Pathways to Youth Employment

The statistics for youth unemployment in general can be depressing. For youth with any additional challenge, the task of finding and keeping employment is many times harder. The resulting "gap" can appear to be overwhelming. This panel will focus on some programs that are working and discuss some of what might come next in confronting this gap. Research on the most innovative approaches will be shared. Examples range from the Gap's This Way Ahead program to IFoster's partnership with the grocery industry that provides both training and jobs for foster youth. There is legislation pending as well as other actions that could make a difference. 

Speakers: Serita Cox (iFoster), Abby Davisson (Gap Foundation), Eric McDonnell (United Eay of the Bay Area), Willa Seldon (The Bridgespan Group)

Serita Cox Co-Founder, Executive Director, iFoster.

Serita Cox
Co-Founder, Executive Director, iFoster.

Serita, along with husband Reid, launched iFoster in October of 2010.  As the visionary and driving force behind iFoster, Serita brings to bear her personal experience with foster care, devoted commitment to a number of youth development initiatives, and over a decade of experience in executive-level management, corporate strategy consulting and non-profit strategy consulting. Prior to founding iFoster, Serita was a strategy consultant with The Bridgespan Group, a consulting firm that helps nonprofit and philanthropic leaders accelerate social change. Her previous work experience has been in the for-profit sector where she both worked as the senior executive leading global strategy, business operations, and e-business for 3Com Corporation and as a consultant and senior leadership advisor on strategy, mergers & acquisitions, and e-business. For her work at iFoster, Serita has been recognized by the White House Office of Social Innovation as a Citizen Innovator, is an Echoing Green Fellow, and an American Leader of Change. Serita has a BSc from Carleton University in Canada, and an MBA from the Bronfman School of Business at McGill University in Canada. Serita currently serves on the Board of Directors of GirlTrek, a national non-profit that mobilizes women in Black communities to live their healthiest, most fulfilled lives through a habit of daily walking.


Abby Davisson Director, Gap Foundation.

Abby Davisson
Director, Gap Foundation.

Abby specializes in driving social innovation through cross-sector partnerships. As a director at Gap Foundation, she is currently focused on scaling Gap Inc.’s youth employment program, This Way Ahead, which helps low-income youth gain life skills and early work experience at Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic stores. Abby’s previous experience includes developing strategic partnerships for Tipping Point Community and advancing school reform efforts for the New York City Department of Education. Outside of work, Abby serves as the president of the board of the Infant Development Center of San Francisco; is a longtime volunteer with Year Up Bay Area; and has served as an alumni career advisor and coach at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Abby began her career as a nonprofit strategy consultant with The Bridgespan Group. Abby holds a BA in American Studies from Yale University and an MBA and MA in Education from Stanford University.  


Eric McDonnell EVP and Chief Operating Officer, United Way of the Bay Area.

Eric McDonnell
EVP and Chief Operating Officer, United Way of the Bay Area.

Eric is a committed and passionate advocate for children, families and communities. As Executive Vice President, Eric provides strategic, transformational and operational leadership. He sets priorities and delivers on the organization’s mission. Eric drives United Way Bay Area’s efforts to ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach his or her academic potential, and families achieve economic self-sufficiency, while making Bay Area neighborhoods safer, stronger places to live. “I grew up in poverty, living in public housing, facing the everyday challenges of making ends meet. Like a debilitating illness, poverty can rob an individual, a family, and a community of material, mental and emotional hope. So, United Way’s campaign to end poverty is important to me personally, because I know the struggle. Professionally, I am blessed to be in a position to give back and help break the cycle of poverty that exists in our community.” Prior to joining United Way Bay Area, Eric served as executive director of the Audrey L. Smith Developmental Center in San Francisco, a childcare and social services provider for more than 250 families. His decade of work at the center lent itself to the issues he now oversees for United Way Bay Area. Eric holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco.


Willa Seldon Partner, The Bridgespan Group.

Willa Seldon
Partner, The Bridgespan Group.

Willa is a partner in Bridgespan’s San Francisco office and co-leads our Children, Youth, and Families practice. She advises nonprofits, social enterprises and foundations – collaborating with leaders on refining their strategies and improving their operating and economic models. Building on her for-profit experience in joint ventures and mergers, Willa is a leader in Bridgespan’s work in multi-sector and funder collaborations as well as employment and economic security. Her clients have included Family Independence Initiative, the Rockefeller Foundation, and StriveTogether. Willa also has led engagements to support mobilization efforts, such as the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and the White House Council for Community Solutions.
She is a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's Economic Advisory Council and is on the Board of Directors of College Futures Foundation. Willa has an MBA from Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, a JD from Yale Law School, and an AB in Economics from Bryn Mawr College.