Teens: Your Future Is Their Business
By Suki Wessling
We live in a world that tells teens they need to prepare now for college or a career—but according to Morgan Matthias, who’s now a product manager at Roku, many of them have no clue.
“Most students start with ‘I don’t know what I want to do but I kinda like this’,” Morgan says.
She would know. As a Cabrillo student with a firm plan for her own future, she became the first intern with local nonprofit Your Future Is Our Business. She and then-director Mary Gaukel Forster took a 20-year-old organization and pulled it into 21st-century expectations.
Just in time to become indispensable.
ROP, the skills education program funded by the state, transitioned to Career and Technical Education (CTE) with local control and funding. Suddenly our school districts needed the know-how of an organization just like YFIOB.
Just in time for a worldwide pandemic and school shutdown.
CTE and YFIOB had to transition a very hands-on program to distance learning. Donnamarie Stahl, a Certified Medical Assistant, teaches in the CTE medical pathway at Harbor High.
“[At school,] they get to see a magnified doctor’s office,” Donna Marie explains. “We have the equipment in there so the students are ready to walk into work in the medical field.”
Donna Marie rose to the distance learning challenge, inspiring Kalia Vasquez, a student in her Harbor classroom, to work hard on the skills she learned over video like taking blood pressure.
“I practiced on my dad a lot! He liked knowing that I was doing this hands-on even though it was during Covid.”
Now that classes are back at school and CTE can be hands-on again, YFIOB underwent another transition. Yvette Brooks, the Mayor of Capitola, took the reins as Executive Director after Mary’s retirement. She says that YFIOB has an important role in helping local districts fulfill the state requirements for CTE.
“When you get funding from the state, there’s lots of boxes to check,” Yvette explains diplomatically. “Things such as career speakers, panels, mentorships, internships, and so forth. YFIOB has come in and supplemented those services for the districts.”
The organization has extended its partnerships with organizations like Cabrillo, UCSC, and the Public Libraries. It has also continued to grow the internship program, which allows college students to get needed experience.
“A job ad will often say ‘entry level, minimum two years’ experience’,” Yvette explains, pointing out the catch-22 that recent grads face. YFIOB designs their internships to provide hands-on skill building in areas like community outreach and grant writing.
Morgan points out another valuable thing that students gain from YFIOB: connections.
“A student whose parents are a lawyer and a doctor and they have friends in those careers—[the student has] that network of connections,” Morgan explains. “Everyone has something to offer, but maybe they don’t have the exact skill or background that student is interested in.”
As a result, the county’s high schools function somewhat like magnet schools, the value of which Yvette knows firsthand as a graduate of one herself.
“When we grew up it was just one class, like shop or home ec,” Yvette remembers. “Now there’s so many different careers out there that students are being made aware of through what YFIOB is doing.”
For her part, Kalia has decided to pursue Criminal Justice—another career she learned about through CTE. But she says the medical skills she’s learned won’t go to waste.
“Often people in the field don’t know much about medical stuff. I feel like I need to be prepared for whatever comes in my career.”
All because some great adults made one teen’s future their business.
For more information visit YFIOB. org.
Suki Wessling is a local writer and teacher. Read more at SukiWessling.com.