Counselor Interview Transcripts:
Phase 2 of the Listening Campaign
Interviewee: Beatrice Torres, 32 year old El Salvadorian living in East Oakland, Youth Counselor at REACH
Interviewer: Maurice Jordan
I: [00:00:00:07] We are working with leaders from around the county to create a plan for bringing arts and creativity to all students at all schools every day across Alameda county. We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences so that we could make a plan that really works for you and your school/community. May we ask you a few questions?
BT: [00:00:00:23] Great.
I: [00:00:00:26] What is your name?
BT: [00:00:00:27] My name is Bea Torres.
I: [00:00:00:31] What is your role?
BT: [00:00:00:32] I am a youth counselor.
I:[00:00:00:36] Cool, your age and your gender?
BT: [00:00:00:38] I’m 32 and I am a woman.
I:[00:00:00:42] K, ethnicity and neighborhood.
BT: [00:00:00:44] I am Salvadorian, born and raised and I grew up, since I was 12 in Oakland, East Oakland.
I:[00:00:00:55] What makes your want to come to the reach center everyday?
BT: [00:00:00:58] Oh wow, there are so many things that make me want to come here everyday. I think that one of them is the youth and their potential. Its great to see how this center was actually an idea that came from young people and to actually be a part of it now that its here, I think it’s amazing. And talking to young people, like yourself actually and seeing young people do this kind of thing and really, you know being their leadership. I think it’s something that really motivates me to continue working with young people but also the space to be creative even as a counselor, you know how I do counseling, how I connect with young people, how I work with other leaders here, young and also other counselors, people in leadership. There’s so much going on in this space from like arts to counseling services, to you know career and employment. Theres never a dull moment here I think.
I: [00:00:02:09] Definitely. What does creativity mean to you?
BT: [00:00:02:13] I’ve been asked this question before. Creativity is expression, expression of yourself, expression of what you want to see happen in the world. That’s what it means to me. How you express yourself.
I: [00:00:02:34] Definitely. What ignites your creativity, imagination, and passion?
BT: [00:00:02:39] I think that hope does; hope for a better world even when things are great. The hope to make anything greater and be a part of that. The future of our children, the future of our young people, the impact that we can make today to make that future better. I think that’s what drives me.
I:[00:00:03:13] What ignites your… I don’t want to say patients because they’re not patients but like, the people that your counsel, their creativity, imagination, and passion.
BT: [00:00:03:29] Oh, I think their dreams. I think everyone has dreams that they are pursuing and I think that I see that a lot in the young people. Just having a vision of where they want to go and not necessarily just kinda sitting around and waiting for it to happen but making it happen and creating who they are and who they want to become. Yeah their dreams drive people.
I: [00:00:04:05] Well put. What can REACH do better to inspire your creativity?
BT: [00:00:04:15] Mine? As a counselor? Let’s see…what can they do better… I think flexibility would be a huge one for me and I think that has to do with capacity because we are a youth center, because we are expected to be in certain places at certain times, sometimes. Because we don’t have enough coverage, or because things like that; sometimes when people are out. So if we had enough coverage for everything that happens in the center then I think that would allow the people that work here to have more flexibility in terms of what we can do and when we can do it. Things like that.
I: [00:00:05:03] What do you think that REACH can do to better inspire the students creativity or the members creativity?
BT: [00:00:05:28] Well, one I think we need more programming for the older youth, so for 15 and up, more structure, maybe not structure is not the word, but definitely more programming.
I: [00:00:05:42] Yah, I could see that. What did you hope to accomplish when you decided to become a counselor and were you able to achieve this?
BT: [00:00:05:51] Oh wow, that’s a really big question. So since I started, I guess put in a lot of effort into what’s gonna help me become a counselor I knew that I wanted to work with youth involved in with the juvenile justice system and mainly because this is a system that, well not mainly, but actually because this is a system I don’t believe in and it has proven not to be the best approach to respond to behavioral issues that sometimes our young people of color face or go through in their developmental stages and it is a reality that their is a racial disproportionality in the juvenile justice system where we see more people of color getting arrested, and being placed in out of home settings (6:52-54??) white kids and privileged children. So I definitely wanted to work in a place where I could work with this amazing, talented young people, who for whatever reason were involved with the system. And have I achieved that goal? Well, I mean I think it’s a work in progress where I am still working on it. I am leading a group here at REACH, it’s called Youth On Beat. It stands for, so Youth on Beat, like music beats, but beats stands for building, educating, advance and transforming and it targets working with young people who are young and have made mistakes and are finding themselves involved with the system so the goal of this group is to help them derail from that path and be leaders in positive ways and become free of the system.
