YOUNG PROFESSIONAL of the Year : ANDREW BRIGGS
At 22 , Andrew Briggs , Catering Coordinator for Rebekah Childrens ' Services Kneaded Culinary Academy , is already on a career path with solid goals for his future . While he does not like recognition , it is hard not to notice that he is getting things done .
The Gilroy native has been involved with Rebekah Children ’ s Services since he was 16 years old . He first became acquainted with the organization through Chef Carlos Pineda , who subbed in Briggs ’ cooking class at Gilroy High School . Already interested in cooking , at the end of Chef Carlos ’ first lesson Briggs knew he wanted to go to culinary school .
Briggs finished the 10-week Kneaded Bakery ' s culinary program at Rebekah ’ s at age 16 . After working for several months at CordeValle , where he gained valuable cooking experience , Briggs followed his heart back to Rebekah ’ s , where he has been working for six years .
Although Briggs still enjoys cooking , he has found that he especially enjoys supporting the cooks in advising roles and handling economic tasks . He has really embraced his current position as Catering Coordinator , which includes setting prices , looking at budgets , and tackling other fiscal tasks . Briggs ’ interest in economics has led him to pursue a degree in it , which he is six classes from completing . Long-term , Briggs would like to get a teaching credential for vocational education and teach in Rebekah ’ s vocational culinary program , with plans to remain there until he retires .
Briggs is very involved in the community in many other capacities . He has been a part of the Leadership Gilroy Board and Gilroy Sunrise Rotary Club Board . Briggs volunteers with students as a Jehovah ’ s Witness , and teaches classes in the community . He ’ s currently working on creating a Gilroy Leadership Youth Program that will teach youth to advocate for themselves . He encourages youth ,“ If you really apply yourself to getting to know the community , it ’ s easy to get involved . It ’ s a town where whatever you want to do , you can do it . You can get to know everyone ; you can make things happen .”
And that ’ s what Briggs is doing as a young professional — making things happen .
SUSAN VALENTA YOUTH LEADERSHIP : ALYSSA GONZALEZ
Alyssa Gonzalez , a senior at Dr . TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy , ( GECA ), received the Susan Valenta Youth Leadership Award for being a positive , inspirational person .
During a “ Week of Kindness ” at GECA when students wrote encouraging notes to peers and placed them in each other ’ s paper bags , Alyssa was shocked when a fellow student thanked her for her a positive mindset and standing up for social justice issues .
Alyssa inspired the student to speak up , too . Alyssa ’ s passion to be a positive influence and serve her community gets her up in the morning .
She has accomplished many things in her high school years , holding roles such as the Area 9 Director for Rotary ’ s Interact District 5170 , which has given her the opportunity to volunteer and serve in the Bay Area . As a member of GECA ’ s Honors Tribunal , she has strengthened her empathy skills and connected more deeply with other students on campus . Her kind and understanding attitude has encouraged her peers to come to her for support and advice .
Alyssa faced some struggles throughout high school , including feeling drowned out or inadequate when surrounded by other competent individuals . She navigated it by finding a passion and elevating her voice in the community . Alyssa believes that youth representation matters in life and in the community .
Alyssa encourages students to be the representation they want to see in the world . Alyssa also advises students to see every opportunity as a learning experience and suggests they try to get out of their comfort zones . Coming from a large family , Alyssa has also learned from her parents the importance of sharing and being willing to lend a helping hand . She understands that you never know what others may be going through and it ’ s better to uplift the morale of all those involved .
After graduating , in addition to continuing her hobby of Folkloric dancing , Alyssa plans to double-major in college in ethnic studies / sociology and biology . She will continue to be an activist for human rights and decreasing mental health stigmatization .
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