2nd Annual LCAP Community Dialogue on Education

By Lucia Acevedo
Program Director – Crawford Community Connection

On Saturday, February 24th, over 150 City Heights parents, students, school principals, and district leaders came together at Monroe Clark Middle School for a morning gathering to participate in a unique effort to dialogue on the complex and varied factors affecting our schools and provide direction to the district on how it should budget to address these factors. The 2ND ANNUAL LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan) COMMUNITY DIALOGUE ON EDUCATION was hosted by SAY San Diego’s Crawford Community Connection – Parent Student Resident Organization (PSRO), in partnership with SDUSD, The Global Arc, Hoover Wellness Council, United Women of East Africa, Comite Organizador Latino de City Heights, the International Rescue Committee, Karen Organization of San Diego, Sterlington Consulting, and the California Endowment. Attendees collectively reviewed data regarding student chronic absenteeism, school suspension rates, English Learner progress, college and career preparedness and other issues. They were then invited to explore and identify ways to address these pressing issues.

Mr. Tang, the principal from Mann Middle School said “It was great to see so many community members and parents having a voice in the budget process.  I valued the dialogue, how we were talking with each other instead of at one another. And I really appreciated the involvement of the students there from Crawford High School.”

One of the participating parents said “Our community as parents, schools and community have to work together for our kid’s well-being. We have a lot of great ideas and leaders in our community, we have to take advantage and do it.”

Another parent from Crawford High School noted “It helped me know that most parents are finding the same hardships and we can work together to solve them together for our children’s good.”

At the end of the day all of the feedback was collected and folks were invited to be a part of the process to compile the information and develop a document to be presented to the SDUSD in the next month.

We Did It! $91,935 Raised!

Thank you for supporting SAY San Diego’s Champions for Youth campaign! This year we raised nearly $92,000 to support children and families in our programs. Because of your generosity, we raised more than ever before, including $30,000 in bonus funds!

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Talented Grad Students Boost SAY’s Social Innovations!

From Nancy Gannon Hornberger, CEO

By establishing creative partnerships with local, world-class universities, SAY San Diego has tapped into the ingenuity and fresh perspectives of talented graduate students. They are exploring new social innovation programming for us that builds on our organization’s strengths and values, with great promise to meet unmet and urgent needs.

Pictured L-R: Andy Brigel, SDSU 2018 MBA Candidate; Julia Sutton & Hailey Vieira, 2018 SDSU MSW Candidates

Starting in October 2017, three second year master’s degree students from San Diego State University (pictured left) joined the SAY San Diego Board of Directors as Board Fellows for the course of two semesters. Sponsored by SDSU’s Social Policy Institute, at the School of Social Work and the Fowler College of Business, the purpose of the fellowship is to introduce MSW and MBA students to board roles in nonprofit governance and leadership, while also engaging them in an innovation project with a board member, staff and the local community. Their innovation project, still underway, addresses the serious unmet need for high quality, affordable infant and early childhood care. The Board Fellows Program is guided by Steve Hornberger, MSW, Director of the Social Policy Institute, SDSU.

USD Master’s in Social Innovation Candidates pictured L-R: Jayne Eckels, Leslie Willis, Emily Cox & Connie O’Brien


Over the Winter Intersession, SAY San Diego benefited tremendously from our engagement with students in the Master’s in Social Innovation Program at University of San Diego. Four students (pictured right) served as social enterprise consultants to help us explore new possibilities for valuable programming within our Child and Youth Development impact area, where SAY serves more than 4,500 children and families every day. They explored the needs and interests of parents and children through a series of interviews, analyzed the market, and reported on possibilities for partnerships and financing, under the guidance of Karen Henken, MBA, Professor of Practice, Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at USD, Kroc School of Peace Studies.


