About Us

Our story

Your Future Is Our Business was formed by members of the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce education committee in 1993. YFIOB became a non-profit shortly after and ever since, our mission has been to provide every Santa Cruz County student with opportunities to discover a fulfilling and successful career. In the modern, shifting workplace, students need to make informed decisions that empower them to forge careers. We bring schools and businesses together to support students in becoming Santa Cruz County’s next generation of workers. It’s all about providing young people clear direction in their lives.

We implement work-based learning, the educational strategy providing students with real-life experiences and the opportunity to improve their academic and technical skills while developing their employability. Our work includes building a countywide network of community leaders and businesses who see the talent and potential in our students. With this incredible support, we host monthly career panels and expos at various schools, ranging from K-12th grade. Students receive a real-world setting along with practical advice on planning a career path. We are fully staffed by post-secondary interns, supervised by an executive director, all coordinating together to successfully run a non-profit organization.

Meet the team!

YFIOB Staff and Board Members

Our Team

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Yvette Lopez Brooks (she/her)

Yvette Brooks is from San Jose, CA and the first Latina Mayor for the City of Capitola.  In 2006 Yvette, received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a minor in Education from the University of Santa Cruz. Yvette is a wife and proud mother.

Yvette has dedicated nearly her entire life to youth in the community. She previously worked at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education for nearly 15 years and since her tenure on City Council,  has created strong policy with a focus on equity. She successfully created a Code of Conduct, allocated funding for Anti Bias training for Council Members and Staff and banned the sales of flavored tobacco products.

Yvette currently serves as a member on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation,   Executive  Board of Directors for the  League of Cities, LAFCO, Capitola’s Finance Advisory Council,  The Children’s Network,  Childhood Advisory Council and the Central Coast Early Childhood Advocacy Network.   As a policy maker, Yvette is committed to building a safe and healthy community.

Kim Espinosa (she/her)

I was born and raised in Santa Cruz along with my parents.  I graduated from Soquel High School where I volunteered and worked for the Live Oak School District for over 20 years.  I recently retired from LOSD and am currently working with Your Future Is Our Business and as a bookkeeper for Sea to Sky Farm. I’ve been married for 30 years, I have two grown children, 1 cat and a new puppy we just adopted.

Patrick Harte (he/him)

I was born and raised in Santa Cruz County. I am a lover of most outdoor activities, whether it be in the ocean or in the mountains. A big part of my life over the past 20 years has been bicycles, whether it was racing downhill early on to riding a gravel bike these days. I am back in school after graduating from Soquel High a long time ago and I’m so grateful to be back in academia. I am pursuing a degree in Environmental Science from UCSC with an emphasis on joining UCSC’s Science Communication program. I joined Ksquid at the beginning of the summer as an intern and it has been awesome! I have enjoyed producing a couple of radio features, DJing a music show, I’ve conducted interviews surrounding the fires and on election night, as well as guest hosting The Cutting Edge Show. I am thankful for the opportunity to join what sounds like a fabulous program and group of people with Your Future Is Our Business as the new host for the What To Be radio show. I look forward to interviewing some great people and helping grow this organization.

Catherine Romero (she/her)

Hello, my name is Catherine Romero. I am half Salvadorian and half Mexican. I am a first gen student. This is my third year at University of California, Santa Cruz. I am majoring in Education and minoring in Latin American and Latino Studies. Some of my hobbies are going to the gym or watching horror or marvel movies. My current favorite TV show is Grey’s anatomy. This is my second time working with YFIOB and I am thrilled to be back on the team!

