Being in Community with Code Tenderloin

This past February, we got together in-person with Code Tenderloin, one of our impactful and inspiring Community Partners. In a “Get Proximate” format, SV2 members connected with Code Tenderloin students and staff, participated in a walking tour led by Del Seymour, Founder, and known in the community as ‘Mayor of the Tenderloin’. We also had lunch together and did some resume reviews and mock interviews with students. This was a deeply motivating and encouraging experience. Special thanks to Justin DeMartra, Education Coordinator, for co-organizing this with SV2!

Founded in 2015, Code Tenderloin focuses on workforce development by addressing the digital divide and removing barriers — such as finances, legal, soft skills, childcare, transportation, and education —  that keep people from securing long-term employment. Based in the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco, Code Tenderloin prepares participants to succeed in the workplace, and connects local businesses, major tech companies, and nonprofits with the right candidates for long-term job placement. 

From the very beginning of our time together, it was so encouraging to experience our Tenderloin neighbors and SV2 members naturally getting to know each other. A bunch of students and staff joined us on the walking tour with Del, and shared what they’re doing now (a whole range of things such as learning programming, working in tech, pursuing social work, working with local council members and more!), challenges they’re experiencing or overcoming, why they are proud about their community, their hopes, and aspirations. The walking tour included stops at the Black Lives Matter community mural, booming small businesses (such as Friscostocks sneaker store), a theatre and lounge where Code Tenderloin started and runs some classes, meeting Code Tenderloin alums now working in the community, and bumping into Shamann Walton, President of the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco. Of course, Del and Shamann know each other! 

As Del shared with us:

I spent 18 years being homeless, addicted to and selling drugs. I got my life together, I worked on bridging the gap between this community, other communities, and people coming to Tenderloin, so we could get to know each other better.

The government and media misaligned who we are and other communities are. There are people living two miles away who have no idea who we are.

We had a big scare 8 years ago, when the international tech industry decided to make the Tenderloin their new global home. People in the Tenderloin were terrified that the tech industry would take their homes. The tech industry was afraid that they would be robbed walking the streets. Neither of those things have ever happened. It has turned out to be a wonderful collaboration between those two populations.

As the Unofficial Mayor of the Tenderloin, I along with the Code Tenderloin team spend half of our day in the tech community, working to bridge the gap socially, economically, and emotionally while we dedicate the rest of our day in the Tenderloin community.

As we closed, Donna Hilliard, ED, shared ways to partner and get involved, including individual volunteering, group volunteering, tech visits, head shots, and mentorship. 

Upon reflecting on the experience, Meg Bannick, SV2 Partner shared:

I am so glad I was able to visit Code Tenderloin with other SV2 Partners last month. Learning about the organization and its founder during the grant round was most certainly inspirational, yet could not compare to actually being there. Walking the Tenderloin neighborhood led reverently by Del with other staff adding their perspectives gave me an opportunity to appreciate the histories, tales and people calling it home. Practicing interviewing skills with clients gave me a greater understanding of their journeys and their drive to succeed. I expected to be impressed by the mission and the community, but I was blown away! I look forward to returning soon to “get engaged”, as Del calls it. Thank you, SV2, for the ability to “Get Proximate” through this experience and for impacting my personal view of philanthropy in such a meaningful way.”

We’re deeply grateful to have had this experience together, and look forward to more such opportunities to be in community together.

Code Tenderloin’s newly confirmed, ever caring, and experienced SV2 Lead Partners are Helen Jiang and JoAnne Tillemans.