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Project Cornerstone brings community together to help children become thriving adults

Project Cornerstone brings community together to help children become thriving adults

In these times, coming together as a community to support youth is important.

Project Cornerstone started in 1999 with the goal of making all youth feel valued and respected as well as to help them grow to be responsible and caring adults, said Ziem Nguyen Neubert, the executive director of Project Cornerstone.

The initiative works with schools, local organizations and families to implement programs that focus on social and emotional well-being. The programs are backed by research into what support young people need and how to assist in their social and emotional learning.

"We're trying to create an environment that's safe and positive and supportive so that all these kids feel like 'no matter what I'm going through, no matter where I'm at — in my neighborhood, at the library, at school, at sports or whatever — I have people I can go to and I have some skills that I can practice to stand up for myself, stand up for others, spread kindness and build this positivity,'" Neubert said

Honoring the community

On March 17, Project Cornerstone will host its annual Asset Champions Breakfast to recognize individuals, schools and organizations that have improved young people's lives. Members of the public are welcome to attend and can expect youth entertainment, a keynote speaker, breakfast and a presentation of seven awards: Adult Role Model, Community Values Youth, Positive Peer Influence, Positive Cultural Identity and Caring School Climate for a PreK-elementary, middle and high school. 

"When you go to (the event), you get so inspired because you learn about these other organizations and people that are in your community," said Rona Brodrick, development and communications coordinator at Project Cornerstone. "We just want to feel good. We just want something positive."

This year will be the first in-person breakfast since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are really looking forward to re-connecting with everyone to build our community, share stories and inspire one another in ways that support youth," Neubert said in a news release.

The program will be emceed by Maribel Martínez of Santa Clara's Division of Equity and Social Justice and Fremont High School student Saisujan Kotakonda. Entertainment includes a performance from El Grito de la Cultura.

The keynote speaker will be professor and author Dr. Victor Rios, who educates communities on how to support young people who experience poverty, stigma and social exclusion. Using his experiences with being incarcerated as a juvenile and his research, Rios will share a story of transformation and connection to the youth in the community.

Project Cornerstone's focus on young people and on honoring those who help them has been particularly important in the tumult of the past few years.

"We've always been about youth and supporting them. And for these last few years it is even more clear that children need us," Brodrick said. "Children need those caring adults, they need the organizations, they need these schools, and they need these teachers and parents and clubs and whatnot to support them."

Tickets to the event, which will be community-building and celebratory, are available on Eventbrite until March 2. A live, simultaneous interpretation to Spanish will be available.

"Now, more than ever, kids need these tools that we are providing," Neubert said. "Now more than ever, we come together and celebrate."

YMCA Project Cornerstone is a community initiative with the mission to create an environment where adults support and value all youth so they grow up to be healthy, caring, and responsible adults..