Sookie Ramos (she/her)

My name is Açucar Ramos, but most everybody calls me, Sookie. I was born in Modesto, California, but was adopted a couple months after I was born by my Mother and Father. I then moved to Santa Cruz, California, where I have grown up all my life. My favorite people in the world are my nieces who are only a year or two younger than me, they are my best friends. I have attended Salesian Elementary and Middle School and went onto Saint Francis High School I am now attending CSUMB for my last year as a Business Major. My hobbies include painting, pilates, and reading. My favorite book is “ Homecoming” by Yaa Gyasi

Kristine Vuong (she/her)

I was born and raised in the Bay Area, CA. I am currently a first-generation Asian-American student at UCSC, majoring in Psychology. In my free-time, I enjoy spending time with my loved ones and going to concerts with my friends. During the school year, aside from academics, I’m really involved in my sorority and enjoy spending time giving back to our community through our philanthropies. I am excited to be able to work with Your Future is Our Business and learn valuable skills that will help guide me throughout my career!

Bella Birkhofer (she/her)

My name is Isabella Birkhofer, and I am a recent graduate of Chapman University, where I earned my Bachelor’s degree. Born and raised in Santa Cruz, California, I have always been passionate about social change, nature, and the arts. 

I enjoy event planning and creating exciting, engaging spaces; I strive to bring people together in meaningful and memorable ways. I recently joined Your Future Is Our Business as a Project Coordinator Intern and I am excited to see where the position leads. Beyond my professional pursuits, I am also a dog mom and enjoy hanging out with animals. 
Accordion Content

Board of Directors

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David Wright 

David Wright is the VP of Operations at Elements Manufacturing in Santa Cruz. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from San Diego State University and a BA from the University of the Pacific. He’s bilingual Spanish and a Rotary International Scholar.

Dave is a co-founder of Santa Cruz County Friends of the Rail & Trail and served on their board of directors until December 2015. Other nonprofit work has included CEO of the Santa Cruz Chapter of the American Red Cross, Executive Director of SLV Recycling and volunteer with Amigos de las Americas. In his spare time, Dave plays the guitar, teaches at Cabrillo College, and does welding and millwork projects. He and his wife have two children and have lived in Santa Cruz County since 1991.

Cristine Chopra

Cristine Chopra is the Executive Director of the Santa Cruz County College and Career Collaborative. She was born and raised in Dana Point CA. She moved to northern CA when she enrolled at UC Santa Cruz where she earned her bachelor’s degree. She began her career in education in 1996 as a high school English teacher in San Jose before moving to Seattle. While in Seattle she served as the Director of the Collaborative for Instructional Development at the Washington State GEAR UP Project as well as supporting the Center for Curriculum Transformation and the Center for Multicultural Education. Dr. Chopra earned her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Washington in 2014. She has taught undergraduate and graduate students at UCSC, and CSUMB but is happy to have come back to K-12 work. Cristine strives to assist districts to think of their students’ futures beyond high school graduation and bridge the divide between K-12 and postsecondary institutions. She is a new board member with YFIOB but has partnered with them for 5 years through her work at the County Office of Education and appreciates the multiple opportunities YFIOB provides for students to find their passion and path early in life. 

Her advice to young people is to explore career options early, know what it takes to get there, and leave every opportunity open for yourself now and in the future. 

Nicole Beaver

Nicole was born and raised in Watsonville, CA. She started working at Bay Federal Credit Union when she was 19 years old and a teen mom to 3 year old daughter, and has been at that job ever since. Bay Federal has their own internal certification and training programs, that has allowed her to move up in her career. She has worked at every branch of Bay Federal, but is currently the AVP Branch Manager at the largest branch in Capitola. She has won multiple Branch Manager Awards, Service Excellence Award, and Sales and Service Awards.  In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her three kids by going on walks, watching shows and movies, going to the beach, eating lots of yummy food, and just being together. Nicole joined YFIOB over 7+ years ago. 

“I feel truly blessed to work for an organization that gives back to the community and grows their employees.  I got involved with YFIOB because one of my co-workers, who was sitting on the board, was relocating to a different state. She was so passionate about YFIOB, and she thought it would be a good match for me to fill in her spot. Boy, was she right! This organization is amazing, and the students’ lives that they are impacting is immeasurable. My career advice is: Look at every mistake in life as an opportunity to learn, grow, mature, and evolve. Only you, can own your destiny, so grab ahold of it and shine.