Fulfilling the Vision of Preschool for All

From Nancy Gannon Hornberger, CEO 

Happy 2018! Here at SAY San Diego, not only does the important work of 2017 continue into 2018 – our 47th year – we also think about new possibilities and opportunities! As an organization, we pride ourselves on going above and beyond where we have resources and competencies to bring and to share. Therefore, coming into 2018, we are investing in innovation to solve some of our region’s pressing problems.
One such pressing problem is the high need for affordable, top quality early learning, child care and preschool. Beyond limited publicly-subsidized preschools, few preschool options exist for low and low-to-moderate income parents in San Diego. The typical monthly cost of quality child care and preschool is more than monthly tuition at San Diego State, upwards of $800-$1200 each month, per child. Understandably, for working families of any income level the pressures of affordability are greater here than many other areas, since San Diego is among the nation’s most expensive locations to raise a family, and the local self-sufficiency wage is well above the federal poverty level.
Among SAY San Diego’s clients are parents with young children across a wide socio-economic spectrum, continuously searching for, but not finding, child care and preschool options they can afford. Our experience is reinforced by research citing that nearly 70% of all local families with young children cannot find affordable, high quality preschool[1].
SAY San Diego has undertaken a major planning initiative, which will come to fruition in 2018, to expand affordable, high quality preschool. There’s no question that high-quality preschool is related to higher levels of behavioral/emotional functioning, school readiness, academic achievement, educational attainment, and eventual income[2]. It also enables many parents to work and grow in their jobs.
The early years of a child’s life are so fleeting and precious. We are excited to tackle this local challenge. For more information contact me at any time: nancy@saysandiego.org. In addition, perhaps you will consider helping with resources for our preschool expansion? Please see: Pass the Hat for Preschool – our campaign which receives additional bonus funds now through January 28.
Many thanks for your ongoing partnership and support!
[1] U.S. Department of Education. (2015). A matter of equity: Preschool in America. Retrieved from: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/early-learning/matter-equity-preschool-america.pdf

[2] Child Care Aware of America. (2015). Parents and the high cost of child care: 2015 report. Retrieved from: http://www.usa.childcareaware.org/advocacy-public-policy/resources/reports-and-research/costofcare; MacGillvary, J., & Lucia, L. (2011). Economic impacts of early care and education in California. UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. Retrieved from: http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/cscce/2011/economic-impacts-of-early-care-and-education-in-california; U.S. Department of Education. (2015). A matter of equity: Preschool in America. Retrieved from: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/early-learning/matter-equity-preschool-america.pdf

Holiday Hopes Made a Difference

THANK YOU to all who donated to SAY San Diego’s 2017 Holiday Hopes Campaign! We brightened the holidays for a record number of families this year thanks to your generous support. Whether it was a toy for a child or food for a family, the many gifts from SAY supporters this holiday season were a kind reminder to others that they are not alone.

If you are considering an end-of-year gift to to help children and family year round, please donate to SAY through the Champions for Youth campaign. Every gift qualifies SAY San Diego for bonus funds from the Century Club of San Diego. 100% of your donation goes to SAY, and there are no fees for online giving by credit card. It’s the best way to give to SAY San Diego during the holidays and beyond. Champions for Youth runs through January 28, 2018.

Thank you again for making a difference this holiday season. May all the joy you brought to others also come your way!

Promoting Health and Safety

Promoting Health & Safety

From Nancy Gannon Hornberger, CEO

This month, SAY San Diego brings awareness to two very important issues – mental health screening and domestic violence prevention. October 5, 2017 marks National Depression Screening Day, when we encourage all San Diegans to check in with their emotional well-being. Mental and emotional health are just as important as physical health, but can be harder to address. The countywide It’s Up 2 Us Campaign, reports that one in five adult San Diegans suffer from a diagnosable mental health challenge and nearly one out of every five children experience some degree of an emotional or behavioral difficulty. Too often, people do not seek professional care and support, or give support, because of the stigma that is associated with having a mental illness. With this post and by participating, we encourage everyone to pay attention to signs of depression in loved ones and in ourselves.

