Oceanside High School senior Cynthia Mendez didn’t know what a resume was until last summer. That’s when she got involved with Interfaith Community Services’ Transitional Youth Academy, holding a paid summer internship before going back to school for the critical two years before college.

In the past two years, Mendez has gotten a crash-course from Transitional Youth Academy on everything related to college and career, and this August she was among other high schoolers recognized for completing her second summer internship sponsored through the program.

[call_to_action color=”” button_text=”Sponsor a High School Senior” button_url=”http://bit.ly/donateICS”]
Through the Adopt a Scholar program, you can sponsor a high school senior to enable them to have the full senior experience and dress for success at an internship. On the donation page, make sure you select “Transitional Youth Academy” or “Adopt a Scholar” on the dropdown.

Mendez worked for local agriculture business Go Green Agriculture, which grows lettuces, herbs and other greens using hydroponics and the latest technology. She built upon the leadership skills she gained at her first internship last summer helping local North County residents fine-tune their resumes and search for jobs.

“Before I never felt like I was helping anybody,” Mendez said. “But last summer I felt like I was really needed when I helped people look for jobs and write their resumes.”

Mendez and her peers get a leg-up by preparing for life after high school and gaining the skills and confidence needed to succeed in the evolving job market. Interfaith Community Services’ Transitional Youth Academy aims to build the confidence and leadership skills it takes for at-risk students to successfully complete high school and go on to college or careers.

It’s All About the Programming

The academy has gone through a lot of growth the past two years and was able to expand its services to students at El Camino High School in 2014. Students at Oceanside High and El Camino High receive one-on-one academic mentoring that gets them on track for life after high school. Students can get support before, during and after school – something that sets the Transitional Youth Academy apart from other youth programs.

Leading up to summer break, students participate in the “Spring to Work” program which consists of eight weeks of workforce development training to springboard students to succeed at their summer internships and jobs. Students have worked for the Boys and Girls Club, Mira Costa College, Go Green Agriculture and the City of Oceanside. Some of the students have even been brought on as paid employees by their former internship supervisors.

Fun Activities Help Youth Build Relationships

Transitional Youth Academy does more than offer support in school and access to meaningful internship opportunities; students also participate in community service projects, quarterly career exploration field trips and fun summer activities like stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and workout groups.

All these activities keep kids busy and help them build peer-to-peer connections, something TYA program manager Vanessa Marshall said is relationship building.

“We see peers that are coming together and connecting that would otherwise not develop a relationship if it wasn’t for the program,” Marshall said. “It builds tolerance and understanding of people’s differences.”

Transitional Youth Academy program managers said they have had gang involved youth from different territories playing video games together during lunch on a rainy day. They said it shows how the program serves as a safe space for students to be themselves.

The numbers don’t lie: Transitional Youth Academy has a 100 percent success rate for students graduating high school, with 95 percent of those students enrolling directly in college following graduation. The wrap-around support services also extend to families with an emergency food distribution center partnered with Feeding America, as well as other support services provided to families of TYA youth.

El Camino High junior Griselda Lopez said her summer internship at the Chavez Research Center helped her realize her potential for accomplishing things on her own.

“Before I always thought I needed someone to help me, but through this program I feel like I can set my goals on my own,” Lopez said.

You can lend your support to the Transitional Youth Academy in a variety of ways. Here are a couple ways:

  • Sponsor a high school senior to enable them to have the full senior experience and dress for success at an internship.
  • Individuals and community groups can volunteer to sponsor a weekly dinner held at the drop-in community center and volunteers for other programs like the Leadership Luncheon are always needed.

Learn more about Interfaith Community Services’s sponsor, SDG&E.


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