Sherilyn Adams '88, MSW '92 (Social Work)

Adams gives a lift to San Francisco youth

Sherilyn Adams
Sherilyn Adams uses words like “stumbled” and “landed” to describe her career path.

“I was the first in my family to go to college, so I didn’t know the ‘rules’ of how to go about things. I stumbled into stuff all the time.”

So, it seems fitting that, in her work as executive director for San Francisco’s Larkin Street Youth Services, she helps young adults who have stumbled themselves.

“These are young people who have decided they’re not going to make it, that no one has faith in them, that they’re invisible and at best, dismissed and written off,” she says. “But, what I see instead are amazing, resilient, creative, smart kids who want the same thing everyone wants: a family, a job, a home and a good life.”

Larkin Street Youth Services opened in the 1980s as a drop-in center for homeless youth. It evolved into a network of 25 youth programs at 13 sites, giving temporary shelter, medical care, education and job training to up to 3,600 youth each year.

Adams discovered her passion for helping youth while working part time at Sac State’s Associated Students Child Development Center.

“Then I got an internship at WEAVE as a sexual assault and domestic violence counselor, which was eye-opening,” she says. “I stumbled onto my first job in the social work field because I didn’t complete a field work seminar. While I was attending summer session someone from the Child and Family Institute in Sacramento came to make a presentation and mentioned they were hiring. I applied and got the job.”

“I loved my social work program at Sac State,” she says. “It had a diverse mix of students like me—just out of high school—and working professionals with experience and a diversity of knowledge.”

After receiving her master’s degree, she was hired as prevention and education director at the Child and Family Institute, where she created outreach programs for homeless families. She has also worked at a chemical dependency center for women, as a Superior Court family mediator, and as a program director at Baker Places, a San Francisco housing program for people affected by mental health, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. But that job took her away from people, so when she was offered the Larkin Street position in 2003, she jumped on it.

“I missed being involved with young people and fell in love with Larkin Street, with the vibrancy of the staff and with its great mission,” she says.

Adams says social work has been a good fit “because it’s important for me to do something in a small way to try and improve the world.”

This article was originally published in the Spring 2011 edition of Sac State Magazine.