Student Highlight: Cemre Koc


Name: Cemre Koc

Age: 16

How long have you been with YI:

Almost two years

What team are you part of at YI?


What is your favorite part about being on the Havok team?

Being on a team! Working with other people is way more fun. I get very frustrated when I’m working alone.


When did you get into designing?

I just design things for fun, a lot, sort of like doodling.


I heard you created the last couple of shirts for Havok, how does that feel? Awesome! I love seeing my art out there, it’s very rewarding. But it’s not all mine, it’s collaborative, even if technically no one else was working on it, I still take inspiration from what other people are doing.


I heard you also did something awesome for SONOS… what was that?

I did a Day of the Dead themed painting with flowers, and a skeleton playing the piano, on the speaker.


Is there anything exciting you have done lately with Havok?

We are trying to get our brand and our website out there - designing is easy, marketing is more difficult, but more exciting too.


Is there anything you want me to know about you?

What do you like to do in your free time? I don’t have a lot of free time right now, because of school, but when I do I like to make art, and build things, and garden. I’m building a chicken coop right now. I may be on the design team but I love real-life, hands-on stuff. Oh and just so you know: My preferred pronouns are they/them.


I heard from a little birdy that you know a lot about birds… can you tell me any interesting facts?

I could tell you so much it would not fit in this interview. I saw a merlin, which is a small kind of falcon, for the first time recently, and it was amazing. They are very fast and they catch things in mid-air, and this one flew right over my head and caught another bird. Most people don’t think they can see any interesting birds in the city but Santa Barbara has a lot. There’s peregrine falcons nesting on the Granada.


Cemre is a creative, talented student, and a wonderful team member for Havok. They go above and beyond in their work, and it definitely shows! Keep up the good work Cemre. 

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper

We are BEYOND grateful for Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and the amazing opportunities they have provided our students with! SBCK has already taken 3 groups of Youth Interactive students out on an educational boat ride around the Santa Barbara Channel. On these trips, our students have had the opportunity to not only learn about our local marine life, but actually see it for themselves!

The SB Channelkeepers have been teaching our students about marine biology and conservation efforts both above and below water. During the trip, two of the program leaders scuba dive with a camera and a microphone to show the students life below the surface while talking them through the whole thing! On the last trip, we saw Orcas, Bottlenose Dolphins and Harbor Seals from the top of the boat, as well as countless species of fish below surface!

We truly want to thank Penny, Jenna, and Ben for being so knowledgable, excited, and really engaging with our students! This is definitely a trip that everyone in Santa Barbara needs to experience!

For more information about the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, check out their website here:

Staff Highlight: Geoffrey Berz


Youth interactive would not be as successful as it is today, without the work of their amazing staff. Everyday they work extremely hard to help make an impact on every student, as much as possible. One of the core team members who is continuously working hard is Geoffrey Berz. Geoffrey is the Program Director at Youth Interactive and has been part of the YI family since Fall 2015. Geoffrey stays rather busy throughout the days and even in this most hectic of afternoons he still manages to always keep a smile on his face. We are so lucky to have him here at Youth Interactive, and for the impact he leaves on the students.

So Geoffrey, Why did you seek out a non-profit organization?

I have sought out this specific non profit because looking back on it, as high school aged student was always caught between acting in a way that felt authentic and a way I thought others wanted me to behave. I believe that Youth Interactive cuts through all of this and provides an incredibly supportive environment for youth to be the most authentic individuals they can be, all while learning the basics of entrepreneurship and valuable vocational skills. I would have absolutely loved to find a home like this in high school.


I know you do many things here, can you tell me about a few of the things you do on a daily basis?

On a daily basis, I communicate with mentors and students from each team to ensure that they understand they day ahead, will be attending their business meetings and feel supported. I also communicate a wide variety of partners who help fulfill various programming needs  I also do everything from tracking and analyzing student data, to writing reports.  In a nutshell I job is to ensure the center is running smoothing and programming is at a high quality. One of the most important things I do is ensure the emotional climate in the center is a very positive one for mentors and students, and a very constructive environment with regards to learning and personal growth.  However, the  most important thing I do daily is making sure all the basic needs the students are met. We have a program called Get it Done, where we look at all the  basic needs of each student such as tutoring, graduation for High School, applying to college, getting a California ID and more.


Do you have a favorite memory at YI?

Early on we did an event called Open Streets, where we took the Creative Studio art team out to Cabrillo Blvd. We set up a table in the sunshine, and we had a lot of fun just making art and selling our products. We are able to connect with each other and the community. It was beautiful day.


If you could describe Youth Interactive in one word, what would it be?



If you could give any advice to the students, what would it be?

I would advise each student to dig deep into all the services we offer ensuring we can help them with absolutely everything they desire to achieve.  


