Sonoma Corps

"Gap year" work-readiness program

Sonoma Corps is a two-year college and career readiness program providing employability skill-building and one-on-one coaching for underserved and under-resourced high school students. The program is designed to help students build a foundation for a successful future through immersive career exploration and development opportunities in addition to a paid internship experience. Upon completion of the internship, participants earn scholarships for use in postsecondary education, inclusive of college, trade school or apprenticeship programs. 

  • Year 1: Students take a Sonoma Corps class during their senior year in high school. Students build employability skills, explore careers, take facility tours, do hands-on projects, and connect with employer partners.

  • Year 2: Following graduation, participants begin a paid gap-year internship with a local employer and earn scholarship funds.

Research indicates that this model improves a student’s ability to persist through college to obtain a degree and boosts employment outcomes, particularly for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. For many students, participation in this program represents an opportunity to break a cycle of generational poverty and create a financially secure future for themselves and their families.

Employer Partners

CTE Foundation is seeking a broad range of employer partners to host full-time paid interns in all industries/sectors including agriculture, construction, environmental science, information & technology, hospitality, manufacturing, professional services, government, education and community-based organizations.

2022 & 2023 Sonoma Corps Employer Partners (to date)

  • Alluxa
  • Amaturo Sonoma Media Group
  • AMR (American Medical Response)
  • Amy’s Kitchen
  • Blentech
  • Costeaux French Bakery
  • CTE Foundation
  • E. & J. Gallo
  • E&M Electric
  • Hansel Auto Group Santa Rosa
  • Hog Island Oyster Co.
  • Keysight Technologies
  • Max Machinery
  • North Coast Builders Exchange
  • PCD Audio & Video System Integrations
  • SMART Train
  • Traditional Medicinals


Sonoma Corps was designed in partnership with Sonoma County Economic Development Board, Sonoma County Office of Education, Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College and Santa Rosa City Schools. 

Interested in hosting an internship?

The Sonoma Corps program is expanding to impact more students! CTE Foundation is seeking additional employer partners to host gap-year interns.

Your support would be invaluable to the lives of local students while also helping your organization build a workforce pipeline.

Interested in learning more about hosting an internship? Fill out the form below or contact Brandon Jewell directly at or 707-849-7741

The Employer and Intern Experience


Frequently Asked Questions

Sonoma Corps was created to address three key issues in our local region: 

1. As reported in a 2019 Forbes magazine article, the gap between the skills needed for today’s jobs and the number of new workforce entrants prepared and trained to do them is growing wider every day. Employers nationwide report that a college degree is no longer the deciding factor for new hires; work experience, interpersonal skills and technical aptitude are now the most desired traits for a job applicant. 


2. In January of 2022, the California-based national nonprofit YouthTruth administered surveys across 146 schools across Sonoma County school districts. The effort resulted in hearing from over 32,000 students on topics like engagement, college and career readiness, academic challenge, school culture, and emotional and mental health. 


According to the survey, Sonoma County students do not feel engaged in their learning or equipped to pursue college or career. The same survey, however, finds that students that experience some work-based learning, such as relevant projects that includes employer engagement, tours to visit local employers and explore careers, and internships, significantly increases these scores. 


3. Sonoma Corps implementation and expansion focus heavily on equitable access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. To many students, participation in the Sonoma Corps program allows them to explore industries otherwise unknown to them and presents an opportunity to break the cycle of generational poverty, attend college, stay local for high-skill, high-wage and in-demand careers, and create a financially secure future for themselves and their families. 

Sonoma Corps employer partner are agreeing to provide an opportunity for high school graduates to apply for a paid gap-year internship with your organization from Summer 2023 to Summer 2024. Prior to this, employer partners are expected to draft an internship job description for each position available and facilitate interviews prior to hiring an intern.  


CTE Foundation would also like to engage each employer with the students at least once during the 2022-2023 school year to help Sonoma Corps participants explore the internship opportunities available to them. During this time, CTE Foundation and Santa Rosa Junior College can provide support to employers that would like assistance drafting internship job descriptions and training the direct supervisors/mentors. 

