By Janelle Blakely & Christine Salinas

Welcoming a new year and decade is a great time to launch new ideas and embrace change. Since 2020 is a leap year, we’ll have more days, hours, and minutes to carry out what gets Pivotal-ers up in the morning: helping foster youth reach self-reliance through academic and employment opportunities that leads to success.

We’re excited to share some of our plans for 2020 with our supporters and who better to present them than our CEO, Elise Cutini! Read on to learn how she’s leading the 2020 charge to provide deeper services to our community’s foster youth (and a few words about her weekend passion).

Q: Hey, Elise! What’s Pivotal leaping towards in 2020?

EC: I’m super excited that this year, we’re piloting a Remote Coaching Program that serves foster youth who grew up in San Mateo and Santa Clara County, but who live beyond the limits of these two counties. One of the things that makes us different from other programs that serve foster youth is that we never turn our backs on foster youth from our community. So, for youth who moved out of the area because it’s too expensive or who attend school beyond our county limits, our Remote Coaching Program allows us to continue supporting them in their academic and career endeavors. 

Q: Career support is still relatively new at Pivotal. How successful has this program been and what’s its end-goal?  

EC: That’s true, when we started our work 25 years ago, we only provided academic support to foster youth of high school age. Over the years, our work has evolved to include college students as well as students going through vocational training. In 2015, we added employment coaching and summer internships to our programming because many of the foster youth we serve don’t have anybody to walk them through how to write a resume, get a job, or network professionally. I’m thrilled that feedback from students for the Workforce Development Program has been overwhelmingly positive. But as we seek to reach more youth in our area, we need to make sure that the program is scalable and won’t diminish its impact as we expand. So, this year, we are investing in that program and adding job shadowing, informational interviewing, and leadership training into it. We’re also exploring other avenues of career readiness support. The end-goal is to facilitate career readiness skills that set up our youth for life-long self-sufficiency.  

Q: Everyone here knows that you balance your long workdays with a personal passion: horseback riding. How often do you ride and are there any goals you’re working towards?

EC: I ride on the weekends! I’ve been around horses all my life and recently returned to competitive dressage after taking a break for three years. Prince, my dark brown Oldenburg gelding and I have been training a lot. If you ever want to be humbled by a sport, try Dressage.  The more you learn, the more you realize how much more you have to learn.  This year, we are hoping to compete at the Prix St. George level and qualify for nationals. Fingers crossed!