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Jail to Jobs Inspires Change

Since 2009, our grant partner Jail to Jobs has made it their mission to transform lives in juvenile detention facilities and dramatically reduce the number of youths who would otherwise enter a cycle of incarceration. This likelihood to reoffend is called “recidivism,” and over the past 13 years Jail to Jobs has successfully lowered the recidivism rate for folks in their program from the national average of 75% to an astounding 15%.

We had the pleasure of talking with Saulo Cooper, Chef and Chaplain of Jail to Jobs, who described his journey with the nonprofit as life-changing, explaining how as a previous offender, he has been able to heal through his work with the youth program and is now honored to be an example of change.

“We’re here to inspire. Tell them that change actually begins where you are at.”

As Jail to Jobs has grown over the years, so have their programs, and specifically Salt Kitchen. Salt Kitchen is a place for the members of Jail to Jobs to learn professional and interpersonal skills – a stepping stone in their path to a professional environment.

Cooper described his relationship with cooking as one of healing, turning past environments of feeling unwanted into a space where the young adults in the program are celebrated, encouraged and praised with positive reinforcement – something that is shown to be lacking in their past. Cooper also highlighted the meaning behind the name “Salt Kitchen,” saying that the goal (like with salt on a dish) is to enhance what is already there without changing the essence, focusing on participants’ inherent worth regardless of their past.

“I believe in the second, third and fourth chances … no one is a lost cause.”

Funding Change

This year, Jail to Jobs received grants from both the Women’s Fund and the Hispanic Impact Fund for the first time ever. Cooper talked specifically about the impact this funding will have on the group of young women that he works with, some of whom have suffered abuse and need tangible things like emergency phones, career counseling, or therapy services that can only be acquired with enough resources.

By granting unrestricted funds, ACF’s programs enable nonprofits like Jail to Jobs to listen directly to the community they work with and make decisions that provide for their specific needs. Cooper explained how critical general operating funding is for their organization as they work to fulfill needs in low-income Latino communities, stating, “We get so many referrals from kids in their neighborhoods and sometimes we have to say no.” At the simplest level, funding from Austin Community Foundation helps them be able to say “yes” to more young adults in need.

How You Can Help

Our grantmaking is community-led and wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the many people who come together to make a collective impact and improve the economic security of Central Texans. To help more local organizations doing important work in our community, make a donation to our community impact programs today.

Learn more about Jail to Jobs here.