A Job That Makes a Difference
Trust is a huge aspect of successful therapeutic work. That trust can come from providing a listening ear for our clients, celebrating their accomplishments, or offering the value of our staff’s lived experience.

Side by Side’s Youth Specialists and Youth/Peer Advocates focus on building those supportive connections from a range of perspectives. Their jobs differ, but each of them express a deeply felt conviction that developing a genuine, trusting relationship with their young clients is what makes the difference. A Youth Specialist requires a B.A. because their job focuses more on case management, short and long-term independent living skills, and attaining educational and employment goals. Youth and Peer Advocates offer more general support services to help youth learn how to advocate for themselves. Their position requires an A.A. degree with relevant work history and/or lived experience.

Both Suzanne Burns and Ralph Hall are Youth Specialists in our Real Alternative transitional housing program who help youth build their skills and navigate systems, like signing up for classes or making a doctor’s appointment. Ralph clarifies, ”We are like surrogate parents. We don’t do it for them, we show them how.”

Ralph adds, “I was in care myself, so I can build rapport with even the most challenging youth because I know how difficult it can be to navigate systems. It also helps that they know they can’t pull a fast one on me. Everyday wins and graduation season are the best.” Suzanne agrees, “I’m older, so I have that ‘Mom’ vibe. Our youth can vent and express their true feelings or their trauma, but we can talk about it without me reacting. I feel like I am planting seeds for their future. I count all the wins and small steps. The goal is for them to be their best selves, keep going and utilize their resources. I have a youth at Stanford right now, who just keeps pushing on.”
Jasmine Cervantes, Our Space's Educational Youth Advocate, works to create a safer space for LGBTQIA+ students in the Hayward schools by offering peer support groups for students as well as education and resources for educators and school staff. For Jasmine, “The most rewarding part of my job is when a student calls or texts me to let me know they had a really big win. It makes me feel we have a good connection. They have aspirations and we are here to support that.”
Jasmine's Our Space colleague and fellow Youth Advocate, Ori Quesada, has a background as a teaching artist and circus performer. Ori, who identifies as queer and trans, comments, “My experience spans a lot. Whether I’m teaching a backflip and catching someone before they fall on their head or holding all of their emotions as they deal with housing insecurity or homophobia in their placement or in their birth family, I’ve experienced that. My favorite part of the job is the one-to-one check-ins where I can listen and connect on a meaningful level.”
Alyssa Martinez is a Peer Advocate at TAY Space in San Rafael, a drop-in center for vulnerable young people 16-25 that offers connections to food, shelter, and mental health options as well as wraparound case management support. She says, “My hope is that my youth learn to love themselves at the young age they are now. That their pain and struggles with past trauma may cause some dark days, but that brighter days are achievable with the support of community, perseverance, self-awareness, self acceptance, positive attitude, healthy boundaries and openness for change.
Angelica Montalvan is a Youth Advocate with YouThrive, an early intervention, school-based program for 11-18 year olds. As one of three siblings raised by a single mom who often struggled to make ends meet, she knows her life experiences help in working with youth. Angelica says, “Trust is a big issue and if they don’t trust you, they won’t open up to engage and develop connections. I’m glad things are different now for youth, having services like this in school.”

Throughout all Side by Side’s programs, relationships and shared understanding are key. When a youth is struggling, knowing that even one person really cares can make all the difference in how they face getting through the day.

For many youth, that person walking side by side with them are our dedicated Youth Specialists and Youth/Peer Advocates.
FREE COVID Vaccine Clinic Offered
Tuesday, Sept 21 from 3-5pm
Side by Side Offices
22245 N. Main Street, Hayward
In collaboration with Sutter's Eden Medical Center and One Toyota of Oakland, Side by Side will be offering a FREE mobile vaccine clinic for our youth and interested community members.

Participants who receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the mobile vaccine clinic event will be given a total of $30 in gift cards plus a Cinemark movie pass and will also be entered into a drawing to receive an additional $750 in gift cards and other prizes.

To reserve spots at the clinic, sign up at https://bit.ly/3hq8NK8. Contact Aman Basdeo Fitzgerald at afitzgerald@sidebysideyouth.org with any questions.
Meet Dr. Christine Isana Garcia
Side by Side's New CEO
Tuesday, October 5 from 4:30-5:30pm
Join Side by Side's Chief Program Officer, Larry Woodland, for an engaging Zoom townhall discussion with Side by Side's new CEO to learn more about Dr. Garcia's background and what makes her tick!

To register for the townhall and receive the Zoom link, contact us at events@sidebysideyouth.org.