News from the San Diego Youth Development Office

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San Diego Youth Development Office: Our Mission

Supporting positive youth development strategies that improve outcomes by connecting, convening, and engaging stakeholders and their resources to advance the health, education and economic wellbeing of San Diego's Youth.

                     Message From the Director

  Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that 2016 has
  arrived. With every new year comes an opportunity to
  reassess the year that has ended…and the opportunity to
  set goals for the upcoming year. In this newsletter, we’ve 
highlighted a few of the activities that the YDO has been involved in during the last quarter of 2015. As we look ahead to 2016, we anticipate ongoing work with the cross-sector collaborative to impact positive youth development in the region. Specifically, we are dedicating this year to youth policy and advocacy that mobilizes our region to prioritize children and youth. One way in which this will be evidenced is through the policies, funding and practices that allow all children and youth in San Diego to thrive. I encourage you to partner with us!

PATHWAYS Collaborative Submits Recommendations to County

Two main functions of the San Diego Youth Opportunity Pathways Collaborative (PATHWAYS) are to influence policies that create mandates for how public systems better support Opportunity Youth (OY), and to promote better policy and funding alignment opportunities for OY programs and services. In this vein, the Collaborative submitted Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) recommendations to San Diego County Behavioral Health Services. Recommendations are as follows:
  1. Prioritize San Diego’s underserved and ethnically diverse populations.
  2. The entire system of care should be ‘trauma-informed’ – health providers, case managers, community health workers, and all levels of staff and management should practice care that understands the trauma youth face in our communities.
  3. Programs should address how whole families receive support services.
The PATHWAYS Collaborative consists of several local youth-serving systems & organizations, funders, elected offices and non-profits that work directly with, and on behalf of, Opportunity Youth (16-24 year olds who are not connected to education or employment).

San Diego's Reengagement Efforts Highlighted at the 2015 Alternative Accountability Policy Forum

For the second year in a row, San Diego's reengagement efforts were shared with educators, policy makers and the general community at the Alternative Accountability Policy Forum. The session was moderated by Ian Gordon (YDO), with Ray King (Urban League of San Diego), Rebecca Phillpott (SD Unified), Gretchen Rhoads (SD Unified) and Gladys Selfridge (Insytanalytics, Inc.) serving as panelists. The session, entitled San Diego's Multi-Agency Re-engagement Efforts, had attendees from several states and generated much interest among the Policy Forum attendees. The objective of the Policy Forum was to build a coalition of educators to learn from each other and share their passion and success with policy makers and the broader community.
YDO Partners with Harmonium & San Diego Trauma Informed Guide Team to Bolster Groundbreaking Work on Childhood Trauma 

Harmonium, Inc. received a grant to participate in the Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC) project. San Diego now joins a national initiative on adversity and resilience which includes a two-year learning collaborative where best practices, new approaches and effective solutions to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) will be implemented. YDO is excited to work alongside the San Diego Trauma Informed Guide Team and lend our expertise in collective impact and systems change in order to make significant strides address childhood trauma. The 14 communities selected for MARC are leading the nation's most innovative efforts to reduce ACEs and resilience" said Natalie Levkovich, CEO of The Health Federation.
Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund October Convening
YDO, and a few members of the PATHWAYS Collaborative represented San Diego at the Aspen Institute's Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund (OYIF) Fall Convening in Aspen, Colorado. Twenty-two OYIF funded communities were represented. In addition to being a learning lab where OYIF communities highlighted their latest work; regional and national philanthropy were engaged; and the ongoing activities of youth leaders from several communities were shared. This served to inspire and continue the national momentum to address the conditions of Opportunity Youth.

YDO Director Speaks at Social Equity Funders Meeting: Setting National, State & Local Strategies in Motion for Boys & Men of Color

 On October 12, San Diego  
 Grantmakers Social Equity
 Funders convened a meeting
 focused on opportunities to
 support boys and young men
 of color. There was an update
 on the White House's My Brother’s Keeper initiative, as
 well as the California-based Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, and their implications for equity in our San Diego communities. There was also a panel discussion on connecting local Boys and Men of Color initiatives, connecting work in San Diego with national and statewide efforts, and opportunities for local philanthropy to support this population. Other speakers included: Marc Philpart, Director of Boys and Men of Color Initiatives at Policy Link; and Daphyne Watson, Executive Director at Mental Health America San Diego.

Are you working to address complex and challenging social issues that affect youth in San Diego? Utilize your organization's unique skills in mutually reinforcing activities with other organizations to strengthen overall impact. Join this Collective Impact movement! Let's make our children & youth a priority!

Thank You!