The current cohort of students will graduate high school in Summer 2023, at which time CTE Foundation expects 30-45 graduates to apply for paid gap-year internships with our Sonoma Corps employer partners. 

Interns are considered full-time, non-exempt employees at your company and will participate in any benefits offered.  To ensure students are making decisions based on their career goals rather than starting wages, CTE Foundation requests that employers start the inters between $17-19 per hour. 

As many as you have the capacity/need for. 

CTE Foundation will help facilitate a first-round of interviews based on student interests and career goals. Employer partners will then be able to follow-up with applicants for additional interviews if interested and to offer the positions to select applicants. 

Great! We can discuss how to adapt your current program to fit within the Sonoma Corps framework. 

CTE Foundation aims for interns to start sometime in July or August of 2023, though we recognize that the hiring process of some organizations may take longer.  

Sonoma Corps employer partners will have the opportunity to engage with the students at least once during their first year of the program (their senior year of high school). Examples of engagement include:  


  • helping a teacher facilitate a real-world project.
  • taking the students on a tour of your facility.
  • going into the class and speaking to the students about your company and what an internship might look like.


This employer engagement is a critical part of students exploring internship and career opportunities with our employer partners.  

In year one of Sonoma Corps, high school seniors develop critical work-readiness skills, including creative problem-solving, communication, and collaboration. Seniors will also learn about professionalism/work ethic, information management, technology and tools, and interpersonal skills.   

CTE Foundation and Santa Rosa Junior College provide a Supervisor Workshop in the Spring to onboard direct supervisors and mentors and help prepare them for managing interns. 


During the gap-year, interns and supervisors meet with SRJC work experience faculty at least twice per year to review and contribute to participant learning outcomes, evaluate skills and discuss the overall performance of the intern. SRJC faculty is also available for additional wrap-around employer support as needed. 

Regular communication is encouraged throughout the internship to determine the employee/employer’s desired outcome and to help the intern reach their education and career goals. Employers are welcome to offer continued employment after the internship, though employers are encouraged to be flexible around the employee’s continued education or training.  

We suggest meeting with the employee in person to address the issue. Keep your conversation fact-based and nonthreatening. Your aim is to open up discussion and come up with a plan for remedying the situation if possible.  If needed, SRJC work experience faculty can be an intermediary and coach for the intern and supervisor. Ultimately, the intern is an employee of the organization and as such, the decision to continue or discontinue employment is at the discretion of the employer or the employee (intern).  

Sonoma Corps implementation and expansion focus heavily on equitable access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. To many students, participation in the Sonoma Corps program allows them to explore industries otherwise unknown to them and presents an opportunity to break the cycle of generational poverty, attend college, stay local for high-skill, high-wage and in-demand careers, and create a financially secure future for themselves and their families. 


CTE Foundation is partnering with local schools and districts to explore opportunities to expand the Sonoma Corps program to make it available to any student from around the county. We are also partnering with SRJC to develop a centrally located Sonoma Corp program accessible for any high school student as early as Fall 2023. By continual expansion of the Sonoma Corps program, it provides a unique opportunity to engage with all students and to advance their goals for college and career.  

You are welcome to ask your question in the form below or you can reach out directly to the CTE Foundation staff.


Brandon Jewell, Director of Student Experience


Ginger Baker, Community Engagement Specialist

Have a question that is not addressed in the Q&A? Submit your question below.

Employer Partner Monthly Meet-Up

A forum for employer partners to receive regular check-ins, program updates, support and resources.

Meet-Ups are scheduled on the 3rd Thursday of each month from 9:00 am-10:00 am.

Zoom Meeting Link


Nov. 17, 2022

Slide Deck- 11/17/22

Meet-Up Recording – 11/17/22

Dec. 15, 2022

Jan. 19, 2022

Feb. 16, 2023

March 16, 2023

April 20, 2023