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March 20, 2023

Youth Alliance to honor Change Makers at annual event

Courtesy of the Youth Alliance:

On Saturday, Sept. 21, Youth Alliance is hosting the annual Change Makers event hosted at Leal Vineyards’ The Barn located at 6971 Airline Highway in the Hollister area.

The event starts at 5 p.m. and will feature live entertainment from Funky Sound Experience, raffles, and auctions in celebration of Change Makers – and a special recognition of a nominated community member for their outstanding and exemplary work.

This year, Youth Alliance is proud to honor both Monica and Raymond Rodriguez as the 2019 Change Makers. Individually and as a couple, Monica and Raymond have shown amazing dedication to young people as champions, advocates, and community leaders for over three decades.

As a former Chair and board member of the San Benito High School District, Mr. Rodriguez has reshaped disciplinary measures with restorative methods of discipline that follow the California Education Code while positively advocating for students’ rights, spending much time advocating at school boards, and at City Council and County meetings. He was a leading voice in having street closure at SBHS during school hours and insisting on passing a bond for infrastructure and core facility upgrades. Raymond has been a Cub Scout Leader, Cub Master, Adult Scout trainer, and Day Camp Director. He volunteers in countless and diverse youth support organizations and activities including SBHS “Challenge Day” and LULAC youth events.

Mrs. Rodriguez is a seasoned education advocate for students and parents on student and parents’ rights, education code, and special education. She has worked with countless students and families to support them in understanding their rights and supporting them in hearings, meetings, board meetings, and more. Never wanting praise or acknowledgement, Monica has volunteered her time and expertise for hundreds of students. Over the years, the Rodriguez home was known as the place to go to after school to hang out and eat, but with a simple rule in place: finish homework first.

Both Monica and Raymond exemplify YA’s vision to “invest in the young people of our community.” Their commitment drives them to fill needs and consistently do more.

“At YA, we cannot count the amount of young people, former mentees, parents, and colleagues that stop Monica and Ray to thank them for all they have done,” states Diane Ortiz, executive director. “It is a true honor to be able to recognize their hard work and commitment to the community.”

At this year’s Change Makers event, local youth Aphrodite Ayala will be honored as the recipient of the 2019 Youth Inspiration Award. She is a student athlete at Gilroy High School entering her senior year and has been with YA’s after-school program and super power summer camp as both a student and Youth Leader for the past 11 years. Aphrodite has grown with Youth Alliance and has built many valuable connections with staff and students and has volunteered over 900 hours as a mentor and role model to younger students in YA. Aphrodite plans to utilize those connections as she heads into the next step of her journey … applying for college! She is a strong and committed young leader who plans to continue to contribute to her community.

We are so proud to celebrate these Change Makers in our community. Proceeds of the event will benefit Youth Alliance whose mission is to provide innovative and culturally relevant services that strengthen and enrich youth, families, and the community.

In addition to this event, Youth Alliance is raising funds to sustain and expand its Youth Impact Centers, scholarships, and highly needed youth support services in Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Benito County. Youth Alliance services seek to provide a continuum of support that includes after-school, summer, and late-night prevention programs, bilingual counseling and case management, and intervention programs serving at-promise youth in the juvenile justice system. Youth Alliance is committed to having all programs and supports available at no cost to any family in need. YA is also engaged in systems change efforts like Restorative Justice and advancing educational equity by working with youth, parents, and allies across the region and statewide.

“This year, YA is thrilled to announce that we have set a $250,000 fundraising goal in celebration of our 25 Year Anniversary,” shared Diane Ortiz. “Dubbed the #YA25 Campaign, our vision is to give each of you the opportunity to participate in bringing to life much-needed community Youth Impact Centers.”

These centers will be equipped with multiple counseling rooms and youth-training spaces complete with computer stations. Using restorative principles, the aim is to create spaces designed for youth empowerment, positive expression, education and most importantly, life success.

Tickets for Change Makers are now on sale through our Youth Alliance website at www.changemakers2019, www.eventbrite.com, or can be purchased at the YA Administrative Office at 310 Fourth Street in Hollister. Please visit www.youthall.org for more information. The event is sure to be a night of fun and excitement; we hope you will join us in celebrating our honorees, and supporting our local youth and families!

Youth Alliance (YA) was founded in 1995 as a grassroots movement to provide resources for local youth. Since then, Youth Alliance has grown to be an agency that benefits over 6,500 children and families each year in primarily underserved and under resourced areas of San Benito and South Santa Clara Counties.

YA’s mission is to provide innovative and culturally relevant services that strengthen and enrich youth, families, and the community. Our vision is to support youth as leaders who contribute to the social and economic betterment of their community. We believe that in order to develop strong youth leaders, we must work to build safe and supportive schools, neighborhoods, and communities with innovative support networks that guide and challenge youth to expand their understanding of themselves, others, and their own capabilities.

Photo of Monica and Raymond Rodriguez courtesy of Youth Alliance.