On Youth Worker Day, May 5, we shine a spotlight on SEIU-West member, Jessica, who works in an urban acute care facility. Jessica has been in the field of Youth Work for nearly ten years. Even before she obtained her certification in Youth Care Work in 2014, Jessica worked providing respite for foster families. This sparked a lifelong passion for working with youth and helping them grow.

In a day, Jessica leads youth through a variety of therapeutic recreation activities, teaches group and life skill, and engages with them to help with their healing process. These activities are designed to help her clients realize their potential and teach them coping skills. Jessica works daily to create bonds with the kids and to help them thrive within the healing process.

Throughout the pandemic, a large amount of the already limited resources of her facility were lost. As more youths entered her facility, Jessica continued to work with youth to help them cope with all the changes. These young people still needed to be supported, engaged, motivated, busy and active, but they also needed to be separated six feet apart. Because of school closures, the routine of the facility had to change as well. Helping youths deal with not only a pandemic, but a transition to online learning, showed a real need for stability in uncertain times. It also highlighted a need for more resources and opportunities to increase the mental health in the youth Jessica serves.

Jessica’s hope is that the pandemic has shown that mental health is a sickness just as serious as a physical illness, and that youth patients receive the resources they need to heal. The facility she works at does not have the youth mental health resources it needs, even thought it is a relatively new facility, and Jessica would like to see this addressed.

Jessica’s job can be stressful, but it’s small moments where she can see a youth’s individuality shine through that make everything worth it. To see a young patient find joy in their life and to know she was there to help, makes Jessica know that her work has tremendous value. Keeping an open mind and showing empathy are Jessica’s biggest tips for anyone looking to enter the field of Youth Care Work. Jessica knows that youths demand a lot of her and that she needs to be fully invested, but it is a challenge she will not back down from.

Jessica, you make a huge impact in the lives of those you serve. You are valued in your community and your union. You are making in a difference in the future of so many individuals, and we thank you for your patience, open-mindedness, and passion.

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