Thomas Sage Pedersen

Thomas Sage Pedersen is a community builder, change maker, visionary, and renaissance man. He is best known for his podcast, Speak For Change podcast, which has more than 100 episodes and was founded on the mission of creating positive and lasting social change in our local and global communities. 
He is the founder/CEO of Everyone’s Music School.  
He co-founded The Black Kings of Santa Cruz County, a local Black men’s group, and is also a member of numerous organizations like the Community Foundation’s Rise Together Santa Cruz County, an intercultural coalition of BIPOC leaders working to advance racial equity in Santa Cruz County. You can find him online on Instagram @thomassagepedersen and @speakforchangeproductions. 
Tammie Weigl
Tammie Weigl was born in New Jersey and moved to Santa Cruz County in 1989. She holds a Masters in political science from Drew University and has worked in the IT industry for over 35 years. She has worked for the County of Santa Cruz’ Information Services Department for 24 years and is now the first female Director of the Information Services Department. She is committed to fostering diversity in technology and how IT can enhance the lives of the residents of Santa Cruz County

David Lee

David is an Assistant Professor of Computational Media at UC Santa Cruz, where he directs the Tech4Good Lab. His research interests are in social computing and in designing technology that promotes flourishing in education, work, and community engagement. One of his current interests is in developing sustainable ways to link experiential learning to supporting community projects and needs (see his TEDx talk on Redesigning Our Economy to Maximize People’s Fullest Contribution). His work has received paper awards at AAAI HCOMP and ACM CHI, been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and deployed with the Finland Ministry of the Environment. He received his PhD from Stanford University and his BS from the California Institute of Technology, and he is a recipient of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, the Accel Leadership Program Fellowship, a Magic Grant from the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, and the Baskin School of Engineering Teaching Excellence Award. In his spare time, David loves to read books, take hikes, sing worship songs, serve at his church, and hang out with his wife and three kids. He is passionate about supporting individuals in reaching their full potential and contribution, which is why he loves YFIOB’s mission and work!

His advice to young people is to reflect about who you are and who you want to be (Authenticity), to engage in and be open to the opportunities you have (Attention), and to find ways to create alignment whenever possible (Alignment).

congregational singing. Michael joined in Sept. of 2017 and has enjoyed being involved with this organization. 

“My advice to young people would be: if you can find a field about which you are passionate, and can work in that field, amazing! Enjoy and do a good job. BUT, wherever your career takes you, try to enjoy your work, be a contributing employee, and always do more than you are asked.”

Amy Nama

Amy was born in Santa Clara, California, and lived in San Jose, California until she was 3 three years old. At fifteen, Amy began attending Santa Cruz High and graduated from SHS in 1990 where she then continued her education at Cabrillo College and then transferred to San Diego State University. Amy studied Early Childhood Education in college and worked for After School Daycare in the before and after school daycare program as a teacher working with K-6 grade children. After college, Amy became a Recruiter for the local staffing company Express Professionals where she met and husband Jeremy, a certified arborist. Amy and Jeremy started to start a tree service company, Nature First Tree Care in partnership with another couple that has been successfully acquired by Davey Tree. After the acquisition of their business, Amy became a contractor with Central California Alliance for Health working in recruitment. Amy currently works at Graniterock as the Environmental Services Administrator. Before working at Graniterock, Amy worked in the Small Business Development Center at Cabrillo College which provides free advising to small business owners in Santa Cruz County. Amy is a continuous learner who received her notary certification last year and is currently enrolled in Spanish and a business class at Cabrillo, to become bi-lingual by the end of 2020. Amy joined YFIOB in December of 2019 and feels passionate about helping youth and this organization aligns with her ability to help support them with their career paths.

