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Katerina Valderrama-Martínez: Trauma Informed Care from Internship to Career

Youth Transforming Justice has given both respondents and volunteers the agency to make a difference and advocate for reform in the criminal system on a local level. Over the course of these two decades, we have witnessed hundreds of our volunteers and respondents enter the program as adolescents and grow into thriving young adults pursuing their passions. Many discover their interest in advocacy work for the juvenile population through their early involvement with Peer Solutions, with several coming back to be interns as adults to further their work. One of those former volunteers turned interns is Katerina Valderrama-Martínez. 


Katerina is a recent San Francisco State University graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. During her time completing her undergraduate degree, she narrowed her focus more specifically to child developmental psychology. She began her interest in this field when she was young, volunteering as an Advocate and Peer Team member beginning in 2011. As a Peer Advocate, Katerina represented young respondents who had been cited for infractions and supported them in creating a recommended restorative plan that would best support them in their future endeavors and empower them to understand their value to their community. Her experience with Youth Transforming Justice during her adolescent years is described as something that “ignited my passion for community advocacy and restorative justice.” 


She continued pursuing youth advocacy work through her education to obtain valuable clinical experience that would help support her future career achievements. However, the values she developed as a youth volunteer stayed with her. “My passion lies in advocating for marginalized communities, particularly LatinX youth, through trauma-informed care practices and restorative justice principles,” Katerina said. When Youth Transforming Justice expanded their program to hire more college interns, Katerina applied. Due to her interest in working directly with youth and trauma-informed care, Katerina was “eager to contribute my skills and experience to their mission” as a Bilingual Youth Case Manager. In her new role as a Case Manager, Katerina worked even more closely with respondents throughout their time in the Peer Solutions program. As an intern, Katerina explains that she learned many more lessons and gained an enriched understanding of restorative justice in addition to what she had learned as a youth volunteer. “One thing that has stuck with me is learning to humanize people and the impact one person can have by helping reflect a person’s strengths back to them.”


One of the things Youth Transforming Justice loves most about the community of young volunteers we have formed over nearly twenty years is the privilege of seeing all of the exciting opportunities they pursue after working with us. Katerina has been accepted into Sacramento State University’s Rehabilitation Counseling Master's Program for this upcoming Fall with the goal of learning more about how to address childhood trauma and promote wellness in marginalized communities. “I aim to continue my advocacy work and contribute to positive change in mental health support systems within California.”

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