Jessica Peregrina has always known she wanted to work in a nonprofit setting: she has been an advocate for creating a welcoming space for underserved voices, especially youth of color.
Peregrina joined The Unity Council (TUC) in September 2017 as an Administrative Assistant in the Property Management team. In 2018, she transitioned to the Community Programs team and became a Program Associate for TUC’s college and career exploration program for Oakland youth ages 14 to 18. Jessica enjoyed connecting with youth as well as learning how to build youth curriculum and instruct in a classroom setting. Her favorite activity was to explore with youth systemic issues such as food deserts, gentrification, and racial justice.
“These are topics that most people don’t get to explore until college,” said Peregrina. “And these topics were issues many of them were experiencing at that moment.”
In 2019, Peregrina became a Career Exploration Specialist and co-managed an initiative focused on empowering youth, ages of 14 to 20, through socially conscious training on Oakland and Bay Area issues. Peregrina’s role was instrumental in strengthening partnerships with local organizations like Homies Empowerment, 67 Sueños, and the Greenlining Institute. The 12-week program allowed youth to actively participate in rewarding experiences including presenting at the annual Greenlining Institute’s conference and attending the UnidoUS’s 2019 Youth Conference in Washington D.C.
After receiving funding through Oakland Fund for Children & Youth, TUC was finally able to expand the successful Latino Men & Boys model to include a program for OUSD female-identified and non-binary students. Peregrina was promoted and now coordinates the program and creates its curriculum, a role she was thrilled to be a part of since it aligned with her values of helping young women find their voice.
Launched in August 2019, The Latinx Mentorship & Achievement program (LMA) is focused on building social-emotional learning, empowering female-identified youth and non-binary youth so they can become connected with their communities and learn about issues like social justice and climate change. “There is no program that caters to Latina youth in Oakland, let alone for women of color,” said Peregrina.
Once the pandemic hit East Oakland, she became mentor and case manager overnight. Peregrina individually met with students to assess the immediate needs and provide emergency resources to their families.
“In the beginning, it was ‘my family needs help’,” said Peregrina “A lot of our families received financial assistance through The Unity Council. We were also able to get our youth laptops, free Wi-Fi as well as tech support. We made sure they had everything they needed to survive.”
She also worked with families, teachers, and school staff to provide emotional support for her youth.
Throughout her tenure at TUC, Peregrina has been honored to be able to grow within youth development, including developing new programs. “I enjoying at The Unity Council because there are so many BIPOC [Black, indigenous, people of color] professionals that share my passion for supporting marginalized communities,” said Peregrina. “Being able to grow and connect with my coworkers has been an inspiration.”
The Hayward native holds a B.A. in American Studies and Development Studies from UC Berkeley, with a concentration on socioeconomic issues in America and Latin America.
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