Meet California Army National Guard Sgt. Jayson Ricci

Story by U.S. Army Sgt Marla Ogden
California Military Department Public Affairs

Jan. 17, 2024

Los Alamitos, Calif.California Army National Guard Sgt. Jayson Ricci has been with California Job Challenge, an in-resident career technical education program, since its inception in 2019. As a father, he serves as a paternal figure for the young men in his platoon, known as the "Badgers," offering not just care, but mentorship and invaluable life skills.

“We all know what it was like to be young; you're a different person from the age of 18 to 25, but they don't know that," Ricci said. "We try to show them a different view to get them in the habit of identifying their interests, setting goals and then accomplishing them."

Ricci said that Job Challenge is a designed pathway for sustained growth and success, intended for graduates of Sunburst Youth Academy, Discovery ChalleNGe Academy, and Grizzly Youth Academy.

In partnership with Long Beach City College and the Orange County Department of Education's College and Career Preparatory Academy, Job Challenge attendees receive certifications in fields like construction, automotive technology, welding, cyber technology, and certified nursing assistant.

"In the [prerequisite] programs, they get kids when they’re at risk, and the disconnect was that they were getting taught the military structure and discipline but then going right back home where the problems were,” he said. “The solution that we [Job Challenge] try to provide is to give these young adults not just job skills, but life skills so that when they leave here, they can get a job to support themselves and remove themselves from the situations back at home, whether that be family, gangs or drugs.” 

Ricci underscored the importance of mentorship, emphasizing the significance of providing youth with a secure environment where they can adapt and learn from their mistakes.

“Through our mentorship, we’re really shaping boys into men and girls into women," he said.  “Some of them don’t have any family background, and some of them come from good homes, but the parents need a little extra help. It takes a community, a village, to raise a kid, and what we focus on is giving them social skills, instilling maturity, and giving them a safe space where they can find out who they are as an adult."

Compassion, patience, and understanding are essential qualities the cadre at Job Challenge must possess and exemplify.

"We're counselors, we're mentors, we're teachers, and we're acting parental figures," he said.

Ricci expressed that his ultimate goal is to equip the youth to a level where they no longer require his guidance.

"When I see a kid come in one way and leave in a better way, I feel good about that," he said. "To be able to give them a safe space where they can be around similar experiences and they can feel comfortable and promoted to start changing, that's a win."