Katie Cruz on Nonprofits & Education
Dark haired and vivacious, with a generous smile and a contagious laugh, Katie Cruz exudes passion. And this passion is especially apparent when she talks about the organization for which she currently serves as Program Director – BAYCAT. BAYCAT stands for Bayview Center for Arts and Technology, and is an innovative media and education business that has a pretty unique organizational structure. “BAYCAT is a business, but it’s also a nonprofit: our business funds our nonprofit,” Cruz says. The business side of BAYCAT, Cruz explained, is a professional production studio that takes on socially-minded clients who need anything from a promotional video, to a website revamp or a logo design, and puts together a team to create the media materials.
“I love the mix of the business and working with young people. I feel good about where my energy is going.”
“Then we take that earned income to help fund our nonprofit,” Cruz said. The nonprofit component of BAYCAT offers multiple education programs that teach digital arts to underserved youth in the community. All completely free of charge. Programs include after-school workshops, summer camps and an intensive media internship for 18- to 25-year-olds. They target youth who have barriers to employment or education, Cruz says. “We take on 15 to 20 young adult interns and we train them for six months to get to them to the next steps, whether that’s more training or, ideally, a job.” The young adults who are learning different media arts and technology skills through the workshops and programs will often get to join the teams in the production studio who are working on creating products for actual clients.
As Program Director, Cruz designs and manages the BAYCAT Academy – meaning all the workshops, programs, internships and other educational opportunities offered to youth between 11 to 25 years old. She estimates that BAYCAT serves and impacts 300 youth and young adults each year. “It can be overwhelming,” Cruz admits with a smile, “but I love it. It’s exactly what I want to be doing.”
“I was in the foster care system for a while,” she says, “and the main thing for me, what helped me through, was the outlet of theater. I was in acting classes, and I used to put on shows for my foster home.” Theater allowed her to feel that “there was something beyond this, something I could put my energy into.” She thought for a while that she would be a teacher, working with young people fostering and developing a love of creative expression.
For several years after graduating, she worked and volunteered. When she found BAYCAT, she loved it immediately. She started out as an administrative assistant and worked her way up. About a year ago she was promoted to her current position of Program Director.
“I was in the foster care system for a while,” she says, “and the main thing for me, what helped me through, was the outlet of theater.”
“I love the mix of the business and working with young people. I feel good about where my energy is going. It’s going to a group of people doing amazing things, and it’s going to 300 youth and young adults a year who are benefiting from our energy, our equipment, our programs and our training.”
Outside of her work at BAYCAT, Cruz is involved in several community art projects. For example, she’s working on a California Endowment for the Arts-funded documentary on LGBTQ family acceptance in the Latino community. Together with another nonprofit, Cruz and her colleagues are creating a video that looks specifically at Latino fathers and their process for encountering and accepting an LGBTQ child or relative in their family. And just for fun – Cruz contributes to a column called, “Drama, Talk and Drinks” to the MissionMission blog, where they review local theater productions and give opinions both on the play and a nearby bar.
by Noa Silver