Soledad seventh and eighth graders graduate from Partners For Peace’s inaugural Step-Up Mentoring class. (Contributed)

SOLEDAD — Partners For Peace recently celebrated the graduation of 27 Soledad seventh and eighth graders for its inaugural Step-Up Mentoring class at the Soledad Community Center.

The Step-Up Mentoring program, held weekly from May to October 2023, made a profound impact on Soledad’s youth, equipping them with the tools and guidance needed to overcome challenges and pursue success.

The youth and their families attended the Nov. 8 event, which included a meal; a special message from Mayor Anna Velazquez; guest speaker Michael Gutierrez, superintendent/president of Hartnell College; and the presentation of certificates.

“Things that matter take effort; congratulations and adelante!” said Velazquez on video.

“You did something important for you and for your community,” Gutierrez said. “Parents, continue to cultivate your children’s curiosity.”

The ceremony highlighted the inspiring success stories of the youth participants, ages 11-14, who have overcome challenging life circumstances. The program empowered them to set goals, explore careers and develop vital life skills for a brighter future.

Since May, the group was led by coordinators and mentors in the program. They participated in various activities and tours.

“The program is the result of intentional work by agencies with a true culture of caring,” said Vicki Law, executive director for Partners For Peace. “We appreciate our core partners, Hartnell College and the Salinas Valley Five Cities Partnership, as well as the Hartnell College Foundation, for their pivotal roles in catalyzing, convening and building capacity for our pilot Modern Life Skills Mentoring Initiative.”

The pilot program was also possible thanks to funding partners, the James Irvine Foundation and the Wallace Foundation.

Partners For Peace also gave thanks to the founding partners of the Monterey County Workforce Development Board, the Santa Cruz County Human Services department and the Santa Cruz County Workforce Development Board for their vital contributions to expanding this initiative across the Central Coast.

“Partners For Peace is proud to reach this historic milestone and remains committed to its mission of building strong families for a peaceful community in Monterey County,” the agency stated in a news release.

Since 1995, Partners For Peace has been providing prevention/intervention family education workshops and classes. For more information, call 831-754-3888 or visit

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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