YES Press Release – YES Celebrates 45 Years Serving OC Youth, Honors Outstanding Students

Youth Employment Services Celebrates 45 Years Serving OC Youth, Honors Outstanding Students
“I take my YES skills with me everywhere”

NEWPORT BEACH, CA (November 10, 2015) – In a surprise twist for close to 300 guests, Youth Employment Service’s honored outstanding Orange County students with more than $20,000 in scholarships, changing the paths of six young lives.

To celebrate 45 years of supporting OC youth, Youth Employment Service (YES) honored two students in the Arts, Community Service and Entrepreneurism. Newport Harbor High School student Hugo Morales and Laguna College of Art and Design student Alexandra Tortoise each were awarded $2500 scholarships from YES, along with sponsors Homes by D.W Cowles and Power Connections. The other four finalists were: Fernando Perez, Estancia High School; Catherine Pimentel, Costa Mesa High School; Wendy Gracie, Laguna College of the Arts; and Jonathan Duenas, Cal State Fullerton. All students received a Certificate of Recognition from Assemblyman Matthew Harper.

In an unexpected, generous gesture of support, Mastercraft Residential and an anonymous donor pledged additional funds, so all six students each received a total of $3500 in scholarships.

High School Scholarship Recipient Hugo Morales shared how art changed his life. “In a dark rime, art is what helped the boy, and art saved his life.” Hugo was one of the first art students to take AP Studio Art as a junior and is Club President.

College Scholarship Recipient Alyxandra Tortorise created Starfysh Wetsuits, which produces completely reversible wetsuits with removable sleeves and legs. Her entrepreneurial venture is focused on producing all products in America to support local jobs and sustainable practices. She also was awarded an IPad Mini from ThinkinBig Communications. “It is such an honor to be picked as the winner for this year’s YES scholarship. Getting a business off the ground, and producing a new idea, has been a daunting task. Not only does the recognition give me confidence to move forward…I am now able to pay in full a small investment that was given to me. This is my first seed money for Starfysh Wetsuits, and I can’t explain how much this helps further my career and endeavor.”

Featured speaker Lauren Buangan shared how her YES experience prompted her to create a video about YES (showcased at the event) for a film class that won a social issues scholarship. “I take my YES skills everywhere with me,” she explained. “As part of the application process to UCLA’s theater program, which has a 4.2% acceptance rate, an interview was required. I am proud to say I am part of that 4.2% and attend UCLA as a theater student. I am positive that it was not only my stellar resume, originally formatted by YES, but the interview that tipped the scales in my favor.” Lauren was hired by Aaron Brothers in 2010 within several weeks of completing the YES program, where she continued to work for four and a half years while earning her undergraduate degree.

“We are proud to be celebrating 45 years of service in Costa Mesa, serving Orange County. We are working hard to make sure we are around for another 45 years. Our board of directors and staff are committed to growing, expanding and evolving the organization,” pledged YES Board President John Hobson.


An Evening of Excellence, held at the Radisson Hotel Newport Beach, is the major annual fundraiser for YES. To celebrate its 45th year of supporting Orange County youth, YES honored remarkable students with scholarships and awards selected from the areas of the Arts, Community Service and Entrepreneurism. The evening mirrored YES’s mission to teach youth and young adults ages 16-24 the skills needed to secure and maintain meaningful employment, and to offer programs that help young people improve their employability, career choices and quality of life.

More than 80 donated auction items and sponsorships generated tens of thousands of dollars to continue providing skills-and life-based training for OC youth.

Gold Sponsors included Park Newport Apartments; Freedom Innovations; Straddling, Yucca, Carlson & Rauth.

Founded in 1970, YES is a locally chartered, community-based, non-profit organization. YES provides a customized curriculum that fosters opportunities for personal growth, self-discovery, maturity and accelerated career exploration. Given Orange County’s 2013 youth unemployment rate was 29.3% and 11.5% for ages 16 to 19 and 20 to 24, respectively, compared to 6.5% for the county as a whole, the need for YES services is immense. In partnership with more than 200 employers, YES collaborates with Orange County schools and youth-serving organizations to help young adults develop skills that enhance employability, while providing local companies access to trained resources.

Photos available.


Wendy Weeks, Executive Director

Wendy Cullen, Board Member