Photo courtesy of Omar Passons
Chat with Omar Passons about craft beer or bikes, and you'll be impressed with his knowledge. Get him talking about youth in San Diego, however, and you'll be blown away by his passion.
"There are 53,000 people between the ages of 16 and 24 in San Diego County who are out of work and school," Passons says. "We don't have the sense of urgency collectively we need to make fixing that a priority."
He points to cities such as San Francisco and Boston as beacons for how city governments can do more to invest in youth, specifically from prenatal development to early adulthood.
"Investing in our young people is the best way to protect San Diego's economic competitiveness," he says. "If you're not wowed by an economic argument, I feel morally obligated to create a space where every young person has the opportunity to do and go as far as their aptitudes and interests can carry them."
As vice president of community development and policy at the Jacobs Center, Passons left his law firm to follow his desire to "make our community better and improve the lives of people." And while he considers one of San Diego's biggest issues to be housing affordability, he admits it's inextricably tied to unbalanced opportunities and remains adamant about giving it attention.
"I firmly believe that we need a universal approach for all kids in San Diego County, across all income levels, that says as a region, 'We're choosing to care about this. We're going to do that at the ballot and with our pocketbooks.'"