Being involved and participating in a “rite of passage” can be a major life altering event. This is particularly true for teenagers. These rites of passage can be the holiday dance, graduation party, or the big one, going to the PROM. Far too many teens miss their rites of passage, because they simply don’t have the money for the gown, or the tux, or the limo, or the dinner. Not being able to participate in these rites of passage can have a very negative impact on a child’s self-esteem, self-worth, feeling of belonging, etc. It can also lead to intense frustration, isolation, and depression. In the worse scenarios, when a child or young adult is repeatedly told by words, actions, or the inability to attend a rite of passage that they are not good enough, they don’t matter, they will never be accepted, and there is no hope of improvement, it can be the tipping point that moves them into crime, drug use, abusive relationships, or homelessness.

Now this is not always the case, but I have spoken to many people over my life that missed one or all of these rites of passage, and it still bothers them many years later. I met one very successful accountant who told me his home situation growing up was such that he, nor his family, had the money to attend proms and other major events. It took him many years to overcome the feeling of inadequacy. He said he went through many dark years including needing public assistance, which he said deepened his feeling of inadequacy. He was one of the fortunate ones who found someone to help him. This person encouraged him to go to college, and showed him ways he could receive grants, find work study programs, and scholarships, something he would have never known existed.

One organization in Sacramento, California named Vida de Oro is doing something to allow teens to both participate in these rites of passage, and provide the transformational training/education to learn job skills, interview skills, and expose them to ways they can create an innovative mindset, so they understand the process of how business operates. You can’t play the game if you don’t know the rules.

The prom is a rite of passage for high school students. “It is critical for the self-esteem of young men and women that they are able to participate and be included is this important moment. It is more than just one time event, it says to young people you matter, you have value and you can go forward with your life with more confidence,” says Vida de Oro founder, President and CEO Guillermina “Mina” F Perez. “Who is to say that many homeless people suffering from lack of education or addiction might have had the courage and confidence to avoid the first step on to the slippery slope if they had more positive experiences earlier in life,” said Perez.

Mina, doesn’t just talk the talk, she took action. She organized a Prom Dress Giveaway program. After the devastating fire in Butte County California that destroyed the entire city of Paradise, Mina received a call from local store who said, given the terrible fires they were extremely overstocked with prom dresses, and told her she could have them if she could pick them up. Through the efforts of, Quota International of Oroville, concerned parents and grandparents, the Vida de Oro Foundation was gifted over 600 prom dresses, of which 330 were given on February 9, 2019, and the rest were given on March 23, 2019.

Students from 73 high schools from Butte to Fresno County, and the Bay Area participated in this event. Local Sacramento television ABC10 carried the story and the program went viral.  This program will continue, and expanded to include dresses for semi-formal events, graduations, Quinceañeras, etc. and programs for males.

Given the engagement by 73 local high schools for Prom Dress Giveaway, Vida de Oro has established good will, a strong following, and trust in the community. It is now time to expand the giveaway into a vehicle to promote and advance economic growth through a series of alliances between businesses, governments, unions, and other non-profits who provide transformational job training and education, within marginalized communities such as returning Veterans, Native Americans, Hispanics, African American, Immigrants, and Women.

We cannot depend or rely on the schools, or government, or business alone to address economic growth. There must be a concerted effort between all these entities and willing organizations such as Vida de Oro to serve as the focal point to address economic growth in our community. Vida de Oro is creating alliances with businesses, government (city, county and state), labor unions, and other non-profits to offer transformational education/training programs.

One of the best methods to address homelessness, violence, depression, and abuse is a stable good paying job. A strong small business community is needed for a thriving local economy. Among the benefits of developing a strong local business community include:

  • They are already live in, and are committed to, the community
  • The businesses and employees tend to stay in the community and spend their money locally
  • A strong local small business community is needed to attract larger businesses
  • The city/county does not have to give major tax incentives to lure small businesses into the community–they are already here.

Now before you say, “That’s nice, but this is just another non-profit running around begging for money,” guess again. Vida de Oro holds community events which raises funds (an annual Taco Festival, The Fall Street Faire and Blues Festival are two examples.)

Interested students and families will enroll in one or more programs. As they attend, and complete programs they receive additional perks. There will be various tracks that families and individuals can select. By participating in the value added tracks, they receive additional perks, (bus/light rail passes, movie theater passes, gift cards from businesses, tickets to sport and theatrical events etc.). The more tracks they enroll in and complete the more perks they receive. The goal of the Vida de Oro tracks is to improve the quality of life, assist in securing employment, build self-esteem, and promote inclusion.

Attending and participating in rites of passage events are important. They are life altering events.