Geoffrey and the other team members at YI are full of dedication, heart and integrity. On a day to day basis, they do everything they can to make an impact on these students. We are appreciative of everything they do, and we are so lucky to have Geoffrey and the other team members here at Youth Interactive!


Marge Cafarelli & the Santa Barbara Public Market

Youth Interactive has been so lucky to partner with Marge Cafarelli, the developer and owner of the Santa Barbara Public Market. Marge has been letting one of our youth-led micro-businesses, Montecito Biscotti, use the Public Market’s amazing, professional kitchen every Tuesday afternoon to bake and prepare their biscotti, as well as supporting the team's sales by providing them with retail space this past holiday season to sell their goodies! 

As an entrepreneur herself, Marge explained to us that she enjoys working with Youth Interactive because it helps give young entrepreneurs a hands on experience of creating, packaging, and selling products. Additionally, she explained that allowing students to work in such a professional kitchen can be extremely inspiring – and it has certainly been a treat for our students!

When asked to give a piece of advice to our students, Marge said, “Don’t ever give up, don’t ever think you can’t do it – try it! There’s no failure, there’s only experience.”

New pop-up businesses are always moving into the Public Market, making it the perfect place for any young entrepreneur to get inspired! With new projects like a Beer + Wine garden and new shops coming in, make sure to stop by the Santa Barbara Public Market (38 W Victoria St) this spring! 

Business Highlight: Montecito Biscotti



One team at Youth Interactive full of young, hardworking individuals is our Montecito Biscotti team. The business currently has 6 dedicated students from all around the Santa Barbara area working on it. In addition to these students, there are also 2 mentors who work as a support system for these young entrepreneurs. Together, the 8 of them together make up the amazing Montecito Biscotti team.


The team meets twice a week. They first meet on Tuesdays, where they gather at the Public Market in downtown Santa Barbara to bake their biscotti. At the market, Andrea their baking mentor, teaches the students essential baking skills, and gives them structure with their work. On Thursdays, the team makes their way into Youth Interactive to learn various business skills. Ivan, their business mentor, teaches them everything from budgeting, marketing and planning. It is up to the student to make it to work both days of the week, which teaches them great responsibility, and how the working world operates. Mia, one of our hardworking students, skateboards to work each day which shows just how dedicated these students are to their business. Past Montecito Biscotti members have taken the skills they had learned here, and applied them to their future work.


In the past, the team has created orders for the Santa Barbara Airport, County Mental Health and various support groups. Currently, our young entrepreneurs are still accomplishing amazing things. This past month the team partnered up with Chocolats Du Calibressan, a sweets shop in downtown Santa Barbara. The shop owner Jill-Marie Carre,  just opened up her new location on State Street. This is a fantastic opportunity for our team to be featured in a store like this. In addition to their partnership, they also are in the works of making a booth that will be featured at the Spring Art Show on May 27th at Youth Interactive. This is an another great opportunity for our young students to get their products out to the public.

We are so proud of everything Montecito Biscotti has accomplished, and we know that they will continue to do great things!


Spring Art Show

Our Creative Studio’s Spring Art Show is just over one month away! Join us at our Funk Zone Shop on May 27th for a fantastic evening filled with amazing student-made art works, fun music, and tasty snacks.

Our talented Creative Studio team is busy composing works of a variety of mediums to present to you all, with all the art works collectively focusing on ‘Time’ as a notion of transformation and growth.

We truly hope to see everyone there! By buying our students’ work, you would not only support them as young artists, but you would help them grow both creatively and professionally!

Stay up to date with any and all information about this event on our Facebook page:

Santa Barbara Museum of Art + Youth Interactive

Yesterday, Kelly Almeida of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art stopped by Youth Interactive to talk with our Creative Studio team about her career in the arts, the importance of art history, and new additions that have been made to the museum!

The SBMA has been open to the public since 1941, and currently boasts numerous exhibition galleries with works ranging from classical to contemporary art.

As our Creative Studio team gets ready for their art show at the end of this semester, we are so excited that these students had the opportunity to hear about first-hand, professional experiences with art and art history!

To learn more about the SBMA, check out their website here:

Business Highlight: RBY

Youth Interactive is a unique place that allows young entrepreneurs the chance to showcase their talent in new, innovative ways. Students come from all around the Santa Barbara county and meet up at Youth Interactive once or twice a week to create and learn business skills. There are currently five businesses at Youth Interactive, and each of them allow students to break out of the “everyday” way of learning taught in schools and let them express their creativity in their own, unique way.

One team, who is continuously working hard, is Resurrected By Youth. RBY is a carpentry business made up solely of high school students. Since establishing two years ago, they have grown enormously. Using recycled wine barrels as their main material, they have been able to create some amazing pieces. Originally having only one candle design, they have since grown and created multiple candle designs. Additionally, they have crafted two separate wine holders and are currently in the works of making a new light fixture. In addition to learning carpentry skills, RBY is also trained in business and marketing to help better prepare them for their future.  

