Each year, the North Bay Leadership Council presents five selected honorees with its Leaders of the North Bay Awards. This year, Teen Services Sonoma received one of the awards at the annual North Bay Awards Luncheon for its role in empowering the Latino community.
Teen Services Sonoma (TSS) is located in the heart of the Springs and was the name adopted by the merger of two organizations - Operation Youth and Valley of the Moon Teen Center – both helping to empower Sonoma Valley youth to make positive choices for their health, safety, education and future.
Operation Youth was incorporated in 2003 and offered a variety of services for teens including the No Name Café, a student-run snack bar at Sonoma Valley High School. The café not only remains a popular teen venue, it has also become one of Teen Services’ key micro-businesses.
Valley of the Moon Teen Center (originally called El Nido) was incorporated in 1995 in a rented facility in Boyes Hot Springs. The VOM teen center was “re-born” when it moved into its current location in 2008. The facility provided a better venue for the various programs being offered and is now simply referred to as the Teen Center.
With their union in 2010, Teen Services Sonoma emerged as the “go to” safe place where disenfranchised teens felt like they belonged, that they were heard, that they felt valued. The merger also brought together two young women determined to make that happen – Rebecca Hermosillo, executive director of VOM and Cristin Lawrence, program director of Operation Youth. They recognized that most of these teens were not college-bound – they needed jobs, but lacked the confidence and skills needed to gain meaningful employment. With the help of board members Jean Hopeman and Osias Encarnacio, they set about to change that.
One year later, TSS was the recipient of a $100,000 grant from Impact100 Sonoma to provide “local youth, ages 13-23, with basic employment skills including work readiness, résumé development, mock interviews, financial literacy, and opportunities for internships and job placement.”
In the past five years, the program has evolved into a portfolio of employment services called Ready to Work (RTW), providing work-readiness skills and experiences that prepare teens for successful employment in a career of their choosing. In the past three years, more than 300 teens have completed the RTW program and have gained employment within the community.
There are three phases to Ready to Work (RTW):
Engage – Build comfort, trust, and self-confidence in a safe environment with caring adults at one of two drop-in centers: the Teen Center and the No Name Café.
Employ – Provide soft skills and work-readiness training, courses focusing on specific career(s), work-based learning opportunities in one of three micro-businesses (Lovin’ Oven, No Name Café, and Operation Bicycle), opportunities for networking with employers, and job placement services, and coaching throughout.
Empower – TSS teens gain the skills, experiences, connections and confidence needed to succeed. They are prepared for meaningful careers in trades, professions, and small-business ownership. They are ready to work and on the path toward a successful future.
Executive Director Cristin Felso, accepted the award.
To register for Teen Services Ready to Work classes, starting soon, email Gabby Petersen, RTW Coordinator, email@example.com or call 939-1452.