In October, SAY San Diego draws attention to Domestic Violence Awareness, a focus that we have all year long. Domestic and family violence sadly affect tens of thousands of San Diegans every year, and are root causes identified in one of every five homicide cases in our County. In recent years, SAY San Diego has increased its focus on preventing, identifying and building up a comprehensive network of intervention resources in the area of domestic violence prevention, to assist our clients. We hope that you will join the conversation about prevention and crisis intervention by joining SAY staff in wearing purple on October 19, to show support for victims and survivors of domestic violence.

At SAY San Diego, our vision is opportunity, equity and well-being for all San Diegans. Our dedicated staff provide critical support in areas such as substance abuse prevention, mental health counseling, child abuse prevention, juvenile delinquency prevention, and youth development. We are proud to offer services and resources that prevent mental health and domestic violence crises, and enable residents of our community to overcome some of life’s biggest challenges.

Family Self Sufficiency – Helping to Change Lives

By Suzie Colby, Vice President Resource Development


“Life is not a problem. It can be a challenge, but you can always find your way.”
Iris, Working Mom and SAY Client


 For Iris, these words of wisdom guide her life and help her to keep her two sons on the right path. Behind the words lies an unyielding optimism and desire to succeed which she learned from her grandfather, a self-made man who was locally famous for his successful market and butcher shop in Mexicali. These traits helped Iris through significant challenges when she became a struggling single parent who sometimes failed to make ends meet.

Iris remembers a near-breaking point for her 14 and nine-year old children when she told them that they all were moving into a homeless shelter. Instead of focusing on negatives, Iris saw the three-month period as an opportunity to save money and find a job with more hours and better pay. She also turned the shelter experience into something positive for her boys, by refusing to let them dwell on the stigma of being homeless. “I would wake them up in the morning and tell them we were going for a walk.  We would walk to the ocean and learn instead of thinking about all of our problems and sitting in the shelter. You don’t need money to learn things. Homelessness is a process and you just find a way out.”

Iris connected with SAY San Diego’s Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) program as part of her plan to move beyond part-time work and find stable housing. The FSS program pairs case workers with unemployed or under-employed San Diegans who are looking to explore new personal and professional opportunities. FSS provides emergency assistance, job leads and referrals, free tax preparation, education and career guidance. For Iris, the individualized support she received from her FSS case manager was key. She received assistance with job leads, resume writing, emergency food, transportation (gas cards), and school supplies for her sons.

Today, Iris is employed by a major hotel chain and went from a seasonal employee to full-time in a matter of months. “I went to the supervisor and told her that I didn’t want to be seasonal and that I wasn’t leaving. I liked the company and wanted to stay.” Iris proudly adds that she will qualify for management training after one year. “I told my supervisor that I have my calendar marked for that.”

While Iris loves her new job, she believes education is king. “I’m going to get my bachelor’s. It might take me a long time, but I’m going to get it.” Her advice to her sons and other young people, including single moms like her, relates to education, which she believes gives you more choices and chances.

What seemed like a distant possibility is now a reality for Iris. She has a steady income, and she and her boys live in their own apartment in North Park.  Iris is a voracious reader, an avid runner and planner, always thinking about the next mile. “Read. Run. Keep busy.” Iris explains. “That’s how I live my life.”

Iris is one of nearly 500 people who are helped by SAY San Diego’s FSS program annually. SAY offers more than 30 programs that invest in the success of youth, families, and communities every day.

For more information about the Family Self-Sufficiency program, contact Melanie von Schroter, 858-565-4148 x281.


Youth = Powerful Advocates for Change

Youth = Powerful Advocates for Change

From Nancy Gannon Hornberger, CEO

Do you know about Advocates for Change Today (ACT)? ACT is a youth-led effort, staffed and convened by SAY San Diego, and devoted to improving community health and safety, especially in the area of drug and alcohol abuse prevention. ACT operates year-round and involves youth leaders, ages 12-16, as part of SAY’s larger Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug prevention programs in the Central Region.