I: [00:00:07:54] That’s cool. I didn’t even know you had a program like that.
BT: [00:00:07:58] Yes, I could tell you all about it and I know your like… and music actually played a big role in coming up with the name cause it’s all about staying on beat and finding your rhythm in life and so that’s where BEAT came from and then it became and acronym and I thought that was pretty cool.
I: [00:00:08:14] Thats really cool, it stems from that. Whats your main goal as a counselor?
BT: [00:00:08:31] To support the advancement of young people and provide them with opportunities to experience the world in a positive way.
I: [00:00:08:54] What do you see as being the role of arts in educating young people?
BT: [00:00:09:00] That’s a good question. Let’s see. I strongly believe that arts is a… you know we were talking about creativity and how I believe that its the way your express yourself and arts allow you to do that. Whereas other settings, you know the traditional school setting or you know sometimes your jobs, you don’t have the opportunity to express yourself in creative ways. So I think that it is very cathartic to do that to like heal sometimes. You can express yourself through words, through writing, through dancing and there’s healing in that. There is like, you know you can incorporate culture in the arts. You see it all the time. So I think thats the role and I would say mainly around healing, providing that space for people to be themselves.
I: [00:00:09:57] Yeah, that’s really cool because in certain situations of just certain fields you’re set in like just, I guess not really a structure but you have to be fixated and do it, like stuff one way, like when you trying to implement like your own methods, its backlash to it but its cool that you have found a way to be able to do that. Do you use arts in your counseling methods and if so how do you use it?
BT: [00:00:10:29] Yes, absolutely. I think music is huge for me and it comes from a personal approach in coping with challenging situations. It’s one of my resilience so listening to music, singing, coming up to my own lyrics to a song that already exist and being funny and also music connects people and its actually a tool that I have always used to engage youth even those young people that sometimes you come across and their like “I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t know who you are. Why are you talking to me?” But if you can actually find a song that that person likes and connect with that person through that song or even if it opens up conversation but it really engages young people and older. It doesn't matter the age. Music is big and you learn so much about the person through music and what they like, what they don’t like. You learn about new, different cultures. So Youth On Beat actually, purposely utilizes music to engage young people. At every group that we have on Tuesdays we start the group with music and we allow young people to play their own music sometimes. It’s not the clean versions and we talk about those things. So we’re trying to set up a time to be in the studio because we are going to be having a discussion about substance abuse so we’re trying to utilize music to sort of like talk, look into how music or certain songs glorify the use of drugs, alcohol and it’s all cool, and it’s like the thing to do right? And so it can really like, make you think “Oh, this is the way to live life.” So engaging youth and that conversation, yes you can listen to this but is that real? Cause reality’s a lot different when you become, you know addiction is real and the challenges that come with addiction are real.
I: [00:00:12:32] Yah, cause music is healing but certain types of music you have to pick apart what you can run with so it’s kinda like you’re eating it but you have to know what to digest and what to exhale, you know?
BT: [00:00:12:46] I like that. Ohhh, would you be interested in joining the discussion?
I: [00:00:12:51] Yeah, I can come through.
BT: [00:00:12:52] I’ll let you know. So, its probably gonna be next week. We’re gonna be in the studio Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 and you’re welcome to join.
I: [00:00:12:58] Okay.
BT: [00:00:12:59] So, we’re probably just gonna… if you have lyrics that you know of that it’s like, you know, blame it on the alcohol, all these things that are just like, you know they’re cool and your dancing to them but if you really pay attention to the lyrics…
I: [00:00:13:12] No substance.
BT: [00:00:13:12] Yeah exactly.
I: [00:00:13:16] What’s working and what is not working? I guess they mean in terms of art and what you input into your method.
BT: [00:00:13:26] What’s working and what is not working… with what I do or like in general?