A huge THANK YOU to Union Bank and Pacific Western Bank for their financial support of San Diego's most vulnerable youth. We are grateful to have partners who invest in advancing the health and economic wellbeing of our Youth.

In 2015 in San Diego County, there were approximately 53,545 youth ages 16 to 24, who were not enrolled in school or working and had no degree beyond a high school diploma or GED - i.e., Opportunity Youth (OY). 3 out of 4 youth said they either did not know how to get a job or did not have the education, skills or work experience to do so. The San Diego Youth Opportunity Initiative (PATHWAYS) is both a Collaborative and a Reengagement Project. Utilizing a collective impact framework, the collaborative consists of over 40 cross-sector organizations and provides policy, funding and systems change that benefit Opportunity Youth in San Diego. These organizations include (Child Welfare, Probation, San Diego Unified School District, Community College District, San Diego Workforce Partnership, Community Based Organizations, Philanthropy, Businesses, Youth and Elected Officials). With funding from The Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund, The California Endowment, The Parker Foundation, Union Bank and Pacific Western Bank, San Diego Youth Development Office (YDO) serves as the backbone organization to convene, connect and engage the collaborative. As one of 22 sites in the National Opportunity Youth Network – the San Diego's goal is not only to reconnect local youth to education, training and employment – but also to “move the needle” by contributing data and outcomes to influence national policy and practice.
The reengagement project assists approximately 220 Opportunity Youth with getting back on track to obtain a high school credential, post-secondary certification and a living wage job by providing education and case management support. Funded by the San Diego Workforce Partnership and San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), the Urban League of San Diego County and SDUSD provide services that better assist youth in creating personalized pathways to achieving educational, training and employment success based on their interest and ability by identifying, supporting and reconnecting OY to programs and services that ultimately lead to careers.

Reengagement Initiative Provides Hope and Support to Local Youth: A Mentor's Story
By Taylor Lott
“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” – Steven Spielberg

Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to work in the schools,” Brisa recalled as she described her long-held passion for working with students. Brisa Rodriguez is a San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Check and Connect Mentor for the San Diego Youth Opportunity PATHWAYS Initiative (PATHWAYS). Currently she is mentoring 40 in-school Opportunity Youth at several high schools around the city. From working with students to problem solve in their academics, to being a listening ear when at-home issues arise, Brisa works to build relationships with her students in order to be a stable support system in their educational success.

“I’ve been mentoring since I was a junior in high school.”
As a junior in high school, Brisa had the opportunity to volunteer with a nonprofit as a mentor for at-risk elementary school students. After graduating, she was hired to mentor high school students with whom the nonprofit had been mentoring. Before PATHWAYS, Brisa also worked in Orange County as a Bilingual School Liaison for an intermediate school and at a hospital as a Tobacco Cessation Specialist. In addition, she has worked with at-risk high school students through an alternative-to-suspension program that Orange County Unified School District had for those caught with drug paraphernalia. She taught behavior modification skills and provided education on the effects of smoking and using drugs. For the past several years, Brisa has worked as a Check and Connect Mentor with SDUSD and has stayed on in the second phase of this mentorship program through the PATHWAYS Initiative.

Joining the PATHWAYS Team
“I was really excited when I heard about PATHWAYS because I thought, 'This is a holistic approach 
 this is what we need!’ It’s very well rounded and hits on every aspect. Prior to PATHWAYS, as a Check and Connect Mentor, there were boundaries and limitations placed on what we were able to do…it was hard for us to do everything.” Brisa explained. When I heard of PATHWAYS, I thought, ‘This is perfect  now we can really focus 100% on the academic piece, and they’ll have an Opportunity Coach who is going to focus on the job, career building, life skills, resources and referrals.’ I’m confident this is going to be successful…” she added.
Brisa connects with her students at least once a week. Students who are currently enrolled in summer school see her almost every day because she is present on school grounds. “I check in on their grades and attendance. They can only miss two days, so if I see that they’re not in 1st period, I call their home. I call the student and make sure that I get them to school.”

Brisa’s role within PATHWAYS is primarily to focus on providing academic support and guidance to ensure that each student graduates. “If they’re struggling with their grades, we’re able to pull the files to see why …For some students it’s easy, ‘Oh I forgot to turn it in, and it’s been sitting in my backpack for a week.’ For other students it’s, ‘I didn’t understand it,’ or ‘I just didn’t feel like doing it.’ That’s a challenge 
 getting them to see how that one assignment is going to affect their overall grade which will in turn affect their GPA which will possibly affect their graduation.”

