June 4, 2014

Youth impact awards are good news for all

Hundreds of outstanding young people throughout our county are already making an impact on their communities. The Youth Impact Awards were designed to shine a light on those at the top of their game, and all involved are happy to acknowledge those achievements with pride.

This year’s winners were Ella Brewer of San Marcos High School, Fatima Cacho of Cabrillo High School, and the Leaders Establishing Great Ideas 4 Tomorrow Club at Righetti High. Honorable mention went to Maria Frias of San Marcos High School, Diego Hernandez of Santa Maria High, and Marcy Montano of the Grizzly Youth Academy Independent Study Program.

As is often the case, the selection process this year was extremely challenging because of the remarkable achievements of so many young people in the county. What an inspiring dilemma.

The awards were announced by the KIDS Network, a countywide umbrella organization that includes members from public agencies, the courts, law enforcement, education, community-based organizations, school-linked programs, and parent groups.

When you look at the accomplishments of the award winners, you can’t help but believe the future will be in good hands.

Ella Brewer, a student in the San Marcos Health Academy, has worked extensively with the Summer2Move teen wellness program, has tutored at “The Village,” and is a member of the KIDS Helping Kids program. She also helps with the Seeds of Change program at the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, while lettering in varsity soccer and maintaining a 4.33 GPA. She traveled to Nicaragua to work with children living in safe houses and trash dumps. Her goal is to become a physician.

Fatima Cacho serves on the Lompoc Youth Commission, attended a Youth Leadership Conference in Bakersfield, and was instrumental with fellow commissioners in hosting a youth conference in Lompoc. She took the lead in coordinating the conference for 150 Lompoc teens who took part in the TOTAL (Teaching Our Teens as Leaders) conference, having an impact with ripple effects for so many others.

The Leaders Establishing Great Ideas 4 Tomorrow (LEGIT) Club at Righetti was formed by three students who wanted to share what they learned at a summer leadership camp for foster youth. The club allows foster students to express frustration and find support. It also extends support to the community, through projects like setting up a “Reading Corner” at the Day of the Farm Worker, reading books to children, and helping families register and directing them to services. Members also won a Youth Making Change grant to host activities for low-income children. They learned about leadership and then found ways to put that learning to use to help peers and serve the community.

The awards celebration for these outstanding young people was made possible through a collaboration of the KIDS Network members, including the Santa Barbara County Probation Department and my office. Refreshments at the celebration were prepared by students at the culinary arts program at Los Prietos Boys Camp. Wards of the camp are selected to work in the kitchen where they learn about food preparation, presentation, cooking, cleanup, food safety, and storage — marketable skills when they leave the camp.

Partnerships play a role at every level of the program, and it is interesting that the award winners are all involved in partnerships as well. There is strength and synergy in those partnerships. It’s easy to despair these days over a wide array of negative developments on the local, national, and global levels. But when we look more closely at today’s young people, and what they are already accomplishing for our communities, it’s even easier to find pride and hope for all.