I: [00:00:13:32] I guess both. Whichever one you want to answer but you could do both if you want to.
BT: [00:00:13:39] I think whats working is that we have resources. We have amazing, talented artist in the space. (13:53-55 ?? We have Joaquin Jard??) we have young people like yourself. I feel like, I’ll go back to like maybe a project based approach. I think you guys do have that. Maybe you’ve been involved in some of them but having it ongoing where there are projects throughout the year that people can actually go engage in and we can see the outcome.
I: [00:00:14:22] What gaps exist and what needs do they have?
BT: [00:00:14:33] And this is related to Arts? So specially are we talking about arts and creativity with the gaps? Maybe funding. I think funding to pay our young people to make sure they are compensated for their work, is a huge gap right now. I think that there are some (14:54 grants? grips ??) that we may have but not enough. I feel like young people have many talents that sometimes because you have to keep a job, or you really don’t have the time to take it to the next level and I feel like if we had the funding we could pay young people to express themselves through art. We will have some artist around here.
I:[00:00:15:18] We definitely would.
BT: [00:00:15:21] You would be one of them, I bet.
I: [00:00: Definitely. I would. Thank you. What barriers/obstacles to this work, wait what, What barriers/obstacles to this work, I don’t know if that was a typo.
BT: [00:00:15:38] I guess what barriers we face or obstacles? Again, I will say the funding to pay young people. That would be one thing that I feel strong about that I can think of right now.
I: [00:00:15:59] What resources do you find valuable?
BT: [00:00:16:03] Wait, going back to the barrier- Language would be one, a big one. I think that we have a lot of more bilingual Spanish speaking members that if we have more staff that speak Spanish that would be, I know when Rosa was here she was bilingual. I know that Joaquin and George try their best with their Spanish. So I think more, that would be a barrier.
I: [00:00:16:36] Definitely, cause they were able to bride a gap and then once Rosa left you see there’s the African American members and then there’s the Latino/Latina members and some of them are able to come togethers and have conversations but for the most part everybody's in their own select groups. Everything is separated. I remember when REACH first opened; everybody would interact with everybody and I feel like it’s not a lot of that anymore so that’s definitely. I feel like it we get some more bilingual people, I guess counselors or employees here it would be really cool so you can bridge that gap back. It would be cool.
BT: [00:00:17:21] Mmhm. That’s interesting that you’ve noticed that. Huh… Would you be interested in taking the lead? at least you’re in the studio right?
I: [00:00:17:30] Yah.
BT: [00:00:17:30] And that’s where you’ve seen it. Where like, you know like, so the Latino kids are…
I: [00:00:17:33] Well, I mean in the studio…cause like when I’m in the studio I’m like literally I’m not, if i’m in there I’m in the back in the actual studio, not really in the actual media center part but I was saying all around REACH. Even when I go to the gym, its still separated, ya know? Which I mean, I get because when people work out their there for themselves but sometimes their there with people. Yeah, its like usually a separation type of thing. What do you see the students or members learning?
BT: [00:00:18:07] What do I see them learning in the Arts? Again, its so hard to like, the arts, REACH or…?
I: [00:00: 18:18] Well, I guess overall REACH but in specific, the arts of REACH. So it doesn't really have to be just the media center. I guess that the programs that they do outside of REACH last week when they did the Martin Luther King thing, or the Black History.
BT: [00:00:18:37] I think that learning, being exposed to opportunities that if REACHwasn't here they probably wouldn’t be exposed to. I think that what REACH brings is accessibility to the Arts. You know, like, some people have to pay for this thing or some people never experience it because it’s so expensive. Their parents can't cover summer camps and things like that so I think that I see them being exposed to opportunities that can enhance their coping skills in life, right? So when you’re going through tough situations you can come to REACH and go to the studio and make some music as opposed to not having that and then the alternative being, being in the streets and doing something else.
I: [00:00:19:38] Yah, I get your point of view on that too cause I know that if REACH wasn’t here I’d still be like doing some type of music cause my brother has all the gear at his house. I would eventually, not eventually but every so often I would spend the night there and just work on music there. But I got my lap top here because they did a raffle. Like my first lap top. I got it because I pulled the right ticket, so I got a free lap top here.
BT: [00:00:20:00] Nice.
