Each and every day, here at SAY San Diego, our volunteers and interns give the abundant gifts of their talent and time to caring for their neighbors and lifting the lives of the children, youth, and families that we serve. Volunteers and interns form the heart of our community at SAY San Diego—and each year, they outnumber paid staff by about 150%. Among their many contributions to our clients and community, volunteers provide tutoring, tax assistance, counseling, lead youth development activities, organize and run events, conduct research, and much more.
By Chelsea Stephens SAY San Diego Case Assistant/Interpreter| Teen Court
It’s been a part of my life for over five years now; longer than many of my friendships, longer than my time as an undergraduate, longer than any other volunteer or work position I’ve held. Teen Court has become a part of my life that, to my benefit, has also become a key part of my identity. This is a program that has taught me patience, empathy, and has helped shape me into the person I am proud to be today. Although I’m a volunteer for the program, Teen Court has paid me in countless ways for which I will always be grateful.
What is it that brought me to Teen Court in the first place? It was a combination of two things: a desire to be involved in my community and also an interest in becoming an attorney. I was a college freshman trying to figure out life and was fortunate enough to come across a volunteer posting as a Case Assistant with SAY’s Teen Court program. After applying and being accepted, I began attending the biweekly hearings and quickly found myself falling in love with the ability to help others. Working with the clients and their families opened my eyes to the struggles so many families in San Diego face—poverty, unemployment, and substance abuse, to name a few. It helped give me a more well-rounded worldview that I know I will be able to apply wherever life’s journey takes me.
SAY San Diego’s commitment to enriching the lives of children and youth, supporting their healthy development, and making life a bit easier for working families includes our major extended-learning programs before and after school. All facts point to the resulting afterschool advantage. Effective afterschool programs, like ours, boost academic performance, particularly in the key areas of reading and math. They also improve attendance, school engagement, personal aspirations, and positive health outcomes—including improved diet and exercise habits, healthy peer relationships, graduating high school, and attending post-secondary school—while reducing risk factors.[i]
Prevention is truly at the heart of SAY San Diego’s approach—and has always been. Notably, the science of prevention has advanced greatly over the years, in our area of social services, just as it has in public health and medicine. One area of emphasis has been reproductive health. Reproductive health is not only a critically important area of well-being for youth, it is one where evidence-based prevention efforts have led our county to join the nation in achieving historically low rates of teen pregnancy. Not long ago, San Diego had teen pregnancy rates that were 72–74 out of every 1000 births, now we are 22 out of every 1000 births—the lowest rate on record (CDC, 2016).
By Raul Roman, SAY San Diego Case Manager and Certified Trainer, World Class Relationships Curriculum
Love in a relationship cannot flourish without a strong foundation. Empathy, authenticity, and acceptance are all traits that support healthy relationships. Here are 5 tips to keep the love alive:
Communication: This is key in any relationship, especially when first engaging in a partnership. Talk about what’s important to you and how you’re feeling.
Goals: Set shared and agreed-upon goals. Focus on things you want to accomplish together and independently. For example, a shared goal would be to schedule more date nights, and an independent goal might be to learn a new skill.
Support: Be your partner’s biggest cheerleader. Back his/her dreams and personal goals. For instance, if your partner really wants to continue school, be encouraging.
Initiative: Do not rely on your partner or others to meet your needs. Assume responsibility for your own needs. No blaming or guilt trips. For example, if you’d like your partner to rub your shoulders, let him/her know.
Re-kindle: If you feel you have reached a plateau or rut, go back to what worked during your honeymoon phase. Continue to find ways to keep the flame burning. Maybe visit a favorite restaurant you used to love, or watch a favorite movie together.
In a KPBS article, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, the county’s chief deputy medical examiner, said his office sees meth-related deaths almost every day. He reported a dramatic increase in methamphetamine-related deaths—more than the flu and homicides combined. Here in San Diego the meth epidemic is especially acute. Knowing people who have suffered meth addiction and death is part of my personal and professional experience. I have friends and colleagues who have lost loved ones—including teenagers—to meth, or have lost children, spouses, and friends to the justice system because of the ravages of addiction. At SAY San Diego, we hold a vision of opportunity, equity, and well-being for all San Diegans, and we have a talented team that takes a public health approach to raising awareness, increasing prevention, and reducing misuse and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, through community empowerment, collaboration, and structural changes that include better practices, systems, and policies.
In partnership with U.S. Attorney for Southern California Laura Duffy, the Playwrights Project, and many others we’ve taken one especially creative approach to increasing awareness of this issue in our community. Other People’s Kids is a play we’ve collectively commissioned, developed, and produced that retraces the tragic and complicated experiences of individuals, children, teens, parents, families, and entire communities when meth use and addiction become part of everyday life, and which offers hope and insight for healing. We are very grateful to all of our partners, including the County Probation Department, Second Chance, and the McAlister Institute, as well as many brave and generous individuals who shared their life stories to inform this production.
Don’t miss out! This moving and informative play will be performed at 7 p.m., March 16-18 at San Diego State University’s Experimental Theatre. Performances will also feature Finding Our Way, a play about recovery written by inmates at Donovan Correctional Facility.
…to Say Thank You, Gracias, Merci, Grazie, Arigato, Xiexie, Danke, and Spasibo!
2016 Annual Report: Each year, in late fall, we take stock of SAY San Diego’s accomplishments as an agency and document them in an annual report of our progress. 2016 was a meaningful and exciting year at SAY San Diego. Our 45th! We are truly indebted to our terrific workforce, exceptional volunteers, and many talented and generous community partners and donors, all of whom fuel our work. Never doubt your critical importance. For a 36-year-old mother, SAY’s counseling staff recently helped her to change her life—making the difference between living in continual fear of domestic abuse; unable to keep her children safe, and finding a safe pathway forward, with her family intact, healthy and thriving. Please explore the multiple approaches and impacts SAY advances to save and improve lives in our 2016 Annual Report.
Retired San Diego County Deputy Sheriff and SAY San Diego Prevention Specialist William Perno is a subject-matter expert on synthetic drugs. Mr. Perno has testified in support of synthetic drug legislation at the California State Assembly and provided trainings to community groups, school districts, students, teachers, parents, health care and prevention providers, drug-free community coalitions, policy makers and law enforcement throughout California. Mr. Perno was recently recognized by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, as a key educator and an activist who assisted in the creation of the new synthetic drug ordinance in San Diego.