It started with the vision for something better. Dion Jones wanted a better life for his son, including a high school diploma and job training program for a solid future. Leaving New York for Pittsburgh and the Garfield Jubilee Association, was how that vision would become reality.
Now more than two years later, Jones is a program director at the agency, recruiting young adults who often face significant barriers to employment. Jones sees beyond those barriers and focuses instead on the potential that awaits.
That spirit, that dedication to young people, led Partner4Work to nominate Jones for the United Way’s Be There Award, a program that acknowledges mentors, teachers, youth workers, advocates, and others who go above and beyond to serve young people. Jones was named a finalist in January; winners will be announced in April.
“Dion is devoted to helping the young adults he serves better their lives through education and job skills. He cares about his students and genuinely wants them to succeed,” said Susie Puskar, Director of Youth Innovation at Partner4Work. “He views other youth providers as partners rather than competitors, helping to build them up and sharing what works.”
With funding from Partner4Work, Garfield Jubilee will help 70 young adults who have either dropped out of high school or who have a diploma but need help with reading and math skills earn a diploma or GED while also training them in career fields such as construction trades.
Jones’ son was one of those program participants in 2014.
“He needed hands-on and he needed somebody to break things down for him and give him personal attention,” Jones said. “I needed to get him away from that fast-paced lifestyle in Brooklyn hoping that this would slow him down and he would be able to get what he needed to succeed in life.”
At the advice of friends, Jones enrolled his then 21-year-old son in Garfield Jubilee’s YouthBuild program, a hands-on training program for construction fields such as carpentry, electrical, welding and HVAC.
While his son learned, Jones stayed in the wings, waiting in the kitchen for class to conclude.
With a background in higher education, it didn’t take long for Jones to step up to volunteer. That role evolved into a job as a summer program coordinator and, eventually, program director.
Now Jones calls Pittsburgh home, even though his son has returned to New York, and admits he’s found his calling here in the community.
“I ran into my destiny here,” explains Jones. “I ran into what God was putting in me as a child to do. And so it makes it easy for me to do this because this is what God has put into me.”
Nationally recognized for innovation, Partner4Work delivers workforce solutions for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to ensure the current and future needs of businesses and job seekers are met. As stewards of more than $20 million in public and private workforce funds, Partner4Work oversees and funds workforce programs for adults, dislocated workers and youth; educates the community through robust labor market analytics; and implements innovative solutions to the region's systemic workforce challenges. Partner4Work bridges the gap between people looking for work and companies in need of talent. More information is available at www.partner4work.org.