Ethan Klein, a key member of RBY, says “I like being at Youth Interactive because of the welcoming environment here, as well as all the cool stuff my team gets to do.”  Ethan, along with Will Hurtado, are two young entrepreneurs who have been with RBY for the past couple of years. Between them, Jose Romero and Alec Martinez, RBY has become a wonderful success. With so many accomplishments in just a short period of time, it is exciting to see what amazing thing they will do next.



The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara + Youth Interactive

Last week, the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara came by Youth Interactive to speak with some of our young entrepreneurs about applying for college and possible scholarship opportunities! The Foundation has been providing students of Santa Barbara county with scholarships and financial aid services since 1962. Just last year, they administered almost 3,000 scholarships totaling $8.7 million!

With the majority of our students ranging between 14 and 18 years old, we are thrilled to support these amazing youth while they figure out their future education plans! Ielaf Altoma, a representative from the Scholarship Foundation, was able to answer numerous questions about the college application process and provide insight on what the college experience entails. We hope this support will help to guide our students as they embark on the exciting experience of applying to schools and continuing their education!

All of our students are so bright and talented - we know they will go very far in life on whatever path they take! We are just so excited to see exactly what that will be!

To learn more about the Scholarship Foundation, you can check out their website here: 



March Student of the Month

Each month, Youth Interactive will choose one young entrepreneur who we believe excelled in the work they did. This month our Student of The Month award goes out to Mia Balboa. Mia is hardworking, kind and an amazing baker! Mia is currently a junior in high school and she has only been with our Montecito Biscotti Team for just a few short months! In that time she has begun to love baking, even though she had no prior practice. We sat Mia down and asked her a few questions to get to know her a little more:

What has been your favorite moment at Youth Interactive?

My favorite moment was when I started getting the hang of putting the chocolate on the biscotti. It was pretty difficult at first. 

What are your thoughts on being the Student of The Month for March?

This is the first time I’ve really been noticed for my work, and it makes me feel special.

Why is Youth Interactive special to you? 

Youth Interactive has given me good experience and has given me an insight to how the working world is like, and the responsibilities that follow it. Youth Interactive has also taught me how to budget and have given me better communication skills. 

What has been your favorite part of working with Montecito Biscotti?

My favorite part has been the process of making the biscotti with a team. I also enjoy being able to sell it to businesses. Youth Interactive is something I look forward to doing each week. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy relaxing at home. I like to watch awkward videos and make up tutorials. I also skateboard. I really love to work though, and I am always committed to it. 

What are your dreams for the future?

In the future, I want to graduate college and then I want to own my own business. I also want to own my own house and car. I really just want to be happy

Check again next month to see the Student of the Month for April! 

#Youthinteractive #YI #art 

Mitra Cline at Youth Interactive!

As we previously mentioned, our Creative Studio team is beyond excited to participate in I Madonnari this Memorial Day weekend (May 28th, 29th, & 30th)!

To help them with their art proposal for the festival, the amazingly talented artist Mitra Cline will be at our gallery today to meet with our Creative Studio team and assist in the first steps of creating our chalk art square. We are so grateful for her help, and we can’t wait to see what brilliant ideas she helps our students generate. The artists here at Youth Interactive are so incredibly talented, we’re confident that whatever they come up with will completely blow us away!

To learn more about Mitra Cline or see her incredible work, take a peak at her website here: www.

I Madonnari + Youth Interactive

Every Memorial Day weekend, the plaza outside Santa Barbara’s Mission is decorated with 200 beautiful chalk paintings as part of I Madonnari, an Italian street painting festival that features 400 artists over the three-days. Youth Interactive is so excited to have the opportunity to once again participant in this fantastic event and create our own street painting! We are able to partake in this event thanks to our partner, Santa Barbara Beautiful, who pays our students for their handwork during the festival. We are so proud to be their selected partner for the third year in a row now! 

In addition to amazing art work, I Madonnari features live music and authentic Italian food for the over 25,000 annual visitors that come to see the life-like street paintings. Our Creative Studio team is ecstatic to be a part of this amazing event and to have the opportunity to showcase their unbelievable talent in front of the Old Mission.

If you will be in Santa Barbara this Memorial Day weekend, make sure to stop by I Madonnari to support our talent artists and experience these gorgeous, large-scale street paintings for yourself!

