Norma Martinez (right) is our Teen Center Coordinator. She is also one of our alums. Two years ago, she reflected on her arrival in the U.S. “I had to overcome a feeling of rejection by people for not being born here and not knowing the language. I felt underestimated.” Just before her freshman year, her brother signed her up to volunteer at Teen Services. She enrolled in our Ready to Work program, secured employment at La Casa Restaurant, and also worked at the No Name Café and the Lovin’ Oven. “The safe environment [at TSS] made me feel comfortable and I felt like I belonged.”
Today she is a sophomore at Sonoma State University majoring in psychology and Spanish. Because she benefited so much from Teen Services, she loves the opportunity to give back and especially enjoys the chance to interact with teens at the center.
One of those teens is Silvia Flores (left), a sophomore at Sonoma Valley High School, where she is enrolled in the agriculture program and enjoys most of her classes including Honors English, though she is not so keen on Geometry. As a freshman, Silvia heard about Ready to Work (RTW) and decided to sign up. She was amazed at what she learned, all the new friends she made, and the opportunities she was given. Silvia worked at Lovin’ Oven (LO) until she was offered a catering job at Ramekins, but volunteering is also important to her. She still volunteers at LO on Tuesdays to cook meals for the clients of Sonoma Overnight Support and she helped to serve at one of the community events following the fire last year.
Silvia also helped Norma with some of the administrative tasks associated with RTW and describes Norma as “amazing, funny, and a great listener… someone you can really talk to about anything.” Silvia credits the RTW program and all of the support she has received at Teen Services as responsible for “breaking my shell” – especially Cowboy Cab last year, where she was really nervous but learned that she actually liked meeting people! And now what makes Silvia smile? “Working hard!”