Local teens gain work experience through mentor program at Crush restaurant in Solana Beach

(L-R): La Colonia Branch Member Meliza Espinoza, Crush Employee Becky Dhooge, La Colonia Branch Member Selene Olivares, Crush Manager Sarah Morache, La Colonia Branch Member Tania Bartolo, La Colonia Branch Member Estefani Saldivar and La Colonia Branch Member Jeovanie Aragon. Courtesy photo

By Kristina Houck

Torrey Pines High School senior Meliza Espinoza will graduate in June. Thanks to a new mentor program offered through the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito’s La Colonia Branch and Crush, an Italian restaurant in Solana Beach, the 17-year-old will graduate from high school with work experience.

“I never had a job before,” said Meliza, who has been a member of the La Colonia Branch for five years. She plans to attend MiraCosta College after high school. “I was interested in this program because it gives me a step forward if I want to apply for a job at a restaurant. Thanks to this program, I’ll have experience.”

Launched April 2, the program combines shadowing and one-on-one mentoring to teach teens workplace skills. Five teens from the La Colonia Branch were selected for the program, which will meet every Wednesday for 10 weeks.

“I think it’s important for more of these programs to exist within Solana Beach,” said Gloria Castellanos, manager of the La Colonia Branch. “Programs like this keep kids off the streets, and help them think positive and look ahead to their future. It’s a stepping stone for them to grow.”

Crush in Chico first partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Chico to launch the mentor program in 2011. The program started with eight students. Since then, 35 students have completed the program.

The first class of the Solana Beach program will graduate June 4, when the teens will use the skills they’ve learned and manage the restaurant.

“It’s really important because you learn new skills,” said 15-year-old Estefani Saldivar, a Torrey Pines High School sophomore. “So far, I’ve learned how to communicate, not only with the customers, but my co-workers. I’ve learned how it is to work at a restaurant by shadowing a busser and hostess and waitress.

“I was thinking of getting a job in the summer. This has opened more doors for me because now I have experience. It’s a great opportunity.”

Crush invites the public for dinner from 6-8 p.m. every Wednesday through June 4. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the La Colonia Branch.

For more information about the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito, visit


For more information about Crush, visit