“My advice for young people is to use the resources available to help you on your journey to finding the career you love. Reach out to your counselors for advice and do the work needed to get you to your goals. Share your goals with a friend, they can help you keep them.”

Nisha Patel

Nisha was born in London and moved to the United States at the age of 1.  She was raised in Santa Cruz and attended UCSC and later graduated from UC Davis.  As a teen, Nisha worked at the Boardwalk for Whiting’s Food Concessions and later for a local Pharmacy in Aptos.  After graduating, she worked for the County Parks Department as a Recreation Leader and later for the Human Services Department as an Employment Training Specialist for the Summer Youth Program. Nisha has a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development with a minor in Sociology and Education and has been working in the human resources field for over 20 years with the County of Santa Cruz. Nisha is a certified Selection Analyst with CA State Personnel Board and is a Credentialed CA County Senior Executive with the CA State Association of Counties.  She is currently working towards her Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification. Nisha enjoys spending time with her family and has served on the G-Ball Board (local girls basketball league) and has been an active member of the Bhartiya Cultural Association where she engages in many Indian traditional activities. Nisha joined YFIOB in 2016 to help youth explore various career opportunities especially in the government sector. Her advice to youth is “Maintain a positive outlook as you are exploring life to find the right career for yourself…build a large network to increase your resources.”

Her advice to young people (like herself)? Sometimes dreaming big starts with something small: finishing your resume, sending an email to a prospective employer, growing your network by just one person. Focus on building these habits and eventually you’ll find that the little things add up in a big way. 

Carol Siegel

Born and raised in Portage, Michigan (Kalamazoo area). I attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mi. Continued my education at Cabrillo College and received my Early Childhood Education Certification.  I also acquired a SPHR (Senior Professional Human Resources) accreditation. Director of the After School Day Care, Inc now called Campus Kids Connection, Inc, HR for McDowell’s Group Homes, West Marine, Threshold Enterprise and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for almost 30 years. Employment Manager at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk from 1995 – 2020. After Covid Lay-Off in July 2020, 10 months later I returned as Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist. Recruitment is my specialty. 

When did you join YFIOB and why? I joined officially 9/2021.  I joined because my work involves recruiting youth to work at the Boardwalk. Through the years, I am proud of the tens of thousands of youth in our community while working at the Beach Boardwalk have developed career and life skills.  I have witnessed so many young people through work find strength and a confidence they never knew they had.  Lighting the fire in a young person is miraculous and rewarding. 

Be open to possibilities.  I had a very circuitous route to finding a career I loved.  It took time and I did many jobs prior that helped me to develop my interest which led to other opportunities.  So stay open, don’t feel like you have to know what your career looks like right now.  Unless of course you know what you want to do.  Go to college……it can be a vocational school or a community college or a 4-year and beyond. But try school and take classes that inspire you.  Oftentimes this leads to discovery of interests you never knew about.  It is OK to feel confused, insecure…..unworthy….you are not alone.  This is normal and with time you can slowly shift out of this….it takes patience…..say “yes’ to things more than “no”.  Find people you trust and admire and ask them questions about their career path.  There is not one answer for all situations. You have your own unique perspective and gift. No one else is YOU. Appreciate YOU…..and give yourself a little positive talk to get that engine running.  Your family, your community needs all of you. 

Margie Whiting Sisk

Margie was born in Santa Cruz ,the hospital on West Cliff Drive was  just up the street from where she works every day!  She’s an alumni of Holy Cross Elementary, Harbor High and San Jose State University. 

Margie is part owner of Whiting’s Foods , the largest food service provider on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Kaiser Arena.  She oversees all things PEOPLE ( hiring , training, motivating!) 

Margie is 3rd generation in the business, started by her grandfather and father in 1953.  She has enormous pride in the job opportunities it has provided for so many local youth for 70 years..  

Her goal is for Whiting’s employees to feel valued, learn job and life skills, develop a sense of responsibility, and learn to work well with all types of people. She has seen firsthand through generations of employees that entry level positions can lead to any career one chooses .  She sees how hard work can be fun and rewarding, and that life skills and lifelong friendships become more valuable than any paycheck.  

