WATSONVILLE—Watsonville-based nonprofit Digital NEST announced it will open a new location in Stockton next year.
The expansion into the Central Valley kicks off plans to scale up to a total of nine communities in Northern California by the end of 2026. The Stockton hub is the fourth in that goal.
“We’re making history,” said founder and CEO Jacob Martinez at the nonprofit’s fourth annual career development conference for youth, NEST Flight. “I’ve been excited from the first time I set foot in Stockton, seeing the brilliance that exists there; this is a special moment for us,”
Since opening its doors in Watsonville in 2014, Digital NEST has supported hundreds of youth along the path to higher education and well-paying careers. The nonprofit has reported that youth are finding good jobs, internships and entrepreneurial opportunities in technology and tech-related fields because of the mentorship and training they experienced.
Along with a community of local partners, the organization has aimed to connect youth to the skills, resources and professional networks that build their confidence and create new possibilities for their futures. Now, they say they are eager to share the knowledge gained from expanding to new communities over the past five years.
Recently, the organization received its second-largest gift to date from longtime donors Lane and Leticia Bess through their Bess Family Foundation to support its growth efforts with a contribution of $600,000 over three years.
“We’re fortunate to have garnered direct support over the years from our many incredible individual donors in the communities we serve,” said Digital NEST’s chief growth officer Corinne Kappeler. “It’s our hope and plan to secure not only the foundational funding to launch, but also to sustain NESTs in new communities.”
To aid in its expansion plans, the organization is participating in Bank of America’s Leader on Loan program, in order to develop multi-year operating and capital budgets, as well as financial forecasting models.
With senior-level executive Ann Thompson beginning her year-long, full-time role as interim chief financial officer, Digital NEST will have the “financial and operational expertise to help us have sustainable growth for years to come,“ said Martinez.
The organization has said that its approach to growth lies in the organization’s philosophy to build with the community, not for it.
“Stockton will be no different,” Kappeler said. “After more than two years of conversations with local stakeholders across San Joaquin County, we look forward to complementing the amazing efforts to advance educational equity for youth already happening on the ground and learning from the passionate Stocktonians who have made it their mission.”
Digital NEST will be seeking a permanent chief financial officer next year. In the meantime, the organization continues to seek local talent to help meet the demand for more “NESTs” across Northern California. It now has centers in downtown Watsonville and Salinas, and is currently looking for a permanent location in Gilroy.
The Stockton NEST will be both its first location outside of the Monterey Bay region and the first in the San Joaquin Valley. It is expected to launch in Stockton in 2023.