In June 2017, ACT said a fond farewell to their graduating seniors, but with the addition of 10 new high school youth members and two new middle schoolers, the program is busier than ever! They focus on prevention by acting to improve the community environment in City Heights. In addition to leading peer workshops on topics such as the dangers of impaired driving and drug- and violence-free prom and graduation, ACT youth leaders also engage the larger community. To raise awareness and active concern among community and business partners, ACT members designed hanger tags and colorful posters as platforms for their advocacy and made connections at frequently-visited community spaces – including Hoover High, City Heights Library, Fair@44 and the YMCA, as well as businesses including Tasty Pizza, Yum Yum Yo Boba Shop, Starbucks, Denny’s, El Super, Jamba Juice and CVS – asking management to display them in high-visibility areas where teens tend to congregate.

We are especially proud that ACT youth recently had the opportunity to present their achievements at the county-wide Youth Leadership Partnership Meeting, and to attend La Colonia Eden Gardens Leadership Camp in Julian. Future ACT youth-led projects include conducting store assessments of all liquor stores and markets on El Cajon Blvd. to support the Live Well San Diego Community Market Program, and promoting Prescription Drug Take Back Day (October 28, 2017) as part of Binational Health Week.

For more information on SAY San Diego’s youth-led Advocates for Change Today (ACT), please contact: Demaris (Demi) Climax, dclimax@saysandiego.org, 619-283-9624 ext. 384

The Grand STEM Challenge Camp was a huge success!

By SAY San Diego Board Member, LaDreda Lewis.  

SAY San Diego was thrilled to receive a grant from Northrop Grumman to host the second annual Grand STEM Challenge Camp, in partnership with Sylvan Learning of La Mesa.  The STEM Camp – focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — was held at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation for two weeks, July 10-14 and July 17-21. The focus of this year’s STEM Camp was to engage groups that are underrepresented in STEM education and careers throughout every aspect of the program.

The Grand STEM Challenge Camp uses a project-based learning approach in which students are taught engineering skills through examining a problem which needs to be solved. The week-long camp was set up so that on days 1-2, students were taught the engineering process through “mini-design challenges.” On day 3, a main challenge was introduced: “Build a machine out of K’NEX and other materials that can move a ping pong ball from a six-inch space at one end of a table to a six-inch space at the other end of the table. The ball cannot be touched, must be started with an outside force and cannot fall off the table or bounce back.” Students spent days 3-4 designing, testing and redesigning their machines. Day 5 was the final build and competition day. Participants included 60 students entering grades 3-8. Week one included a group of African American youth from The Links to STEM program and an all girls’ group formed with the support of BeWise (Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering). Week two included 7th and 8th graders from O’Farrell Charter Middle School linked to SAY San Diego’s program there, as well as participants were selected by Sylvan from students whose families previously worked with Sylvan through the San Diego Unified School District’s Supplemental Education Services (SES) and students from the Jacobs Center’s programs.

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Freedom Isn’t Free

By Cindy C. Butler, Public Affairs Director, VA San Diego Healthcare System


As Independence Day approaches, we think about the iconic saying, “Freedom Isn’t Free.” As we commemorate the holiday, let’s think about the brave men and women who are currently serving and those who have served our nation around the world to protect the American way of life. They are often away from their families for long periods of time while deployed to distant lands, which creates immense hardships for service members and their families. Many service members in combat zones are at incredible risk and often come back from service with both physical and psychological wounds that may impact them for the rest of their lives. Yet, others pay the ultimate sacrifice and never came home.

These sacrifices are what is meant by the saying, “Freedom Isn’t Free.” Each of them “at one point in their life wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount up to and including their life.” But, when asked, these American heroes will say they are proud to have served and that they would gladly do it again. We owe these service members, veterans and their families a priceless debt – our very way of life, our freedom, and we should never take for granted the sacrifices they’ve made for every American. This Fourth of July, take a moment to honor all service members and veterans for their contributions to our freedom and American way of life.  They paid the price for our freedom.

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