Jennifer Tesori Sartiano, a lifelong resident of St. Augustine, has a strong desire to make this great city even better. That desire is evident in her life of compassion and continuing service to the mental health of the youth of the community. After spending four and a half years as Community Liaison for the St. Augustine Boys and Girls Club, Jennifer brought her knowledge and commitment to helping children to St. Augustine Youth Services (SAYS). “I wanted to continue in youth services, because I know there’s a great need. They are our future. Our community can’t be strong without strong youth,” she shares.
In her role as the Development Director of St. Augustine Youth Services, Jennifer leads fundraising, outreach, and advocacy for the program. SAYS provides therapy and other crucial services to youth requiring mental health and behavioral services. The present needs and the unfolding futures of these children make Jennifer’s work that much more critical.
“Nobody chooses to suffer from mental disorders,” says Jennifer, “It’s not something that anyone wants to deal with. It’s difficult for many of these kids to talk about how they’re feeling without being judged or harassed. I would love to diminish the shame that children feel from suffering from these disorders.”
Jennifer believes that the care and nurturing of children who are dealing with mental health issues should be a priority of the community. Many of these young boys and girls come from terrible backgrounds of physical and mental abuse. It’s those horrible hardships that often trigger mental health and behavioral disorders. However, Jennifer knows that the lives of these precious youth don’t have to end or continue in tragedy. In her position in St. Augustine Youth Services, she raises both awareness and support for the children who are enrolled in the program. By mobilizing individual and community assistance to add to their SAYS resources, Jennifer helps provide housing and treatment to many youth and transitional services to young adults beginning their lives on their own. “I try to rally the community. I know that people are willing to help if they have a clear place to give it.”
A graduate of the University of Florida with degrees in Advertising and Business, Jennifer uses her educational background and skills to change the lives of the children and young adults in her care. It not only takes genuine kindness and concern to do Jennifer’s work, it also takes diligence and a lot of time organizing fundraisers, contacting state and local officials, and making sure the community knows about the needs of the children of St. Augustine Youth Services. Jennifer devotes time and a lot of love to her contribution to the community. She does it all for the youth who desperately need proper care, support, and resources to overcome their ailments. “I think every kid deserves a fair start,” Jennifer says, “When they don’t have that, they’re not on an equal playing field. Giving them the capabilities and tools to be successful adults is what I try to do. I want them to be happy and have productive lives. That’s how they will grow up to be real assets to the community.”
Jennifer Tesori Sartiano sees herself serving children and St. Augustine for many years to come. “I want to continue working in non-profit. I feel that’s where I can do the most for children in need and their families. I want to leave my fingerprints on the community.”