BEST Foot Forward

BEST photo

Tamara Valadez, the sole and single director of the program BEST (Boosting Education Success in Teens), says directing this program the last year has given her a lasting feeling of accomplishment, “I am helping the whole population just by doing something I love”. She says BEST has helped her to realize the career path she wants to take after graduation. BEST helps teens access mentors that can provide them with support and listen to their struggles, by co-facilitating a program with The RAVEN Project called “Girls’ Space”.

“Girls’ Space” serves as a safe place for young women to ask questions, share concerns, and seek advice from mentors that pledge confidentiality, where that sort of confidence is not often available in other realms of their life (school, home, etc). Tamara remembers a touching moment as a volunteer where she became close to a specific young woman who opened up to Tamara about her life, “things below the surface”, Tamara says. She said she could see how much of an impact it made “Just having someone there to talk to...things she couldn't tell teachers...having a support there that serves as an older mentor to feel safe with”.

Tamara says it has been equally rewarding and challenging to set up an additional safe space because the organizations/schools, the parent/guardians, and BEST must all agree on a vision of what this safe space should look like and be. Director for a year, she says it has helped her realized how vital it is to keep the lines of communication between those serving and the larger community open and consistent. Ultimately, however, the “Girl’s Space” at RAVEN seems to be making an impact and BEST hopes to set up a second space like this in the near future at Pacific Coast High School.