For Erika Matadamas, the Club is like a second home.
“It’s where I discovered my passions, where I learned the importance of a higher education. Most importantly, it’s where I learned to be myself, and believe in myself. I want to pass that on,” Erika says. On the day she first walked into the Boys & Girls Club, Erika was 14, lonely, and homesick.
She grew up on a Central Valley farm, where her parents worked. Now she was in Seaside, and everything was strange and scary: the city, the people, this building. Gently, Club staff reached out to her. They just talked — and listened. Pretty soon, Erika was joining in: a little, then a little more. Within weeks it seemed, she was busy at the Club every day. She joined the Club’s member-led community service leadership group – Keystone Club. Soon she was part of Career Launch, a program that prepares teens for college and careers. She received tutoring for school, became a paid Club summer youth intern, and participated in educational Club trips to Japan and Washington, D.C.
Erika’s determination was palpable. She became the first in her family to go to college. She inspired her sister and two brothers: two are in college; one is on his way.
With help from Club scholarships, Erika earned a bachelor’s in Global and International Studies from U.C. Santa Barbara. Then she got a dual master’s in Global Studies from Roskilde University in Denmark and Leipzig University in Germany.
Upon graduation, she worked as the Program Manager for Girls’ Health in Girls’ Hands of Monterey County, an initiative to help girls grow up healthy and strong. She now works for the Community Foundation for Monterey County as a program officer.