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Letter from a YTEC Leadership Fellow

I began with Youth Treatment and Education Center (YTEC) after completing 18 months at Walden House, a residential drug treatment program. I started in the YTEC Leadership Program when I was eighteen, as a Leadership Fellow.

I believe this was an important opportunity in taking me to the point of where I am now. I was having a difficult time figuring out what to do next. I had spent eighteen months in a community that was safe and I began to get comfortable. After graduation, I realized that I was no longer the big fish in a small pond. I found myself in the real world, with only tools and knowledge I had learned in Walden House. 

Youth Treatment and Education Center served as both an aftercare program, as well as a place where I could participate in making my community better. Along with other Leadership Fellows, I participated in developing and presenting workshops on issues that we found to be important and that affect youth, such as drug and alcohol abuse, money management, creative expression as an alternative, etc. I learned valuable skills such as community outreach and networking with other programs. I also had the opportunity to co-facilitate support groups for girls in juvenile hall as well as youth who were in a six-week drug diversion program. I am currently studying to become a social worker. These YTEC experiences have been very relevant to my studies.

One of the most memorable and exciting moments with the YTEC Leadership Program was the trip to Africa.  We had been studying about Tanzania with Thabiti Mtambuzi, who has ties there.  We decided that the best way to learn about the place was to go there.  We raised the money through fundraising and grant writing.  Our three-week trip to Tanzania and Ethiopia was an eye opening experience.  Our mission was to learn about the culture and when we returned, to create a workshop on breaking down stereotypes about cultures.  We also had the opportunity to bring school and medical supplies to the village of Bwejuu on the island of Zanzibar.

To be eligible for YTEC’s Leadership Program, enrollment in school was mandatory.  School never came easy for me. Although I did receive my high school diploma, I felt that l needed more of an educational foundation. Due to this, I struggled when I enrolled in City College of San Francisco. For the first two years, I was not serious about my education and my grades reflected that. After returning from Africa, I began to get serious about my education. I realized that in order to accomplish my goal of helping others and creating change, I would have to get a degree. I also began to understand that my education is the one thing that cannot be taken away from me. YTEC provided the support I needed.

I worked with the volunteer math tutor, Celia Rifkin. Before Celia, I was failing math.  I was on my third attempt at intermediate Algebra. After meeting with her for two hours a week for the whole semester, I finally managed to pass the class with a B. Celia was such a big help. YTEC asked her if she could continue to be my tutor for the next semester.  Once again, Celia helped me pass my class. This time it was statistics and I passed with an A. I did not think I was the college type, but YTEC made me see that I am college material. I graduated City College of San Francisco with my Associate in Science with an emphasis on behavioral science. I graduated with honors.

Transitioning from City College of San Francisco to San Francisco State University was a scary but exciting experience. The thought of attending a university was a bit daunting and overwhelming, but at the same time I was excited to continue to purse higher education. San Francisco State University is different in terms of academic expectations and standards. It has been challenging for me, but I am developing new study skills as well as a new mind set. Being able to focus on my social work major has been very exciting.

I also have had the privilege of being a part of YTEC’s Bridge Program.  Through Bridge I had the opportunity to work at San Francisco Superior Court.  My placement was at the Self-Help Center.  I learned how to process divorce papers, child custody papers, and restraining orders.  This is also relevant to my social work studies. I not only got the opportunity to further my knowledge about the legal side of custody battles and domestic violence, but I was able to continue to go to school full time.

Receiving the YTEC scholarship was and has been a crucial part of my success.  With the scholarship I am better able to focus on school and take the maximum units. I have maintained straight As, and believe that receiving the scholarship has been very influential in that. With all the academic stress, the scholarship helped to relieve some of the financial stress. It has allowed me to enjoy getting my education and focus on my goal of making a difference in my community.

I believe that coming to YTEC was the smartest move I could have made.  With their support, I have been clean for nine years and am finally on the right educational and career path.  They have been behind me every step of the way, and I am very grateful for this.