EXCEL Internship Program Prepares San Franciscans for Careers


Graduates and administrators of the EXCEL Internship Program gathered with friends and family at UCSF on March 1 to celebrate their success with Damon Lew, right, assistant director of Community and Government Relations, who runs the program with partners, both on and off campus.

Bayview Hunters Point resident Laloni Jones remembers passing the UCSF campus by on a MUNI train and thinking it would be a great place to work.

“I thought I would love to work there, but places like that don’t hire people like me,” said the single mother of two who lives in a neighborhood where drug use and violence are the norm.

She was wrong.

Jones was among 14 members of the San Francisco community to graduate recently from UCSF’s EXCEL Internship Program with new and enhanced skills and greater self-confidence to seek the employment needed to support their families.

A partnership of UCSF, the City and County of San Francisco and Jewish Vocational Services (JVS), the EXCEL (Excellence through Community Engagement and Learning) work-based learning program uses both classroom and on-the-job training to prepare participants for career path jobs in the health care sector.

Excel graduates with diploma

From left, Barbara J. French, vice chancellor of University Relations; Valerie Grady of Jewish Vocational Services; Janice White, EXCEL graduate; and Damon Lew, assistant director of Community and Government Relations, enjoy the celebration.

After completing 10 weeks of computer, administrative, customer service, and medical terminology training at JVS, UCSF’s community-based training partner, participants are placed in paid, four-month internships within UCSF’s various departments, throughout both the campus and medical center.

As the second largest employer in San Francisco, UCSF is committed to strengthening the community in part by providing jobs to local residents, through training and construction workforce programs.

Reaching Career Goals

Jones was looking to turn her life around as a low-income mother on welfare who was struggling to pay the rent. She was burnt out on bartending and working in restaurants. One day while in a job placement center, she saw a flyer publicizing the EXCEL Program and realized this was an opportunity she had to pursue.

At UCSF, EXCEL is a collaborative effort between the Office of Community and Government Relations, the Interim Staffing Program, and various campus and medical center departments. After completing their internships, graduates are placed into UCSF’s Interim Staffing Service, with the long-term goal of obtaining career employment with the University.

After her paid internship, Jones’ temporary position was extended in the Division of General Pediatrics at UCSF.

Dominique Springfield, who interned at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF, says EXCEL has boosted her self-esteem. It was especially challenging for her because she lost her mother while she was enrolled in the program. But, with support from her EXCEL classmates and her family, she completed the program knowing that her mom would have wanted her to reach her career goals.

“This program has helped me feel better about myself and my future,” Springfield said at the graduation ceremony.

And for Lucinda Morgan, who found herself homeless after being laid off from a job five years ago, EXCEL has rekindled her hope. At first she was just happy to get a paid internship, she said, “but there was so much more that I got out of it.”

Three EXCEL graduates stand together for a photo.

EXCEL graduates, from left, Janice White, Shawnte Beck and Laloni Jones receive their diplomas in a celebration luncheon at UCSF on March 1.

Developing the Local Workforce

Formerly known as the Community Outreach Internship Program, EXCEL was established with the goal of developing the potential local workforce and providing underserved communities with exposure and access to university jobs. All participants are low-income, some have been homeless and most are parents from underserved neighborhoods in San Francisco.

The program operated successfully from 1998 to 2006 before going on hiatus as UCSF sought a new partner to provide skills training to the interns. Since partnering with JVS in 2010, the program has accelerated its reach, thanks to generous funding by the San Francisco Human Services Agency, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, the San Francisco Foundation and the Salesforce.com Foundation.

The next round of the EXCEL program will start in mid-June. For more information about EXCEL, please contact Damon Lew, assistant director of Community Relations at dlew@cgr.ucsf.edu.

Photos by Susan Merrell