EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
It seemed incomprehensible to Jimena Ibanez Martinez that young adults with so much potential would settle for low-wage jobs and little prospect of improving the quality of their lives. Yet, she saw it several times across the Highland Lakes.
However, as friends and colleagues will tell you, when Martinez sees an issue that concerns her, she starts looking for solution.
“There are so many young adults here in the Highland Lakes who don’t have the skills, or education, or know where to get them,” she said. “It’s hard, I know, but they just need to know where to get help.”
She and a core team opened A Good Start to give those ages 19-29 a boost toward a better life. Martinez and the A Good Start crew explained their plan April 12 to several community members during a grand opening of the nonprofit’s office at 705 First St., Suite 203, in Marble Falls.
A Good Start provides mentoring, coaching, resource connection, and educational services for young adults in Burnet, Blanco, and Llano counties. One of the things Martinez and outreach coordinator Nancy Ramirez discovered during the process of starting the nonprofit was that many young adults don’t know what resources are available to them, including educational opportunities, job training, or even how to get a driver’s license. Others might be aware of available financial assistance for education, but they don’t know where to look or how to apply for it.
Instead of moving forward in their education, career, or life, they flounder.
Martinez said young adults sometimes only need a little push to get outside their comfort zones.
“We need to learn their needs,” Ramirez added, “and find all the resources in the community and connect them with it.”
The plan is to work with high school dropouts, high school graduates who didn’t pursue higher education, single parents, DACA recipients, those looking to move away from a negative lifestyle, or just someone trying to become a more responsible person.
A Good Start office has several computers on which young adults can take online educational classes, work on resumes, and perform other similar activities. A big part of the program is mentoring and coaching. The staff provides for some of that, but Ramirez has put out the call to community members who have expertise they want to share with young adults.
Mentors could be career professionals who offer their knowledge or experiences or someone who can help young adults with goal setting and money management.
The program began taking shape about 10 years ago when Martinez started a nonprofit to help older adults better their lives. She soon realized many of the issues they faced started when they were younger.
She tucked the thought away, but it was always just below the surface. A few “coincidental” meetings with young adults who were letting life slip past them pushed Martinez to seriously consider a program for 19- to 29-year-olds.
Martinez worked with the 787 Collective from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary to help develop A Good Start. Initial funding came from the seminary through a Lilly Endowment Inc. grant.
It took about 18 months, Ramirez said, but A Good Start is up and running.
Now, she pointed out, it just needs young adults to take advantage of the programs and services. The staff has reached out to local schools, judges, residents, and community leaders to spread the word.
But the most important partners might be the parents and grandparents of A Good Start’s target demographic.
“Get them in here anyway you can, and we’ll help them,” Ramirez said.
Contact A Good Start at firstname.lastname@example.org or (830) 220-5066 for more information, or stop by the offices located near China Kitchen in Marble Falls.