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YTJ Intern Marcos Vega Recognized by County for Contributions to Community

It is during a young person’s adolescent years when they begin to find new interests and develop an idea of what they want to do going into adulthood. For many, high school is an opportunity to get more involved in those interests and hobbies, often the arts or athletics. While these extracurriculars may be the most common and easy to access, many youth have interests outside these two realms. Young people like Marcos, 17, are taking the initiative to get involved with community organizations to enjoy and discover new passions.

Currently a senior at San Rafael High School, Marcos has volunteered and interned for various organizations in Marin County including Youth Transforming Justice (YTJ). He was first introduced to YTJ through a showcase at his high school, where he met our Director of Programs, Antonio Zavala.“I took on the opportunity to contact him,” Marcos said. 

Marcos applied to become one of our high school interns where he got to work with respondents and support them within our diversion program. He acted as a Peer Facilitator on multiple occasions, managing the deliberation process for the respondent’s restorative plan. In addition to his facilitating work, he was also an advocate for many respondents who had been referred to YTJ. “I learned how to be patient and mindful not to judge people for their mistakes…We shouldn’t shame people for their mistakes, we should view it as a learning opportunity,” he said. 

Beyond his internship with YTJ Marcos has also volunteered for many other organizations in an attempt to find his passions. Among others he has been involved with Empowering Our Clean Energy Future, the Marin County Multicultural Center, and Inspiring Youth Environmental Leaders. He is most recently a part of the Find Your Way Program sponsored by Marin 9 to 25. All of the time and effort Marcos has spent giving back to the community has not gone unrecognized. He won the Youth Volunteer of the Year for the 31st Heart of Marin Awards, sponsored by the Center for Volunteers and Nonprofit Leadership. The win was unexpected said Marcos and he was honored just to be considered in the first place. “When I went to the event I thought I was not going to win. I just thought ‘I’m having a good time…If I don’t win that’s okay because there’s a lot of other people in the world.’”

Marcos’s opportunity to enjoy his interests through nonprofit work led him to develop a better idea of what he wanted to do after he graduates next year. He plans to continue getting his higher education somewhere in California potentially studying something in the science field. The experiences he acquired through working in nonprofits led him to learn more about clean energy and environmentalism which gave more clarity on what he wanted to do. He thinks the same can be true for many young people whose passions don’t align with more common extracurriculars available. “Youth can try out and explore opportunities and just find things that you might not have once been interested but now you become interested in that certain area and field,” he said. 

As a person of color, Marcos explains how that has led him to face many challenges throughout his life, and felt discouraged from pursuing what he was passionate about. With his platform, he wants to encourage other youth of color and reaffirm their abilities to make a difference.  “Things do get better if you’re facing tons of challenges, it just takes a lot of strength to get where you want to go. Remind yourself that you are a very powerful individual and don’t let anybody stop you from doing what you want to do in the world. Don’t let anyone stop your dreams from becoming an actual reality.”

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