I: [00:00:20:01] Yeah. I perfected my craft in the studio. Rosa logged like 300 hours that I was in there when I was 17 so this place actually helped me become what I am.
BT: [00:00:20:16] Well you’re definitely an inspiration to continue being here.
I: [00:00:20:21] Definitely. Do you believe our mission that by 2022, each and every child in Alameda County Public schools is successfully engaged in creative and active learning both in and out of school in preparation for college career and community life?
BT: [00:00:20:52] Do I believe in that? By 2022? Every student in Alameda county. Let me read it. It helps me, so by 2022, each and every child in Alameda County Public schools is successfully engaged in creative and active learning both in and out of school in preparation for college career and community life. It’s 2017, so that will be 5 more years? Yes. Is my math failing me?
I: [00:00:21:31] Yes that’s right, that’s right.
BT: [00:00:21:40] Thats a lot of students. Yes and no. I think I would love for that to happen. I see many challenges that I hope we can overcome. Capacity is one of them, the funding to pay counselors, artists, provide quality. Not only because the engagement part, when there is engagement and engage in creative and active learning both in and out of school in preparation for college career and community life. I feel like that you know that requires a lot of time, effort in the services for lack of better word and to be quality services, to have the resources if people want to be recording music. We have the recording equipment here but we don’t have it in every school. And if people want to record you have to pay money and not everyone can afford that. So a lot challenges there but I think that there are many steps that are being taken in that direction already. But sadly I don’t think that every student, in every school by 2022 will be there. I gotta think about the kids who get the system, the school system in terms of some kids are getting suspended and expelled and up in Juvenile Hall so what about that population? There are so many challenges I see. Maybe that’s sad because I’m being a little pessimistic but I can see work being done towards that goal but I don’t know. I don’t know.
I: [00:00:23:44] Yah. I wouldn’t say it’s pessimistic. I’d say its actually being realistic because there are a lot of variables in life opposed to just a dream, which is cool but it takes more that somebody just putting it into the air like saying that because every… I guess that’s a reaction so you have to take action for that. So everybody has to be on board for that. That’s something you have to actually plan and execute. There’s always going to be an opposing side. So I feel like its possible but by 2022. I wouldn’t say it’s not possible by 2022 but that’s kinda like a stretch, not a stretch I’d say but more time because everybody would have to be on board for that.
BT: [00:00:24:36] Right, because it also saying at school and out of school. So that means keeping young people, every student engaged even after school hours when in certain communities there’s nothing. So we’d have to build a whole bunch of REACH buildings all over.
I: [00:00: 24:55] That would be cool, that would be so cool. And then the last question is then do you believe that the arts help prepare students for a better future?
BT: [00:00:25:04] Absolutely, yes, talking about the healing that we were mentioning earlier. I really do believe that the arts heal and provide the space for young people to be themselves where…because life is tough and you are not allowed to be creative everywhere you go. So systems really want to be traditional and keep you going like a machine and so I think that if every student can access programs in the Arts we will have becomes outcomes in the lives of those young people.
I: [00:00:25:23] Yah, It’s that box that like everything supposed to just stay strictly like this. I don’t know. People don’t like change. People want change but they don’t want change. It doesn’t make sense.
BT: [00:00:26:02] It makes them uncomfortable.
I: [00:00:26:03] That was the end of the interview. That was cool. Thank you.
BT: [00:00:26:10] Thank you. That was cool. I liked that.
Interviewee: Vassi Jorie, 45 year old Asian Indian, Reach staff member; Health and Wellness team member
Interviewer: Terris Ricks
I: [00:00:00:25] We are working with leaders from around the county to create a plan for beginning arts and creativity to all students at schools every day across Alameda county. We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences so we can make a plan that really works for you, your school and community. May we ask you a few questions?
V: [00:00:00:45] (inaudible)
I: [00:00:00:46] Can you please state your name for me?
V: [00:00:00:47] Vassi Jorie
I[00:00:00:50] Your age?
V: [00:00:00:51] I am 45.
I: [00:00:00:54] Your gender?
V: [00:00:00:55] I am gender queer.
I: [00:00:00:58] Your ethnicity?
V: [00:00:00:59] I am Asian Indian.
I: [00:00:01:02] And your neighborhood?
