Meet Our Staff: Denisze Zermeno
By: Zack Johnston
One of StandUp For Kids' newest staff members in Orange County, California is quickly on her way to becoming one of its most valued.
Denisze Zermeno is the site coordinator for the Anaheim mentoring and S.T.E.M. programs. She started that position in June after a four-month mentoring internship in Huntington Beach.
Her volunteering experience includes other non-profits and working with elementary and preschool students, but working with StandUp For Kids has offered her something more.
When she was first getting started, she worked closely with another StandUp mentor, Brittany, who showed her things like conducting intakes and street outreach.
“I could not have been luckier as she is a mentor whose leadership is demonstrated through her work and dedication,” Denisze said.
As the Anaheim site coordinator, Denisze works with kids ages 12-18, coming up with weekly lesson plans and ways to expand the program and help more kids. In addition to running the Anaheim program, she still is a mentor to some of the older youths and still does street outreach.
Denisze is currently mentoring a 17-year-old who she meets with during the week to talk about goals and to be there for emotional support. They also look for jobs and rooms available to rent.
“This is essentially important for me as a mentor. I want to create a strong bond with my mentee. My goal is for her to see me as a friend and to feel free to reach out whenever she needs me,” Denisze said.
Her favorite things about mentoring are: getting to build a strong support network with those in the program, getting to learn from the other mentors, and seeing the positive transformation that the youth go through in the program.
However, being such a dedicated mentor comes with its disadvantages. Some of the challenges Denisze encounters are: not letting personal emotions get in the way of her ability to help her mentees and feeling helpless when she doesn’t have all the answers her mentee needs.
Still though, for Denisze it’s about looking at the bigger picture and seeing what’s really important.
“I would tell people that when they are in their comfortable and warm bed, to imagine all of that being taken away. To try and imagine how a youth feels knowing they do not have a safe place to sleep. Days can go by without eating a healthy meal,” Denisze said.
She believes it’s important for people to stay informed on issues that most affect homeless youth like healthcare and mental health, and to reach out to our elected officials who can make a difference.
On top of being the center coordinator, Denisze is a full-time student at Cal State Fullerton studying elementary education. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, having dinner with her friends and family, and spending time with her wife.
It’s people like Denisze that make possible the amazing work that StandUp For Kids does. Donations and supplies can go a long way, but volunteers with same level of compassion and leadership as Denisze Zermeno are what really make StandUp For Kids a force for change.