The Power to Empower

December 22, 2017

Juan Acosta, 19, is from Woodland, California. He is currently completing his last year at Woodland Community College before transferring to San Francisco State University where he plans to study Psychology. He has worked with nonprofits such as the Yolo Family Resource Center, attended multiple leadership camps, and hosted a local television show “Teens on the Move.” He is interested in research into community dynamics, coping with emotional and psychological trauma, ways to protect minority students, and how to make schools a bully free zone. In Juan’s free time he enjoys going out with friends, family, and working out.

Originally founded 40 years ago as a crisis center for sexual assault victims, Empower Yolo, has since blossomed into a huge organization ensuring the welfare of the whole county. Empower Yolo achieves this by operating on kindness, and volunteerism, to create safe, healthy, and resilient communities.

I had the opportunity to volunteer at this amazing organization as a teenager and got to witness their phenomenal work first hand. I got in contact with Josie Enriquez from “Empower Yolo,” to learn more about their current projects as well as the importance of transmitting the message of kindness to create resilient communities. I asked about their mission statement which is “to promote safe, healthy and resilient communities.” and the tools they use to achieve such goal. I learned that Empower Yolo uses several metrics to determine success, including getting feedback from the people they serve; Regularly surveying clients,  listening to any additional needs and responding accordingly. Over the years their services have changed as the needs and culture of the community change.

Empower Yolo has also created a variety of initiatives such as a youth leadership group and a women’s group. They decided to specifically invite women and youth to be part of these groups because  they consider that “they are the eyes and ears in the community.” They’re viewed as more than volunteers, they seen as leaders who advocate for positive change. Empower Yolo makes it their missions to provide these leaders with the necessary tools and education so that they can support themselves, their families and others.

In addition to all the technical resources used by Empower Yolo, such as hotlines, groups and community events. They claim kindness as a necessity, and pillar of their organization. Josie Enriquez from Empower Yolo indicated that “When clients show up at the door, they have been hurt, or they have asked for help at many places without results. When we are kind to them and let them know that we are here to provide them with the resources they need to succeed, we gain their trust and they partner with us to better themselves and essentially better their surroundings.”

The ultimate goal for Empower Yolo according to Josie is, “to be a safety net for members of the community who are in need of assistance.” This organization has made it their mission to empower their community for over 40 years, and as a member of the community, I can attest to them empowering many people including myself at a very young age as a volunteer. When asked about volunteerism, Enriquez stated that “most people want to get involved and help others, they just don’t know where to start. We need to teach kids at a young age to volunteer and talk to them about how they can get involved and stay involved in issues that matter to them most.”