In it Together: Lisa Fatu
After 20 years of working at SAY, Lisa Fatu’s presence has easily become synonymous with youth advocacy. When she enters the room, people know exactly who she is there to represent.
“They know that I’m there to support the youth,” says Lisa. “They know that I’m going to share the youth voice that isn’t heard; to tell the truth about what young people really go through.”
Despite this recognition, Lisa doesn’t take herself too seriously. She has a laugh that vibrates through the halls of the Dream Center and is as generous with her appreciation as she is with her stewardship.
“Number one, it’s not about me. It’s definitely about the staff,” says Lisa. “Every single day I am thankful for the staff here, who have that ‘we’re in it together’ mentality. They have compassion and they have understanding, and they have the initiative to support our youth.”
As the Director of Youth Crisis Services and Career Services, Lisa has played a huge role in cultivating such a strong team. Her experience is one of her strengths. Lisa started at 18 years old as a volunteer for SAY’s teen shelter. At the time she was studying Early Childhood Education at SRJC, and had herself utilized SAY services as a young person. She began working for other programs in the county, only to realize that the values of SAY were most in alignment with her own. She took on a part-time position for SAY’s Street Outreach team, the first of a long list of roles that Lisa has employed over the last 20 years. From coordinating the Youth Employment Center Hub to organizing the Summer Gang Prevention Program, Lisa has managed just about every aspect of youth services you can imagine.
As part of her robust resume of work, Lisa is a founding member of Sonoma County’s Human Trafficking Task Force. She is also one of two people in California (both SAY staff members) to receive an Advanced Practice Certification in Human Trafficking training provided by the National Network for Youth and the McCain Institute for International Leadership.
In her own free time, Lisa is an athlete who plays soccer and softball on multiple teams. She laughs when she admits that her opposing teams are often filled with social workers and other professional contacts. But, as she says, the field is a ‘different world’ where they leave it all offsides.
Born and raised in Sonoma County, Lisa has a close-knit circle of family and friends. She’s had the same group of friends since she was 12, and they all play a big role in the lives of their children. Lisa is the mother of two teenagers, a son who graduated from high school last year and a daughter who is 16.
When asked what she wishes the community knew about the work that she does, Lisa pauses for a moment. “Everyone asks ‘how many successful stories do you have’ or ‘how many people did you get housed’. But it’s not one-and-done. It never is. It’s a process. Sometimes they’re okay, and okay is a success.”