When Ana Tafolla arrived in Marin as a teenager, she began high school in San Rafael and joined the afterschool program for newcomers at Canal Alliance. Today, Ana is Senior Manager for Social Services and leads a critical new initiative for newly arrived immigrant youth known as Opportunity for Youth (OFY).
With support and services provided by Canal Alliance, Ana received an undergraduate degree in psychology from San Francisco State University and obtained work authorization through DACA. In May 2021, she earned a Masters in Social Work from San Jose State University, balancing academic studies, work at Canal Alliance, and internships, first at Instituto Familiar de la Raza and then at San Francisco Department of Public Health.
As the manager of the OFY program, Ana’s efforts are focused on managing a pilot project with the State of California to provide comprehensive services for a cohort of 40 unaccompanied minors. Because the need for services is so great, she and her team are also currently supporting another 30 youth through less intensive services. She describes all of these students as “resilient, hardworking, and committed to the well-being of their families.” The young people, who range in age from 15 to 21, have arrived in the last eight months and represent almost 50% of the total number of unaccompanied minors who have been released to a sponsor living in Marin County.
The OFY staff provide the direct services that youth need to build networks of support and navigate complex and often unjust systems. By building on the skills and strengths the youth already possess, the comprehensive model provides programming in four key areas: individual and family case management, family reunification, mentorship, and community building.
The Canal Alliance Social Services Department, including OFY, is often the first point of contact for many immigrant communities in Marin. Like all Social Services staff members, Ana believes in taking a holistic approach to address the systemic barriers that youth and families face as they settle in a new county, new neighborhood, or new school.
“It is our responsibility,” Ana reflects, “to welcome new members into our community and to help them develop their unique talents and abilities, and grow into skilled professionals and community and civic leaders. Canal Alliance invested in my education and professional development. I am grateful for the opportunity to support the next generation of young people.”
The Canal Alliance community congratulates Ana on her latest educational achievement and thanks her for her dedication to the community. Ana’s story is a powerful example of what happens when immigrants have the opportunity to achieve their goals – and then work towards a more equitable Marin.