The Unique Power of SAY Youth Leaders

“I’ve known kids who you’d never think would use a substance, let alone be addicted, but I see it,” says Jack, a senior at Serra High School in Tierrasanta and a youth leader with SAY’s Club ELEVATED.

Today the products, issues, and hazards related to substance abuse prevention are changing rapidly. Despite an overall decline in youth use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, liquid nicotine, e-cigarettes, vaping, and easy access to marijuana have created a need for increased prevention and awareness.

Club ELEVATED trains and supports youth in substance abuse awareness and peer outreach for prevention. Like many teens, Jack could’ve simply kept his head down, ignoring the actions of those around him. Instead Jack realized he had an opportunity to guide his peers down a positive path. Along with more than 40 other SAY youth leaders, Jack regularly speaks at school assemblies, town halls, and youth leadership conferences, teaching peers, parents, concerned adults, law enforcement, and others about ways to prevent and reduce access to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

Jack knows that attempting to shock a teen with statistics rarely works and that community-wide action is needed, including environmental and policy change. He sees results from helping his peers to consider potential repercussions. “I try to provide little nuggets of knowledge, because as kids we’re always thinking, and there’s going to be a time when a friend thinks about what I’ve said and ultimately makes the right choice,” he reflects.

“A lot of kids just follow the crowd or stand on the sidelines. But taking an active role really gives you a passion and a driving force. It’s cool to see a group of like-minded strong individuals, using our skills for something as great as Club ELEVATED and SAY San Diego,” says Jack.

SAY San Diego partners with youth and communities to empower those most affected to make changes in areas of their greatest concern. SAY has supported youth, like Jack, out in the community, leading prevention education, and informing policy change, for more than 20 years, ahead of what we often see in the news. Because our youth leaders connect with other young people, parents, and elected officials with expertise and firsthand experience, they are uniquely impactful in changing and saving lives.

Early Childhood Center Preview


Two SAY families had the opportunity to tour the new Early Childhood Center, set to open this fall. The center offers affordable, nurturing infant care for children 6 weeks to 24 months and preschool for 2 to 5 year-olds. The Early Childhood Center is located on Viewridge Avenue in Kearny Mesa at I-15 and Balboa. If you would like to join the interest list, visit the Early Childhood Center page.

Click here for a sneak peek of the Early Childhood Center and to hear from a SAY program director and mom who can’t wait for the grand opening.

SAY San Diego Provides Vaping Prevention Seminars

With teen vaping on the rise, local schools are calling on SAY San Diego to provide prevention seminars to students. Mary Baum, SAY’s Senior Program Director for Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Prevention, says that in light of recent vaping-related illnesses, far more schools have contacted SAY San Diego this fall to provide trainings and seminars than in past years. Mary spoke with KPBS about the alarming trend of teen nicotine use.

Click here to read KPBS article.

SAY San Diego Partners with County District Attorney

Therapy, Volunteer Hours to Replace Jail for Some Offenders: DASAY is proud to partner with the San Diego County District Attorney on the Community Justice Initiative. Participants who complete 12 hours of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) classes along with four hours of volunteer work, have their cases dismissed and records sealed. The innovative program is already demonstrating strong success rates, and puts participants ranging in age from 18-80 on a positive path. SAY San Diego’s Laura Soto oversees the CBT classes for the initiative in the North, South, and East County regions.

Read NBC 7 Story

Meet Dannette

Dannette and her husband have been happily married for 43 years. With their three children now grown and having families of their own, they made a reasonable assumption that they were done parenting. That changed when their granddaughter came to live with them last April. Dannette quickly realized there was a lot she didn’t know about being a parent in today’s world. Thankfully she was introduced to SAY San Diego’s Project KEEP program through the San Diego County Foster Parent Association.

Project KEEP provides support and education for foster parents and kinship caregivers, designed to improve their children’s behavior and decrease family stress. Many caregivers are grandparents like Dannette, who are learning to raise kids again with approaches very different from when they were raising their own children.

Dannette says, “Project KEEP taught me how to speak to my granddaughter on her level, how to set boundaries, and teach her about consequences. Before she came to live with me, her life was chaotic. SAY helped me understand that I was only adding to the chaos when I would raise my voice.” These days Dannette is able to show her granddaughter that there’s a benefit to doing simple things like putting her shoes away. She has a chore chart and loves checking tasks off the list. “The tools I learned through Project KEEP are invaluable,” says Dannette.

Dannette feels that kinship families often slip through the cracks and simply don’t know about available resources. She is grateful for the skills and resources she learned from SAY and Project KEEP and always has flyers on hand so that she can share information with those who need it. She continues to seek out information that will help other foster parents and kinship families, and has been called “the Grandma with all the resources” on more than one occasion.

With summer coming to a close, Dannette is preparing for a busy fall. Not only is her granddaughter back to school, Dannette is about to become a full-time student herself. “I’m going back to law school so that I can be an advocate for other kinship families. I think everyone can benefit from parenting assistance and I just want to pay it forward.”

Bringing the Community Together

The 5th Annual Unity Games at Willie Henderson Sports Complex brought together 20 partner organizations, law enforcement, city officials, the justice department, and the community for a single-elimination softball tournament, entertainment, resources, health screenings, and more. The Unity Games strives to promote safety and well-being in Southeastern San Diego by working together with a common goal. This is just one example of SAY San Diego’s commitment to partnerships in the community.

View NBC 7 Story

View CBS 8 Story

Nixon Supports Back to School Drive

A big thank you to our friends at Nixon for prepping 100 of their signature backpacks with school supplies to help youth succeed in school and help ease the burden on local families in need! We appreciate you!


Cohn Restaurant Group Donates $3000 to SAY

Tacos Libertad and the Cohn Restaurant Group presented SAY San Diego with a check for $3000! Each month the Cohn Restaurant Group donates all profits from Tacos Libertad to a local charity, and SAY was the beneficiary for June 2019! We are so grateful for this generous donation. Thank you!!

Thank you PwC!

PwC Charity Golf Tournament Raises $11,950 for SAY San Diego!

Thank you to our friends at PwC for hosting such a fun and meaningful event that supports SAY programs for San Diego children and families!

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