V: [00:00:01:05] I live in Oakland.
I: [00:00:01:08] What does creativity mean to you?
V: [00:00:01:15] Creativity is life force. I feel like creativity is the creation of everything, from how earth came to be to how we survive and to how we thrive. So creativity feels… even though we live in a world that acts like arts or creativity is an extra; I think creativity is a fundamental.
I: [00:00:01:46] Okay. What makes you want to go to work everyday?
V: [00:00:01:50] The thing that I love about REACH and it does have to do with creativity is the ability to make and do something different and new for young people and their communities.
I: [00:00:02:05] What brings forth your creativity, your imagination and your passion?
V: [00:00:02:13] What brings it forth?
I: [00:00:02:15] Mmmhmm.
V: [00:00:02:17] I think it’s just something that I tap into most of the time so if I’m not imaging or trying to figure out how to do something different or thinking about that place in between that hasn’t been talked about yet then I feel bored.
I: [00:00:02:37] Yeah, okay. So kinda boredom brings it out for you. Being bored brings out your creativity?
V: [00:00:02:45] Yeah. Yeah like I feel a little dead inside.
I: [00:00:02:51] What brings out your students creativity, or imagination or passion?
V: [00:00:02:57] Relationship, acceptance, safety, the ability to explore without judgement. Those kinds of things.
I: [00:00:03:13] What can your school do or REACH do better to inspire creativity?
V: [00:00:03:27] I think that we could ask young people more about what it is that makes them feel electric. Like sometimes I think the adults here still get stuck in like “We have something for you.”, and we’re not engaging young people at creatively as much as we could.
I: [00:00:03:50] So in just making programs around what you think is good for them and what you might like so you want to…
V: [00:00:03:56] Like I think we make assumptions.
I: [00:00:03:58] Yeah, instead of really asking them.
V: [00:00:04:01] Totally. Yeah or being in there with them. You know like… yeah.
I: [00:00:04:07] Okay. What can REACH do better to inspire your students creativity?
V: [00:00:04:19] So if we’re here at REACH should I think about that question in terms of…
I: [00:00:04:26] What can you do to inspire the REACH members creativity?
V: [00:00:04:30] I think we could be more relevant. Like again, I think that in some ways we offer what we… in some ways I think sometimes we can be a little, and I don’t mean this like anyone intentions but we end up being a little lazy and I think that we could really listen to what is interesting, relevant, important, critical for young people and try to meet them there.
I: [00:00:05:03] What did you hope to accomplish when you decided to work here and were you able to achieve this with the member?
V: [00:00:05:10] God that’s a big question. Before I worked here I worked at Juvenile Hall on the girls unit and what was hard was I felt like I was always catching crisis and I felt like a lot of young people were going over a cliff and I wasn’t able to stop it. So what I really was excited about REACH was that it was a place of hope and possibility and dreams and that I could be a part of offering people that as opposed to catching where they’re struggling. We still do that but…And I feel like we do that maybe 60%, like people walk into this building and they’re like “Whaaaaaat!?” ya, know? But I think that we look good but I think we could have more substance in that area. And that’s just maybe gonna take time.
I: [00:00:06:08] I mean, you guys \been around for awhile but it’s still kinda fairly new.
V: [00:00:06:12] Totally and we keep learning. “Well that didn’t really work, maybe this.”
I: [00:00:06:19] What is your main goal working here?
V: [00:00:06:24] The things I care about the most are that young people understand that they could have a network of people to support them throughout their lives. I also want young people to feel their power. And I would also want young people to have more skills and tools including resilience to face the world, which is a pretty hard place.
I: [00:00:06:52] What do you see as being the role of arts in educating young people?
V: [00:00:07:00] I think arts for education and for health and wellness is like a totally necessary part of the picture because young people get engaged, they feel themselves, they feel creative, they feel imaginative. They have fun and through that they’re really pumped to be a part of it. As opposed to getting bored, not understanding the relevance. I think that art has just such a major part to play in how young people find themselves and figure themselves out.
I: [00:00:07:35] Do you and how do you use arts in your job?
V: [00:00:07:43] I don’t use arts in my job and much as I wish. I love to work with the arts team. I think that I’m a musician myself and then I do art on my own, like visual arts. I wish I was doing more of that here but I definitely support it.
