Any mention of his one-year-old grandson, and David George’s smile lights up the room.
He proudly boasts that he was born and raised in the Bayview and starts reliving fond memories of the Hunters Point Community Youth Park and Aunt Bea, both staples of the historic neighborhood.
“My childhood was kind of… I can say I made the best of it,” said George. “I enjoyed growing up in Bayview up until the point where a lot of violence started.”
Altogether, George spent 11 years in the federal penitentiary. “I went in 30 days after my 20th birthday,” said George. He acknowledges his long journey toward a better life for him and his family.
After getting home in October of 2015, he took odd short-term jobs as a driver, working for companies like Amazon before beginning his work on construction projects for the SFPUC.
In 2017, George learned of upcoming construction work and the demand for local residents through word of mouth. He received some early guidance from Jessica Fontenot, a longtime friend and local Bayview resident, who was doing communications and community outreach work for the SFPUC associated with its Sewer System Improvement Program (SSIP).
The SFPUC works closely with CityBuild and community service providers to identify long-term residents, particularly those who have historically been economically marginalized, perform targeted outreach and bring in qualified workers from the neighborhoods near its facilities for career opportunities in the construction trades.
Those efforts have been fruitful, as in George’s case, for identifying new talent and providing them with construction training and industry certificates to help them advance their careers. After joining Laborers’ Local 261, George got a job working for a few different contractors before finally landing on the Headworks project at the Southeast Treatment Plant. George’s mindset and focus have impressed his employers who have praised him for having a fantastic work ethic.
“Stable employment has kept me away from the B.S. that goes on in the streets,” said George. “If I didn’t have these opportunities, I’d be in and out of the county or back in prison.”
Not only did George excel at his new career path in construction, but he made sure to bring others along with him. By staying out of trouble and taking advantage of the career opportunities that would transform his life for the better, something special started to happen. Others started to notice.
“People were just seeing how I was staying out the way,” said George. “And when I do come around, I’m looking healthier, just upgrading my life all the way across the board. It’s inspired them to want to do the same.”
Reluctant to call himself a role model, George proves to be just that, mentoring young men from Bayview who want more opportunities and more resources for themselves and their families. George said that a lot of these young men are interested in opportunities in the construction trades but often don’t know where to turn.
“They are interested in what I’ve been doing in the field, so I pretty much just show them the ropes on how I did it and tell them about the programs at CityBuild or YCD [Young Community Developers], and the PUC [San Francisco Public Utilities Commission],” said George.
“But I tell them you have to be physically fit and you have to know how to humble yourself. It’s definitely a long cry from what we’re used to, coming from the streets.”
The title of “grand dad” is a little more fitting for George today.
For the first time ever, George says he has his own car and his own house in his name. He is also on a path toward financial security for him and his family. His daughter and grandson, who now live with him, are motivation to keep going.
“That’s probably the biggest thing of all, coming home to his little chubby face,” said George.
The SFPUC is committed to supporting the communities impacted by its operations. As the agency invests in its infrastructure, it is also investing in local, underserved communities by connecting youth and adults with learning, apprenticeship, job training, employment, and business opportunities. These programs support a strong, inclusive, local economy and a skilled, diverse, local workforce for today and tomorrow. David George is one of the many individuals the SFPUC has been able to assist and the agency is proud to share his story.
For the SFPUC, there’s more work to be done and more opportunities ahead. To learn more, visit sfwater.org/workforce, sfwater.org/jobsreport and oewd.org/city-build.