On April 27, Youth Alliance hosted an Open Mic night at Mars Hill Coffee House to allow youth to express themselves. Photos by Elliot Ruiz.

Youth Alliance started out as an organization created to provide a safe space for youth in the community to heal and develop. Since its creation, it has turned into an organization that now provides services to over 6,500 children, youth, and families each year. Some of these services include after school programs, youth leadership development, school based counseling, teen parent advocacy, and working with local school systems to try to incorporate restorative justice in schools.

“We provide support for those others may have given up on,” said Diane Ortiz, executive director of Youth Alliance. “We believe in working with young people so they can heal and grow and become comfortable in their own voice.”

Javier Renteria, who  works for the organization as a youth organizer, is a perfect example of this. Renteria joined the organization his freshman year of high school. He credits the Youth Alliance with providing him positive role models and teaching him to control negative emotions through self-awareness.

This experience inspired Renteria to stay involved with the organization in order to help other youth in need.

“I felt it was good to get involved with youth and lead them in the right direction,” Renteria said.

Upon returning home from France where he worked with at-risk youth, Eddy Navarro wanted to find a job locally that would let him give back to the community in which he grew up. Realizing that the Youth Alliance worked with migrant youth and had numerous free services, Navarro decided to join the organization.

Currently a development and community engagement specialist for the organization, Navarro appreciates the organization’s creativity in reaching different demographics within the community.

“[Youth Alliance] provides services and culture,” Navarro said. “It’s more about relationships and helping kids for the long run.”

Jose Torres, who got involved in the organization eight months ago due to probation, said the group has not only positively affected his life, but makes him feel like he is part of a family.

“They give me ideas of what I want to do in my life,” Torres said. “For kids that need to talk, Youth Alliance is the best place to be. They provide food and anything you need.”

Part of the Youth Alliance mission is not just about working with youth in the community, but also raising awareness to adults, school districts, and government organizations in the community about the struggles and issues that the youth of today are facing.

“We don’t believe the myth that teens don’t want adults in their lives and are just being rebellious,” Ortiz said. “Kids want and need adults.”

A current issue the organization is working on is learning how to best help youth facing anxiety and depression while promoting awareness to the community. The organization is also working on a “Youth Listening Campaign” to hear the views of youth in the community to better learn to serve them.

As Ortiz pointed out, the Youth Alliance hopes to create a better community through supporting youth in their hopes and dreams, while working on repairing damage and healing together, so all people invested can positively move forward together.

For more information on the Youth Alliance visit the organization’s website or call (831) 636-2853.

Special thank you to photographer, Elliot Ruiz. Ruiz, a San Benito High School student, is participating in BenitoLink’s Junior Journalism Project, which is partially funded by a grant from United Way of San Benito County.  

About the BenitoLink Junior Journalism Project – BenitoLink is interested in hearing from community members and invites young (and old) writers and photographers to give journalism a try and attempt to communicate a story that matters to them. This is the first year of the Junior Journalism Project and BenitoLink thanks United Way of San Benito County for the support they have given this endeavor.

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