For more information about the festival, check out the official website here:

YI Updates

This has been a very exciting past month here at Youth Interactive! All five businesses have been working extremely hard to design and create wonderful new products! Havok, our talented designers, came out with a brand new T-shirt design for the semester while RBY, our skilled carpenters, designed an incredible new wine holder! In addition, Montecito Biscotti was lucky enough to get a brand new partner this month with Chocolats du CaliBressan! Both our Creative Studio and Pier Pressure teams have also been working diligently to create brand new products which will be coming soon. We are currently half way through our semester and we are looking forward to what our young entrepreneurs will create next. Stay tuned! 

Santa Barbara County Mental Health + Youth Interactive

We are so fortunate to have Santa Barbara County Mental Health join us this Thursday, April 7th, for a Mental Health presentation for our Montecito Biscotti and Havok teams! 

Santa Barbara County Mental Health has been a major hub for health and wellness assistance throughout the area, helping adults, teens, and children alike with their mental health strategies and services.

This Thursday, they plan to meet with many of our students to provide a description of their services, highlighting specifically those for anyone seeking counselling or help for any reason. We are so happy to be able to provide our young entrepreneurs with even more resources and support, and so grateful that Santa Barbara County Mental Health has joined us to help make this happen!

April Events

Happy (almost) April! We are so excited for everything Youth Interactive has planned this upcoming month, with events at both our Funk Zone shop and around Santa Barbara county. 

This April, our center will host workshops for our young entrepreneurs with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, Santa Barbara County Mental Health, and artist Mitra Cline. These programs range from mental health and wellness presentations to curating workshops and even professional insight on a career in the arts. We are especially excited to provide both personal and professional support to our students with these partnerships!

Additionally, we are so fortunate to also partner with Patagonia, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, and A Different Point of View to provide more opportunities for our students outside the center. With these partnerships, our students have the chance to visit Patagonia’s world headquarters in Ventura, embark on a boat ride, and even learn what it takes to fly an airplane on their own! 

We can’t wait for everything that is in store this month! Make sure to follow our Facebook and Instagram pages to stay updated with all these amazing events!

Weekend Recap

Everyone here at Youth Interactive is hoping that you had as a great of a weekend as we did! Last Saturday, our Creative Studio team was fortunate enough to partner with two amazing events: Tacos, Art, and More, Oh My! with The Wayfarer and a Spray Paint Tutorial with Arts for Humanity! Both events were fantastic, each allowing our young artists to show off their amazing work and gain new skills to apply to future art pieces. We can’t wait to see what else is in store for our talented artists and entrepreneurs! 

Our Student of the Month!

We are SO excited to announce the beginning of our Student Of the Month award! This award will be given out each month to to one of our young entrepreneurs that shined bright and worked especially hard with their team.

Our very first Student of the Month is Spencer Clark! Spencer is part of the Havok Team and has been with Youth Interactive since Fall 2015. Get to know more about Spencer in his interview below!

Why do you think Youth Interactive is special? 

"YI gives kids a chance to have a real world experience. We can learn how to earn money doing what we love. It gives us a chance to get paid while learning new skills. I also love the work environment and the friends I have made here!"

What is your favorite part about Havok? 

"I really enjoy working with a team on graphic designing. My dad is a graphic designer, so graphic designing has been in my family for awhile and I plan to be a graphic designer in the future".  

What do you like to do with your free time? 

"I enjoy being out doors. For fun, I like to go snowboarding, skateboarding and biking. Graphic design is also something that I enjoy doing." 

What are your dreams? 

"I aim to be a pro snowboarder or graphic designer. I don’t need to have a lot of money, just enough to live a decent life. I would rather be outside doing what I love, than to be stuck in a office accumulating money." 

Tell us a fun fact about yourself! 

"I like to eat dry ramen [without cooking it] sometimes."

Arts for Humanity & Youth Interactive

We are so proud to announce that Youth Interactive’s young and remarkably talented artists are teaming up with Arts for Humanity, another Santa Barbara-based nonprofit dedicated to art and personal expression!  This Saturday, Trevor Coopersmith, a UCSB student and lead intern with Youth Interactive’s Creative Studio, will be giving a lesson on the art of spray painting from 1:30 to 2:30pm. We cannot wait to see what other workshops will be in store as we continue with this exciting collaboration!  

For more information on Arts for Humanity or what else our talented students are up to, check out our respective Facebook pages below!



The Wayfarer & Youth Interactive

We are beyond excited to showcase our young entrepreneurs’ products next Saturday, March 5th, at The Wayferer (12 E Montecito St.) here in the Funk Zone! Come join us for an awesome morning of delicious breakfast tacos, great music, and amazing art. Youth Interactive’s Creative Studio team has been working hard on their artwork and displays for this event, and will be hosting this event on the other teams’ behalf. Support Youth Interactive and enjoy this beautiful hotel and the Santa Barbara sunshine between 11am and 3pm next Saturday – this is an event that you will not want to miss! We hope to see you all there!

For more information, check out the Facebook event page here: