Skills for Life – impacting teens in a positive way

The Lovin' Oven girls – and now boy – are a culinary crew to be reckoned with.

Impact100 Sonoma awarded its second $100,000 grant in June to Sonoma Valley Teen Services and that organization is now poised to implement the grant through its innovative Skills for Life program, enabling local teens to gain valuable work and life experience.  Patti England is the Impact100 grants chair and is thrilled to see this program take flight.  “I’m personally excited that the Teen Center was awarded this grant.  As an organization they’d been struggling and this funding will allow them to flourish instead,” she said.

Teen Center board member Osias Encarnacion couldn’t agree more.  He is currently acting as program director for Skills for Life and, with guidance from other board members and input from Teen Center affiliates The Shop, the No Name Café and the Lovin’ Oven, he has put together a series of courses sure to get teens moving on the path to gainful employment.

“Our focus is to prepare teens for the work force.  We are partnering with the high school, whose A-G requirements will prepare students academically while Skills for Life will provide other necessary steps toward successful employment.”  Encarnacion said that the program is intended to reach teens and young adults between the ages of 13 and 24.

One of the first courses slated to role out in early November will be called “Employee 101” which, according to Encarnacion will encompass the soft skills that teens usually aren’t taught as they embark on finding a job.  “Often, teens in their first jobs aren’t quite sure how to work.  They don’t know the rules of thumb and protocols that we take for granted as common sense.”

Encarnacion asks them questions like what they should do when they’ve completed a particular task given them by the employer.  For instance, do they simply wait, do they pick a device and start texting, or do they check in with the employer about next steps.  “The goal is to give them exposure to what it’s like to join the work force.  Through the course and roll play, they start to understand what it’s like to be an employee from punching a time card, to understanding what harassment is and everything in between,” he said.

Encarnacion, a 25-year veteran of the computer industry, has created another course he thinks will prove invaluable – resume writing and interviewing skills.  Showing teens how to create a resume that gets noticed rather than relegated to the circular file is tantamount to finding employment.  And once they get that foot in the door, he wants them to understand what questions they’ll be asked and how to respond without getting flustered.  “There’s a lot of pressure when you’re in the job market.  The courses are structured to take away some of that anxiety,” he said.

All told, Encarnacion and the Skills for Life team plans to have around a half dozen courses for teens.  A financial course will address managing personal finances, like opening and handling a checking and savings account; investment skills will touch on 401K plans, car loans and rental agreements.  There will also be information on a career in banking with input from local banking establishments.

The course selection has just been finalized and classes will be available in early fall.  Outreach to teens will start soon by way of the high school bulletin, fliers around school and, of course, Facebook.

“We are teaching tangible skills that will help these teens throughout their lives,” said Encarnacion.  “We want them to be motivated to succeed, to keep up with their academics and join the work force before graduating from high school.

“This is an idea that we’ve tossed around for the past four years or so.  The Impact grant has made it possible and we feel fortunate to be able to provide this opportunity to teens in our Valley.”

Local consultant, Sun columnist and Impact100 President B.J. Bischoff added, “A $100,000 grant can make a huge impact on a small organization like the Teen Center.  Impact100 is pleased to be able to make this difference in our community.”

New frontiers

So shocked were Cristin Lawrence and Rebecca Hermosillo when the Impact100 grant was announced in June that the only reaction the pair had was to break into tears.  Happy, joyful, flowing tears.  The women run the No Name Café and Valley of the Moon Teen Center respectively.  Both organizations were struggling from lack of funding that only allowed the women to work part time.

“I still get goosebumps thinking of the day the grant was awarded.  It makes all the difference for the Teen Center and the programs we’ve put in place over the years,” said Hermosillo, executive director of the Teen Center.

Lawrence, who runs the No Name Café on the Sonoma Valley High School campus concurred saying, “The Impact grant has enabled us to work full time rather than just part time which means we can do so much more.  We can be proactive rather than reactive.  We’re planning rather than just putting out fires every day.”

In the works for the No Name Café – a complete makeover.  With help from Impact volunteers, who, in addition to giving monetary donations, also give of their time and expertise, the café will get a much needed paint job and an entire restructuring of the menu and offerings.  Whole Foods is on board to provide sandwiches and the café will begin making and selling homemade smoothies as well as healthy desserts from the team at The Lovin’ Oven.  All good things that will help teens learn about the world of business.

The Lovin’ Oven is still going strong with a few changes in personnel that now includes both boys and girls.  They are once again taking orders for their delectable holiday pies in either pecan, orange pecan or pumpkin.  Each nine-inch pie costs $15.  Call the teen center at 939-1452 to order.

The women have all sorts of incredible new things in store for teens willing to jump in and learn.  Perhaps one of the most ambitious is what they’re calling a “Pop-up restaurant.”  To come on November 12, about a dozen interested teens led by teen chef Angel Ake, will come together to create an ethnic-themed five-course dinner for 50 lucky guests.  Reservations are now being taken for the dinner which will be held at the teen center.  Call for details.

“The Impact grant has allowed us to really grow and reach new levels with the Valley’s teens,” said Lawrence.  “Cooking together brings a sense of camaraderie and teamwork.  It’s let’s them challenge themselves and decide whether a career in hospitality or food service is really for them.  We’re ecstatic to be able to launch these new programs.”

One Response to Skills for Life – impacting teens in a positive way

  1. bruce ross says:

    Good program. Another online site that can help is which offers a course and resource for day to day practical skills for those going out on their own for the first time or leaving for college.