Former LAP3 Youth Ambassador Steven Mason now works at EWDD and is taking steps toward a bright future
When Steven Mason was growing up, his parents told his younger sister to not follow his example, to build a life opposite of the one he pursued.

“Whatever you can think of as far as crime, I did it,” Steven said, now age 22.

At age 13, Steven brought a knife to school to defend himself against a bully who taunted him for his stutter. He then entered the youth juvenile justice system for the first time, beginning an eight-year arc where Steven became involved in “life in the streets” and a “life of crime.”

His mother kicked him out at age 17, forcing Steven to couch-surf between friends and relatives. After watching his friends go to jail, Steven made a commitment to change.

“I was tired of always having to look over my shoulder,” Steven said. “I went to real jail at 18. That ingrained a real change in me. I told myself I was done. I was going to give myself two weeks to find a real job.”

Within those two weeks, Steven received a referral to the Archdiocesan Youth Employment (AYE) YouthSource Center, run by EWDD partner Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Inc. There, case worker Alma Diaz provided support and guidance to help Steven build a resume, gain interview skills and successfully transition to a clerical position.

“The money part was the longest part to get used to,” Steven said. “What helped me was to know I was making an honest paycheck.”

Steven was invited to be a youth ambassador for the Los Angeles Performance Partnership Pilot (LAP3), a nationally recognized integrated service model that provides access to Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) counselors, along with housing and social service resources at the City's YouthSource Centers, creating a one stop shop for youth to determine what services are needed to transition to college or employment.
Los Angeles Performance Partnership Pilot (LAP3) 2017-2020 Strategic Plan Serving Disconnected Youth Report

For five months, Steven shared his story with youth ages 16 to 24 to show that it is possible to reconnect with educational and employment opportunities.

“I feel like it installed a work ethic in me,” Steven said of the P3 program. “It helped me become a real man. I’ve been a fan of ‘Practice what you preach.’ So by helping others, it helped me help myself.”

Steven’s real life experience enables him to effectively connect with youth in similar situations, said EWDD Management Analyst Chang Kim, who currently oversees the P3 program.

“He brings in relevant knowledge of what the youth go through,” Chang said. “That knowledge helps us address the needs out there and be able to understand more about what needs to be provided.”

Steven recently relinquished his role as P3 Youth Ambassador to accept a Community Administrative Support Worker (CASW) role at EWDD, which he hopes will lead to full-time work and a career working with youth for the City.

Now that Steven is turning his life around, his mother has welcomed him back home. He is also currently wrapping up his general education requirements at Antioch University in Culver City, with plans to transfer to West Los Angeles College to study economics.

His advice for youth thinking of following his lead? “Stay committed,” he said. “It’s gonna be bad days, it’s gonna be good days. But you have to stay committed. You gotta think about how many people are depending on you and relying on you to make the change, and how many people want to see you do good.”

In the meantime, Steven is working on encouraging friends from his previous life to take his path and make positive changes in their lives.

“Pretty much all my boys are in jail right now,” Steven said. “I have about 10 friends in jail that I still talk to. I’m working on them, one by one.”

Learn more about EWDD Youth Services and the YouthSource Centers

This story is part of the EWDD UPDATES Newsletter from the week of 12/25/2017. Read this issue and more.