I: [00:00:08:05] Okay, how would you incorporate it if you did?
V: [00:00:08:08] I think, well one way maybe that I do do it is like I’m a visual thinker so when I think about a model or something that we’re trying to implement or do I usually try to think about what it looks like and it usually comes in pictures and symbols and images. So I think the way that I think is a little like 3D holographic, moving picture type situation.
I: [00:00:08:41] So what do you feel like it working and what do you feel like is not working?
V: [00:00:08:47] About what I do?
I: [00:00:08:48] Yep.
V: [00:00:08:49] In particular? I feel like, so I work with the Health and Wellness team and I feel like the Health and Wellness team handles a lot of heavy shit. Sorry, heavy stuff. So I feel like we equally need to be in engaged in fun, creative things both for young people and for ourselves. So I would just dial that up. (9:14 ??) if we could.
I: [00:00:09:16] So not just focusing on the bad but you know, kinda…
V: [00:00:09:20] Yeah and even using like arts and creativity to come out of the bad. You know be able to like recover.
I: [00:00:09:28] What gaps exist and what needs do they have?
V: [00:00:09:34] So I think one of the biggest ones is we have a pretty big team and we could benefit from having more people being able to do some of what we do so that we can, like we might be spread a little bit to thin. Yeah. So that might be a gap that we just need to get everybody on the same page and we’re working on that but I think that way then there would be less pressure on the Health and Wellness team.
I: [00:00:10:08] What barriers or obstacles happen at work?
V: [00:00:10:15] I mean one thing that I think about a lot is that we have a pretty vibrant young population of young people here. But I’m really looking for how we can support older youth. So like fifteen and up, and then really eighteen and up. And I feel like that’s a place where we really have to listen even harder about what our young people of those ages really wanting and needing.
I: [00:00:10:45] What resources do you find valuable?
V: [00:00:10:51] A big resource is I feel like adults who work here are super committed and really care about young people. I feel like young people who come here also feel really committed and I love that REACH was built with young people throwing down around the vision. I think that we have, even though we’re, so were probably a government agency. I know we have a lot of big partners in the space. Sometimes that can be hard because really big organizations are slow but at the same time it means a little bit more stability, maybe a little bit more resource and money available than like a … I think we have opportunities that other folks may not always have.
I: [00:00:11:44] What resources do you not have that you would find valuable?
V: [00:00:11:48] I think the flip side of what I just said is like sometimes when you have a few more resources you might get less imaginative. Right? Or less creative.
I: [00:00:11:59] Yeah, if you have everything.
V: [00:00:12:00] Exactly, right or you have a whole bunch of… or you might get a little less… like you may not feel like you have to work as quickly. You know and so I think those are places where I wish we could kinda dial it up a little.
I: [00:00:12:20] What do you see the members here learning?
V: [00:00:12:27] Well one of the biggest things I think they’re learning is how to be themselves and be in connection with each other. I think they’re learning how to try to undo some of the weird messages they get out in the world. So like, to feel like they get to be accepted even when they’re learning something new or that they get to kinda take risks even though that is harder in other settings. And I think that they’re just getting also basic skills in our different services areas. And my hope is that they’re learning that we really care about them or believe in them or want them to succeed.
I: [00:00:13:11] Do you believe our mission by 2022, each and every child in Alameda county public schools is successfully engaged in creative and active learning both in and out of school in preparation for college career and community life?
V: [00:00:13:38] I do believe in the idea of that goal. I would love that and…
I: [00:00:13:48] Do you feel like we’re making the right steps, though too?
V: [00:00:13:48] I think that we have a great team and the people that work inside of these partnerships are great team. I think we have a little bit of a set back with this Trump administration. So we’re gonna have to deal with that but do I feel like people are committed? Yeah. Yeah.
I: [00:00:14:04] Okay. So do you believe the arts help prepare students for a better future?
V: [00:00:14:12] Like 200%, like 500%. I think of just, I mean if I want to get just really all about me I wouldn’t be here without arts and I think most of us could say that. Yeah.
I: [00:00:14:26] Okay. Thank you, those are all the questions.
V: [00:00:14:28] Thank you, yeah, thanks for doing it. I really appreciate that you are doing this.