The Sozo Student Center, a project facilitated by On Campus Ministries, will be sporting twelve to fifteen new Chromebooks for their resource room, thanks to a $2,000 grant from the Rohnert Park Foundation small grants program. The Sozo Center, a non-profit, is a new hangout and learning place for teens in Rohnert Park in the shopping center across from the high school, with the tagline, “relationships, resources, recreation.” It was the brainchild of Linsee Sage and her husband Sean Sage, as well as Rob and Kristi Schuetz, who are devoted to the cause of supporting youth and felt there was a need for a place in the community for teens to go.
It took about six years of development and effort, but the Sozo Center finally opened its doors approximately two years ago and is still a work in progress.
“We started the non-profit about six years ago with the goal of being able to open up a place for students in Rohnert Park,” says Linsee Sage. “We saw kids not knowing where to go or just hanging around the University Square area. We know there’s a lot of trouble that happens around here so we just thought we would see if we could do it.”
With the mindset of ‘if we build it, they will come,’ the group spent several years of planning, fundraising, and working on making their dream a reality, and sure enough, a lot of youth have been using the center during lunch and after school. The Sages, who themselves had turbulent teenage years, felt it was incredibly important for youth, now more than ever, to have a place to go and be welcomed, respected, and heard.
“We try to get to know the kids when they come in, and we try to build relationships with them as do all the other volunteers who work here,” says Sage. “We feel that’s a crucial missing piece of a lot of the younger generation today that has a lack of trust with adults and lack of connection with older generations. We know their names, we talk to them, they start to open up and we know what’s going on in their lives. The
more we connect with them they feel safe and we feel a lot of cool things happen. Some kids, when they first come in are really guarded and shut off and don’t even want to make eye contact. As the weeks and months have gone by, they’ve been really comfortable here.”
The Sages’ desire to give back stems from their own personal experiences as teenagers, when certain adults intervened in crucial moments of their childhood to steer them in the right direction when they were getting off course. They never forgot how important and critical that direction and assistance was which changed the trajectory of their lives, and felt it was important to pay that forward.
Today the front area of the center is a hangout/recreation area with comfy sofas, a pool table, games, and a stage for events. The back room, or “resource room,” is a place for students to study, access resources, participate in classes, and obtain free tutoring.
“They can use the backroom here to do schoolwork if they don’t have that at home or need access,” says Sage. “They can do homework, go online to do research, and use the printer. The back room also functions as a place where we will offer workshops where they can learn different life skills, interview skills, resume writing, or where different people in the community can offer any kind of lesson or skill for free.”