Writing her legacy | NevadaAppeal.com

Writing her legacy

■ Taylor Pettaway | tpettaway@nevadaappeal.com
21-year-old Pamela Rhine, one of the first residents of the Ventana Sierra home, prepares a meal Friday. Ventana Sierra Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, provides independent living, vocational training, and resources that allow disadvantaged youth to further their education toward career goals and become productive members of society.
Brad Coman / Nevada Appeal | Brad Coman / Nevada Appeal

VENTANA SIERRA BY THE NUMBERS:

Housed 23 youths–10 girls, 13 boys

Helped 19 kids attain employment

Helped 15 kids enter college

Helped 2 kids graduate high school

Helped 3 kids prepare for General Educational Development tests

Gathered, sorted and distributed over 4,000 pounds of clothing among those in need

Helped families find sponsors for their kids for Christmas and Thanksgiving

Created the Food Box program to deliver fresh produce, canned food and cooked meals to 20 local families-in-need, once a week

One local author has found a way to help at-risk and struggling youth in Carson City.

New York Times bestselling young adult author Ellen Hopkins created Ventana Sierra, a non-profit organization, to help at-risk youth who were aging out of the foster system, so she created a housing program to help get them off of the streets and help get them into college.

“For me, I see young people who have a lot of potential but who have no way to fulfill that,” Hopkins said.

She decided that she needed to open Ventana Sierra in 2013 after hearing about a young boy’s story at one of her book speaking events. A teacher told her of a Truckee boy who had been living homeless for about a year, but was so engaged and committed to his education that he still came to school every day, regardless that he didn’t have a place to go at night.

“It struck me that there were ambitious young people who didn’t have resources to help them,” Hopkins said. “I want to help in any way to give back to these kids that need help.”

At its opening in June 2013, Ventana Sierra consisted of two houses, a boys and a girls quarters, where kids can have a place to stay. Hopkins and her volunteers help the kids with things such as obtaining their GEDs and going to college. To date, the organization has helped about 25 kids improve their lives and education.

Hopkins said the organization often runs into resistance from kids who come into their organization.

“I have come to understand this population,” Hopkins said. “It’s hard for them to accept health and they feel like since they are 18, they think they are adults.”

Another problem Hopkins sees is the girls in the program. Currently, the girl’s house is empty.

“The problem we found with girls is their way of feeling loved or wanted is boys,” Hopkins said. “It is hardest to keep them in the program because they are all for boys. And they fall in love, and one even got pregnant, so they don’t want to continue the program anymore.”

However, the girl’s house won’t be empty for long, Hopkins is expanding the Ventana Sierra organization to help more than just foster kids. She is going to start the girl’s house as a home for single moms for girls who aren’t able to live on their own with a child. The organization will help them gain employment, as well as teach them valuable skills such as budgeting, child care etc. If the mothers don’t choose to go through school during the program, they can stay in the house for about nine months, longer if they decide to continue to pursue their education.

Ventana Sierra also has expanded to helping more than just kids. Hopkins said that they now help collect and provide food, school supplies and clothes for needy families in Carson City, Dayton, and Gardnerville. Community members can also participate for free in the classes that they teach to single moms, starting Sept. 1.

“We are trying to help recognize needs in the community and help them,” Hopkins said.

To apply to live at Ventana Sierra, children need to visit http://ventanasierra.org to fill out an application and bring it to their headquarters. Applicants can also email it to Kelly at kelly@ventanasierra.com. For more information visit the website or call 775-384-2290.