Margie has spearheaded many motivational and training programs that have won industry awards. She is constantly developing programs to train, educate & motivate today’s teens and young adults.  

Margie has been a supporter of Your Future is OUr Business  for the last decade , but joined the Board in 2021.  She believes strongly in ALL the incredible  work of the organization , especially that many career pathways can start from that very first job.  

“I am  committed to help young people understand the value of work in their mental , physical , and emotional health.  So many good things can happen when you get a job…way beyond a paycheck!”

Jane Iana Kostina

Jane immigrated to the United States as a child and has spent her adult years in California and upstate New York. She graduated with a BS in Genetics and a BA in Psychology from UC Davis, where she was particularly interested in the genetics of plant drought and salinity tolerance. Working as a strawberry breeder in the Pajaro Valley since 2014, she is continuously amazed by the vibrancy and potential of Monterey Bay in the areas of agricultural excellence, nature conservancy, and building and nurturing thriving communities. Jane is passionate about science communication and encouraging local engagement with agriculture research and development, including emerging technologies and sustainability. 

In her free time, she enjoys reading about ancient civilizations, playing the piano, drawing and painting, putting together IKEA furniture for friends, and encouraging homeowners to replace their ice plants with native species.

Leslie DeRose

Leslie has been a tireless advocate for education for many years. She served as a Board Trustee for Pajaro Valley Unified School District from 2006-2018, serving as President of the Board for three terms. During her second term as President she led the effort to pass the Measure L School bond in the November 2012 election. The bond provided critical infrastructure and safety improvements, and created an IT infrastructure endowment to provide equity and access to all PVUSD students. She also led the effort to bring arts education back at every grade level in all schools. During her final term as President she led the development of the non-profit Pajaro Valley Education Foundation, and completed the process to develop the PV High School sports fields.

Leslie has worked in Career Education at Cabrillo College since 2013. Her work has provided the opportunity to continue collaborative work with all Santa Cruz County schools as well as UCSC and CSUMB to support the education journey and career connections for youth in the County. Leslie spearheaded the county-wide College Awareness Month that was recognized through proclamation by every City Council and the County of Santa Cruz.

Leslie draws on her own personal life and educational experiences when giving advice to youth:“Regardless of your life situation, education is an opportunity available to you with a community that will support you in your journey-you’ve got this!”

Leslie has associate degrees from Cabrillo College in Communications, Liberal Studies and Business, a Bachelor’s of Arts from Cal Poly Humboldt in Leadership Studies and is a current graduate student in Higher Education Administration at Southern New Hampshire University.

Dante Searcy
Dante Searcy was born and raised in Sacramento, CA. Throughout his elementary through high school years, he participated in numerous speech competitions and developed a passion for public speaking. When he graduated from high school, he enrolled in an exchange student program where he lived in Panama for a year, attended La Universidad de Panama, and also learned to speak Spanish fluently. He is a first-generation college student who received his BA in Spanish from University of the Pacific, his Master’s of Science in Administration from CSU Bakersfield, and is currently pursuing his Juris Doctorate at Monterey College of Law. Dante served in the U.S. Navy from 2008 to 2013 as a Farsi translator. He is now working as a Human Resources Generalist for Joby Aviation. In his free time, Dante enjoys participating in book clubs, riding his bike, and public speaking.

“My advice to young people is based on my favorite quote from Bill Gates: ‘Most people over estimate what they can accomplish in one year, and underestimate what they can accomplish in 10 years.’ If a job is hard at the beginning, give yourself time to learn it and master it. You may surprise yourself with what you’re actually capable of accomplishing if you’re willing to be patient with yourself. I would also encourage young people seek out mentors who can guide you on your career journey, especially if you are first in your family to pursue advanced education or a particular career field. Asking for help and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is a sign of strength.”

