Treehouse Youth Explore What’s Next

By Jesse Becerra, Academic & Career Volunteer Coordinator

This summer, Treehouse had to adjust our engagement activities accordingly to meet the needs of our youth during the pandemic. Usually, these activities would be in-person visits to various industry partners and colleges. Treehouse’s Community Engagement Team quickly pivoted to deliver quality programming and serve youth across Washington state for the first time with our summer series.

We designed a summer-long series called “What’s Next,” which was held online with three tracks: Career, Post-Secondary Education and Life Skills. These three overarching tracks splintered into nine events spanning from the traditional college visit with an online twist to introductions of apprenticeships throughout Washington.

Some other events included career exposure to different industries, “real talk” about college with recent Treehouse alumni and even entrepreneurship. We are particularly proud that we provided Spanish interpretation by staff and volunteers for every session.

More than 50 students attended multiple sessions. Not only was this a great engagement opportunity for our youth, we also had more than 30 community partners and volunteers from across the State of Washington representing a multitude of organizations and businesses. Our very own Treehouse Ambassador Board (TAB) consulted and supported the various events by providing strategic feedback, session panelists and sponsorship. We cannot thank TAB enough for leaning in to make the summer series possible.

Our partner in offering these experiences was Robert J. Hernandez, Key Private Bank AVP/Wealth Management Liaison, Treehouse Ambassador Board Member and KeyBank Young Professionals Group President and Philanthropic Director. KeyBank’s Young Professionals sponsored the “What’s Next?” series, and Rob was a panelist for our financial literacy workshop.

In that workshop, Rob was asked by a student: “Why would anyone want to take on any debt through a credit card?”

Rob warmly smiled and replied: “Credit cards and taking on debt shouldn’t be scary. Both these together are a key to open doors throughout life—whether buying a house, leasing a car, earning more favorable banking terms and even finding employment in some cases. Remember, a bad credit score is better than none at all because you can still dig yourself out of that hole.”

Thanks to KeyBank’s Young Professionals, the entire cost of the series—including prizes for attendees—was covered. We can’t thank them enough for going the extra mile to ensure youth in foster care were able to access this critical information.

With the diversity of panelists and overall representation of topics covered, we were able to keep our students engaged with events that interested them and simultaneously created exposure to important topics and resources. Knowledge is power, and knowing your options and resources (as well as how to use them) is the very definition of empowerment.

We intend to provide additional virtual events to build off this successful summer series. If you or someone you know is interested in offering a refreshing and important career or college perspective, please email me at [email protected].

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About the Author

Born and raised in Tacoma, Jesse Becerra identifies as a multiracial man of color and first-generation college graduate. In his role as Treehouse’s Academic & Career Volunteer Coordinator, Jesse puts his passion for youth education, training and employment into action. His tenacity pushes him to create programs that focus on the needs of our youth. His ardent love of community and building new connections is at the heart of his work.

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