“Getting them to be motivated, to see the big picture 
 the importance of a diploma – that’s challenging.” Brisa explains that in her line of work, she has to dig deep to identify what barriers are blocking her students from being fully engaged and motivated. “For some students, it takes time. Even if you find the “thing” that makes them light up, it’s still hard… Part of that is the home environment. That’s been a big challenge to student success. What goes on at home has a lot to do with how their day is going to be at school. The more supportive the family is, the more success I see.” Though most of the time students’ success in school appears to be correlated with their support at home, Brisa admits that this is not always the case. “I’ve had students whose families were very engaged … but it was a more personal issue; their self-esteem was low.”

Being a Mentor in this program does not simply end with academics. “Sometimes we talk about things going on in their life. We talk about what’s going on at home or what challenges they’re having, and sometimes when we let them talk,
they figure out their own solutions, or when they hear it, they realize that it’s not as bad as they thought. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to and share with so that’s our role.”

“My favorite part is building relationships with the students.”


“Seeing how students develop over time,” is what Brisa describes as one of the most rewarding things of being a Mentor. "At first they won’t say anything at the meetings …they’ll just nod. Then eventually they’re the ones who are coming in and having these conversations with us; they know exactly what to expect. They’ll come to me with their grades, and even if they're low, they’ll say, ‘I’m getting a D, but this is my plan.’ That's what we’ve been discussing …that’s really what I like to see. As a Mentor, one thing I emphasize is the importance of always having a plan.”

“We have to be persistent as Mentors and give them the same message over and over. They’re going to keep hearing it, and at one point it’s going to click. We’ve seen it happen, so now I’m confident that students are listening… even though I’m not getting the feedback initially, they are listening.”

Every youth enrolled in PATHWAYS is assigned an Opportunity Coach who works as a youth case manager. Together, the Mentor and Opportunity Coach work closely to identify how they can best support each student. “I’ve met with the Coaches to enroll the students. We ask the students about their pathway, their academic plan and their goals. We meet once a week to discuss our caseload. If there’s a student need, a success or a challenge, we problem solve together to see how we can both help the student.”

“It’s a process.”
Amongst the many students discussed at these meetings is Luis, a Clairemont High School student who Brisa has been mentoring for one year (See YDO's Fall 2015 Newsletter for "Luis’ Story"). “I first met him at Clairemont High School when I went to ask for the PATHWAYS' registration document. Every time I saw him, I explained what PATHWAYS was. It was a very new concept to him, so he always asked about it. It took a couple of visits, but finally he turned the registration in.” Getting the student enrolled is the first step in developing a full-fledged relationship with them.

 “…It takes awhile, and I think they need to see that the Mentors aren’t going away; the Mentors are going to be here every week. We have to build that trust. There’s been a lot of instability in their lives, and I want to make sure that I’m that one stable person and then help them find who else can be stable in their life after me: a teacher, a soccer coach, a family member or a friend
someone who they can see has those characteristics that are going to help them as they get older.”

Building a Relationship
“I met Luis towards the beginning of the school year, but it's only been in this last month of summer school that he has opened up. I started meeting with him at school, and the conversations were very brief. We would go over grades because he’s had a lot of academic challenges. Now the conversations have gotten more personal where he has started to share what’s going on at home, his responsibilities and what his challenges are at school.” Brisa explained that in order to develop a relationship with students, Mentors have to work to understand what motivates each youth. “When I’ve asked him what he wants to do …what motivates him, his response was ‘I don’t know.' Now that we’ve gotten to know each other, he’s shared his interest in psychology. He also knows a lot about cars which is great, so we would talk about my car … that’s how the relationship developed.”

"I’m excited about this program, and it’s just the beginning. I can’t wait to see what this is going to fully develop into. I would love to see every school have mentors and coaches for their students because not everyone is university bound – everyone is different
every student is different. It’s good having someone there who can help them during their transitions and help them see that when they’re struggling, the struggle won’t be forever. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and they just have to hang on and make good choices during that time so that things will get easier for them later.”

Luis’ Future
“I have no doubt that he is going to graduate. I know that the desire is there and that he is committed. I’ll be with him for this next full school year. I’m hoping that he’ll be working and can find a job that pays more than minimum wage
he’s a bright kid. If he’s interested in going to college, I will help him with the transition – with his application, FAFSA and orientation. If he doesn’t want to go to college and ]wants to do a trade, then I’ll work with his Coach so we can get him into some type of program whether it’s an internship, job or vocational school, but something. Whatever it is,  I’ll help him.”

This story was written by Taylor Lott, YDO's 2015 Summer Intern. Taylor is a sophomore at the University of Southern California where she majors in Business Administration.


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