Tsering D. Alleyne
Redwood Community Action Agency, Youth Services Bureau
Humboldt County, Calif.
My Organization: The Youth Services Bureau (YSB) is a division of the Redwoods Community Action Agency, a community-based nonprofit that provides an array of services to low- and middle-income residents of Humboldt County in rural Northern California. YSB provides outreach, counseling and social services to at-risk youth and their families.
My Job: “My project is a brand-new position for the southern Humboldt area. I work with youths ages 12 to 21 who are at risk of dropping out of school or becoming homeless. The second half of my job is to start a rural host home shelter [for runaway youths] for the area I represent,” Alleyne said.
“My job description as a youth caseworker is ever-changing with the needs of individual youths. I am an academic tutor, a life skills coach, a mentor, an advocate, a social worker, a case manager and a conflict mediator on any given day.”
How I Got Here: Alleyne is a native of Humboldt County and returned to his home community after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in environmental sciences. Although he lacked formal education in social work or youth services, Alleyne’s local standing as an accomplished mountain biker and the organizer of an annual summer bike race earned him the job, he said.
“The real reason I was hired was for my local status,” said Alleyne. “I had a reputation in the community and I was well-liked.”
Best Part of My Job: “I love working with teenagers! That’s probably the best part,” Alleyne said. “It’s always exciting and it’s always different. It’s really fun to talk to teens about their future and help them work through the tough parts of their lives, and there is no greater reward than seeing them succeed, due in part to my efforts.”
Worst Part of My Job: “The paperwork never ends, especially with minors. There is always another signature needed or another bureaucratic hoop to jump through,” Alleyne said. “You have to [make a] case note [of] every single thing that you do.”
Most Memorable Moment: Alleyne recalls working with a severely depressed 14-year-old who had experienced the deaths of a number of family members. The teenager, who frequently skipped school and almost never bathed when Alleyne first met him, improved dramatically. “We went from where he barely showed up for school to getting him into a continuation school where he was actually finishing his lessons and showering regularly,” he said.
What Could Make My Job Better: “Collaboration,” Alleyne said. “Oftentimes I am working with other professionals – counselors, mental health professionals, the school nurse, child welfare service workers – and just better collaboration with all those involved in the youth services field would make a difference.”