Gerardo Meza-Perez in 2016
As a student at Sonoma Valley High School, Gerardo Meza-Perez participated in Teen Services’ Ready to Work program, where he learned about work etiquette, preparing a resume, money management, and how to successfully interview. Following the program, Gerardo began looking for a job, but ran into some difficulty as he was only 15, and most employers were looking for someone older. Several attempts were unsuccessful, so Gerardo thought he would have to wait, but he was ready just in case.
Eileen Keister had been in the insurance business for 25 years, and had her sights on building an agency of her own in the community of Sonoma. The opportunity arose to buy a practice, and she opened her new Farmers Insurance office on Highway 12. She came into Teen Services to inquire about hiring staff that could learn and grow with her along the way. Gerardo’s name immediately came up as someone who was energetic, ambitious, and perfect for the job.
Fast-forward a few months later and Gerado now tackles some of the hardest marketing tasks at the business, like going to door-to-door with marketing materials (often at the risk of neighborhood dogs!), and making phone calls to build community awareness. To Gerardo, learning about the inner-workings of a small business has been interesting and invaluable—he’s seen first-hand how you have to build a business from the ground up and work every day to lay groundwork for success.
When starting her business, it was important to Eileen to have employees that her customers would know and like, as well as people that she could continue to work with over time. She’s found all of that in Gerardo, who continues to work hard on her marketing and community engagement efforts.
This year is Gerado’s junior year and he’s able to adjust his work schedule around school commitments, often working a few hours on the weekends. Eileen says that Gerado has a job no matter what—as long as he can work his schedule around school. This provides him with a rare opportunity: having an employer in his corner so that he can focus on school, while building valuable stepping-stones to a successful career path. Gerado has dreams of going to Junior College, or a University of California campus, for Game and Media Design.
Text by Meghan Marsh King