Heller Profiles

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Sara Wall

USA • Program Director, Project Access

MPP '10

Putting People to Work: Social Enterprise

Sara Wall, MPP '10, works with affordable housing developers to provide residents with job-readiness, computer classes, internet access and after-school programs.

Spring 2011

California has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, but this hasn't deterred Sara Wall, MPP'10, and Project Access from putting people to work. As program director for the partial fee-for-service organization, Wall works with affordable housing developers to provide residents with on-site services, including job-readiness, computer classes, Internet access and after-school programs.

Since 78 percent of Project Access' $3 million operating budget comes from the developers--who get a tax credit for providing resource centers on site--the organization has managed to thrive despite California's economic troubles. In fact, Project Access is expanding. Currently it runs 37 centers and serves more than 10,000 people. Wall says it opened three centers last year and is launching at least four more this year.

"We take no government funding (there are too many strings attached), and we fundraise less than your average nonprofit," says Wall. "Our business model is self-sustaining and aligned with our mission."

In 2010, Project Access' focus shifted toward helping people find and maintain employment, notes Wall. Through English-as-a-second-language classes, computer classes and one-on-one counseling, clients build skills and increase their earnings potential. Thanks to Project Access, they get all this in one convenient location, within walking distance of their homes.

"The worst is yet to come in California," says Wall, but she's not pessimistic. She loves the work she does and seeing how it is affecting people's lives in a positive way.

"I feel good about working to create opportunities for the disadvantaged in our society."

Knowledge Advancing Social Justice

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