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Young Leaders Gather at Oxnard College

The Young Leaders Society of Ventura County hosted their annual Youth Empowerment Summit at Oxnard College on May 10. Pictured here are (l to r): Robb Murphy, YLS Membership Chair; Heather Hanna, YLS Marketing Chair; Salvador Rivera, Admissions Advisor, DeVry University; and Jessie Hawkins, YLS chair and United Way board representative. (Photo Credit: Tim Pompey)

By Tim Pompey

The Young Leaders Society of Ventura County sponsored their annual Youth Empowerment Summit (YES) on Friday, May 10, at Oxnard College.

Gathering together more than 350 students from local high schools and community colleges, the summit provided these students with a variety of educational opportunities, career paths, and scholarship information.

Jesse Hawkins, chairperson for the Young Leaders Society, knows from personal experience how career opportunities can be missed. “It was something that I saw lacking as I was growing up,” he said. “I think there are a lot of careers that aren’t talked about at home or at school.”

He believes that this is particularly acute in communities of color and hopes that this summit will help young people in those communities become aware of careers that they might otherwise miss. “More specifically,” he said, “we want to show these young people some of the paths that these professionals took to get to their careers.”

Heather Hanna, the society’s marketing chair, sees this summit as a very practical means to give students career guidance. “We want our local youth in Ventura County to hear about different types of careers,” she said, “and to explore colleges, learn how to do resumes, and apply for various types of financial aid.”

But, as Hanna points out, YES also has another important purpose. “It’s a way for business professionals to connect with students and encourage them to help their community,” she explained.
David Smith, CEO of Ventura County United Way, affirmed this point. “We need to get the young population involved today so that they’ll be engaged in the future and be prepared to give back to the community.”

Briana Lomeli, a junior at Pacifica High School, enjoyed the information about media and arts and the advice that was given about how to get into those areas. She plans eventually to go to a university and is thinking about majoring in criminology.

For Lomeli, the information she received gave her a new sense of what’s possible in her life. “It really opens your eyes to what you really want to do,” she said.

Kate Bikovtseva, a senior from Oxnard High School, attended the summit to think about her career options. “I wanted to make sure that I chose the right career,” she said.

She would like to attend Ventura College and then transfer to a university to prepare for work in a medical field such as dentistry.

She found the event well organized and enjoyed meeting people from different types of careers. “It was very useful to meet them,” she said, “and to understand that they all started from the bottom to become a professional. It inspires me to keep working.”

Juan Rivera is a junior from Pacifica High School who plans to go to Ventura College before transferring to either Pepperdine or Cal State Channel Islands. He’s considering a major in psychology or business.

Rivera attended to learn more about how the workshop presenters received their education. He was particularly impressed by their dedication. “I came because it was an opportunity for me to see how these people got their education,” he said, “and how dedicated they are. It motivates me.”

He also had another practical reason for coming to the summit. “I came for the scholarships,” he said.
Hawkins encourages any young professionals in Ventura County who have an interest in developing youth leadership to become involved with the Young Leaders Society. Information is available via their Facebook page or on their website at

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