Pamela Price

As a nurse of 30+ years, I am passionate about the medical field. With a main specialization in Cardiovascular Critical Care, I have also worked other areas of nursing such as Emergency Department/Trauma Center, Surgery, and finally have spent the last decade in Education. With the diversity found in a medical career, I am happy to partner with YFIOB and talk with those interested in joining the medical field to further explore the many options available.On the personal side, I have 3 grown children (and 3 dogs 😊) and am in a committed relationship for the past 18 years. Originally from Florida, I have lived in western New York and Arizona, but now enjoy living in La Selva Beach. I find the beauty of Santa Cruz county and the central coast of California to be unmatched. I am looking forward to promoting healthcare in this area and hopefully influence the growth of our beautiful county. I am appreciative of this opportunity.

Jack Michael

My name is Jack Michael, and I serve as the K14 Pathway Coordinator for the Santa Cruz Cabrillo Community College District with the Bay Area Community College Consortium (BACCC). In this role, I support crucial connections between the K–12 sector and community colleges, focusing on enhancing Career Technical Education (CTE) programs and pathways to meet regional workforce needs. Previously, I spent nine years as the Project Coordinator for College & Career Readiness with the Alternative Education Program at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Originally from Akron, OH, I now live in downtown Santa Cruz and am an active triathlete and vegan. I also have a fraternal twin brother who still lives back in Ohio.

  • Malina Long
  • Mary Guakel
  • Shareen Bell
  • Stacey Smith
  • Chris McGriff
  • David Weiss
  • Carolyn Auman: Senior Accountant Manager, Poly (Formerly Plantronics) Board Vice President
  • Tish Denevan: Former Community Employment Coordinator, Santa Cruz Seaside Company
  • Mark Hodges: Former Senior Director of The Santa Cruz County Career and Technical Education Partnership
  • Keisha Frost: CEO United Way of Santa Cruz County
  • Henry  Michel: Career and Technical Education Program Coordinator
  • Ralph Peduto
  • Alan Stormes: Founder Elements Manufacturing Inc.,
  • Aki Williams: Chief Executive, Defib This
  • Winston Whittaker: 
  • Les Forster
  • Emily Jacobsen
  • Maritza Lara 
  • Betsy Andersen
  • Casey Gaynor
  • Gerlinde Brady
  • Emily Ham
  • Murry Scheckman
  • Teresa Madrigal
  • Hayley Mears
  • Michael Marheineke

In Memoriam

Alan Stormes, 1957 - 2019

Alan Stormes was a quiet, kind, and generous board member. Alan was always behind the scenes, looking for ways to help youth find their path and offering opportunities for youth to learn more about careers in the manufacturing sector. He gave tours of his company, Elements Manufacturing, to youth in order for them to learn more about commercial millwork and manufacturing. Read more about Alan below:

  • Alan Osama Stormes passed away on July 14, 2019 after a brief illness. He will forever be remembered by his family, friends and coworkers for his brilliant intellect, friendly demeanor, energetic work ethic, generous spirit and irreverent humor. Alan was born in Redland, California on August 16, 1957. He loved cars, airplanes, machines and, above all, woodworking. After graduating from San Diego State University he went on to form Elements Manufacturing in Santa Cruz, California. Alan’s knowledge of machines, computers and construction enabled him to build a company of over 30 employees and hundreds of business partners that all work together providing commercial millwork to Silicon Valley businesses. In 2002, Alan met the love of his life, Kristy. Together they cared for one another, their family members and the many people in the community who came to trust and depend on them for guidance, love, friendship and support. To many of us, Alan was more than a friend or a coworker, he was a teacher. We sought his help, his ideas and his guidance on everything from business to manufacturing to life in general. In addition to building and teaching complex projects, Alan loved to fly small airplanes. In recent years he learned to fly gliders and piloted as an active member of the Hollister Gliding Club.

Intern & Staff Alumni

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