ave. Unit 3A, Los Angeles, 90013