Life changing services for Sonoma teens
“I couldn’t have done any of this without Teen Services,” says Jason Davis, 27, as he begins his tale.
Davis - who attended Sassarini and Prestwood elementary schools, Adele Harrison Middle School and Sonoma Valley High School - was born in a bathtub on his family’s ranch, ahead of his younger brother Keaton and younger sister Arabella.
Davis’s first interests were in art. One summer day when he was a teenager, Davis put together a piece of art – without being asked – for the No Name Café at Sonoma Valley High School. It came to the attention of Cristin Lawrence, then the executive director at Teen Services Sonoma, which ran the cafe. Lawrence invited Davis to attend some art programs for the summer and into the school year. He took advantage of the Arts Guild of Sonoma’s partnership with Teen Services and learned how to create murals. Concurrently with his high school art courses he also learned printmaking, silkscreening, glass enameling and how to paint in oils.
“The atmosphere was collaborative,” said Davis. “The professionals treated us as equals, and made it easy to ‘step up’ and absorb everything we could.”
He said he learned to make the most of all the help Teen Services offered and was encouraged to speak out and tell his mentors there what was important to him.
“This is where I began to grow as a person,” he said. “I explored and grew my identity. Teen Services taught me processes for success, they informed me about self-empowerment, and enabled me to create a framework for living. And all this happened while I was in high school.”
He grew to understand what community was all about by working with instructors and volunteers, and realized what it was to be creative, and to create something of value.
Davis also began to enjoy a fuller measure of what his high school teachers presented to him. He credits Andy Mitchell - his visual, performing and industrial arts teacher - as the driving force in his interest and success in photography. He interned at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and Art Escape. His grades improved from very good to even better - 3.4 to 3.9 grade point average.
He made plans to attend University of California at Santa Cruz. Teen Services and his family supported his decisions. Everything was going well. But 10 days before graduation in 2010, his father ran into wholly unexpected legal problems and Davis’s world was suddenly very shaky. He was convinced he should stay home, attend community college and give up his plans.
Then Davis made a brave decision to ask for help. He told his mentors at Teen Services that his family faced a crisis and his first instinct was to forget his plans.
The team at Teen Services found Davis a summer job and created a contingency plan. They worked with his mom on finances and logistics. Davis says that as he watched everyone come together to help him, he again realized the power of community to help him focus on hope and his potential.
In 2014, Davis graduated magna cum laude from University of California at Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in business management with an emphasis in marketing, business strategy and statistics.
During college, he interned at a company called Plantronics and now works for the company under its new name, Poly, analyzing the motivations and activities of customers who buy services and products online. He describes his job as the intersection between art and business - working to improve e-commerce experiences.
Davis said he feels able to meet the challenges ahead because of the assistance, mentoring and inspiration that Teen Services provided. Teen Services encouraged him to invest in himself.
What’s next for Jason Davis? He’s preparing for interviews with his top university choices who offer a masters degree in business administration - U.C.L.A., Northwestern and U.T. Austin. He said that he mentioned the role that Teen Services played in his life in every application.
His advice to teens is to develop personal and local connections, to open up and reach out, and not to try to go it alone.
“Get ready for a lot of work, but create a holistic view of your challenges,” he said. “They can be motivating if you let them. It’s all do-able.”