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Naming Names

NorthBay biz asked business and community leaders to share their picks for young people making a difference.


Andrew McNeil, principal at Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma, has embraced the concept of shifting his own company’s culture and is leading the charge by helping other employers do the same. His efforts resulted in many positive changes and are attracting a lot of promising talent to the employers he serves. Andrew believes that a unique company culture is what will attract and retain the workforce of the future.

Millennials want to feel good about where they work, believe in the purpose and mission of their employer, feel appreciated and have fun at the same time. To many millennials, this is worth more than money and traditional benefits. Companies late in figuring this out will have a hard time competing for the workforce they need. —Karen Alary, the Personnel Perspective

Hugo Que was born in Mexico and came to the United States at the age of five. His parents had one message for him and his sisters: “We came to this country for a better future, and that future is through education.” In 2009, Hugo graduated from Terra Linda High school and attended CSU Stanislaus where he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems.

During his time in college, Hugo became involved in various organizations that helped him find his voice. In his last year in college, he worked directly with University President Dr. Joseph F. Sheley to help create a more welcoming campus for undocumented students. Hugo was awarded the CSU Stanislaus Humanitarian Award for his efforts helping students achieve their educational goal on campus and throughout the community.

College helped Hugo see and understand the need to return to his community and support families hoping to achieve the same goal he had—to attend and graduate from a four-year university. Hugo now works with 10,000 Degrees, a college access and success program, where he was a participant in 2008. Hugo wants to continue the work he’s doing through 10,000 Degrees and bring it to additional communities throughout California. —Rich Rhodes, 10,000 Degrees

Before employment, Eliseo Rivas first volunteered with our organization. He quickly gained our trust with hias diligence, discipline, commitment and excellent communication. As a volunteer, he was charged with (and completed!) an in-depth community research project that required warmth, detailed note taking and the ability to connect quickly and professionally with community and government leaders throughout the county.

As an employee, Eliseo's primary responsibilities are to lead all of LGBTQ Connection's programming for youth, schools and families. This includes recruiting, training and facilitating the youth leadership team; planning and hosting a youth support/empowerment group and transgender youth support/empowerment group; planning and hosting numerous youth and multi-generational community events (like a youth-led dance, transgender community fair and a community support gathering in response to the Orlando shooting tragedy); all of our family acceptance work (family conference, workshops, one-on-one support, community outreach for families struggling to understand their child's LGBTQ identity); and trainings for human services organizations and professionals to increase awareness and commitment to LGBTQ inclusion and care.

Eliseo also supports teachers and students to run Gay Straight Alliance clubs on a number of middle and high school campuses throughout Napa County. And because we’re a two-staff nonprofit, he’s also a partner in running the entire program. —Ian Stanley, LGBTQ Connection Napa Sonoma

Jessica A. Zambrano is the epitome of a leader in the making. At age 16, she took on the role of caregiver to her younger siblings, picked up two jobs and tried to stay in high school through Independent Studies. When two jobs couldn’t make ends meet, she stopped high school and got a third job. By the time she was 17, she was out of school, working three jobs and was lucky to get a few hours of sleep at night.

After recommitting herself to her education, Jessica graduated from Gateway to College Academy, a Santa Rosa Junior College “Middle College High School” at the Petaluma campus, while simultaneously enrolled in college classes and working on campus in various capacities. At every opportunity, she’s raised the bar of excellence—from her incomparable work ethic to the creative initiatives that she’s implemented at SRJC Petaluma and the Gateway to College Academy to improve young adult experiences. She’s been described as a guide and advocate, and will undoubtedly be a Sonoma County mover-and-shaker in years to come.

With a resilient attitude and relentless spirit, Jessica has used her struggles to develop strength. Sonoma County community members will one day thank Jessica for her tremendous accomplishments, which will increase equity and improve the overall quality of life for future generations. —Frank Chong, Santa Rosa Junior College

Angela Beran, currently an administrative aide, and Natasha Ornelas, a human services aide, are both bright, have excellent judgement, are capable with technology and have outstanding attitudes.They make life easier by anticipating obstacles and practicing good interpersonal and communication skills.

Luz Dias is another human services aide who’s bright and thoughtful, but in her case, is also really good at uniting people. She’s friendly and kind, shows up and delivers, and has a powerful work ethic (while working two jobs!). I believe Luz is going to be a role model for many people, particularly people in crisis. —Jessica Taylor, Sonoma County Job Link

Shannon Beritzhoff manages one of our busiest offices, as measured by the number of total monthly transactions. Our business [electronic security] is very serious—we work 24 hours per day, 365 days per year keeping people and places safe—ands Shannon is completely professional and very serious about her responsibilities while deporting herself with great humor, humility and care for her employees. She fosters a collegial working environment and is engaged in the community. She has the respect of senior leadership, her colleagues and employees. Shannon is extremely bright and positively energetic. She’s a very strong leader and capable today with progressive ideas. I believe she will only get better as she gains experience. I can easily see Shannon running First Alarm someday. —Gary Kallman, First Alarm




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