SAY San Diego Recommits to Undoing Racism

Today, SAY San Diego joins with his family, friends and community—nationwide and right here in San Diego—to grieve the senseless, unjust death of George Floyd at the hands of police. We are in pain. We are also at a pivotal moment. George Floyd’s killing underscores racial injustice that takes an ugly toll daily across our nation. It places a bright spotlight on the immoral legacy of ongoing racial hatred and systemic racism where systems fail to protect and serve all people of color, and most acutely Black and Latinx people.

Today we say their names because this moment demands real change and real action: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, and far too many more.

The key question of this moment for SAY San Diego as an organization whose mission is to heal, to advocate and to lift every voice, is what will we do?  All of us have a role. Now more than ever SAY San Diego as an organization and each of us as individuals recommit to doing more and redoubling our focus on undoing racially unjust and harmful policies. We will re-examine our own institutional norms, biases, privileges and practices to ensure that we are anti-racist and undoing racism.

SAY San Diego’s board, staff, program participants, partners and communities will continue to create the vision we hold, but have not yet achieved, of opportunity, equity and well-being for all.  SAY San Diego joins with all who seek to bring people together by acknowledging racial divides, seeking to understand root causes of racism and oppression, listening more deeply, and recommitting to solutions that heal and produce durable, positive change.

With our thanks,

Nancy Gannon Hornberger, SAY San Diego President & CEO
LaDreda Lewis, SAY San Diego Board Chair

SAY San Diego awarded $50,000 grant from The San Diego Foundation

SAY San Diego is the grateful recipient of a $50,000 grant from the COVID-19 Community Response Fund at The San Diego Foundation, for our Bridges to Success program to support individuals and families severely impacted by the current pandemic. This critical funding will allow SAY to help families from spiraling into irrecoverable crisis related to shelter and basic needs.  Bridges to Success addresses potentially catastrophic challenges from unexpected job loss and other unforeseen issues that impact a family’s ability to pay for full rent, utilities, medical/dental, baby items, education-related needs, transportation, or food and other basic needs.

Nancy Gannon Hornberger, CEO of SAY San Diego expressed her appreciation, stating,

“SAY San Diego is deeply grateful to our partners at The San Diego Foundation, for bringing hope and needed care to youth, families and community. This timely, critical support enables us to meet urgent needs at this unusually difficult time. Together, we are moving forward.”

About the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund

The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund at The San Diego Foundation was created in partnership with San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, San Diego Gas & Electric, United Way of San Diego County, San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council, NEWS 8 and Alliance Healthcare Foundation to receive donations and make rolling rapid response grants to nonprofit organizations supporting impacted communities, particularly those that are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences. Grants focus on food security; other essential living expenses; emergent needs such as closing the digital divide; and rent and utility payment support. Thousands of individuals, businesses and foundations have contributed to the Fund, and 100 percent of donations are provided to nonprofits. Learn more at

SAY San Diego awarded $35,000 grant from The San Diego Women’s Foundation to help refugees, asylees, and asylum-seekers in City Heights

This grant will support the New Arrivals Support Program (NASP) that operates from SAY San Diego’s Crawford Community Connection (CCC) school-based family resource center in City Heights. The program “bridges the gap between a refugee, asylum seeker or asylee’s arrival to the U.S. and a point of self-sufficiency and stability,” explains NASP Director, Lucia Acevedo Gonzales.  This critical support from The San Diego Women’s Foundation will allow for expanded services such as individualized case management, connections to social services, events that promote cultural inclusion, and tangible resources that foster successful transitions to education and employment.

Nancy Gannon Hornberger, CEO of SAY San Diego views this award as timely and meaningful. “SAY San Diego is incredibly grateful and inspired by the women of the San Diego Women’s Foundation for their essential support of the refugee, asylee and newcomer community,” she states, adding that the foundation’s support is “so important every day, but especially in these critical moments.”


SAY’s Crawford Community Connection

Hope for Junior

“I don’t want to add color,” eight-year old Junior explained when he turned in his holiday sheet a few weeks ago.

His drawing stood out because of its bleakness. The other children had drawn candy canes, presents, Santa, and Christmas trees—all brimming with colors reflective of the extra joy you typically see in kids this time of year.

The SAY teacher immediately knew not to push Junior to add anything and instead asked him to explain what the drawing meant to him.

“It’s what our living room used to look like a year ago . . . before everything changed. I wish we could have it back to the way it was” Junior said, trying to smile through his sadness.

It has been a rough year for Junior. This boy’s world changed rapidly in a matter of months because of the long-term illness of his teen sister, who had died just before Thanksgiving. This holiday season, there are painful reminders at every turn for Junior and his younger brother that their sister is gone. His mother puts on a brave face at home, wrapping her sons in as much love and cheer as she can. She is a single parent with a stable job at a local auto-parts store, but beyond the emotional devastation that the loss of a child brings, the medical bills and funeral expenses were more than she could handle. Soon, she could not cover the rent and they became homeless overnight.

Christmas was never extravagant for Junior and his family, but his mother had always managed to make the holidays joyful for her kids. This year, there is no secret wrapping of presents or holiday drawings on refrigerators. The living room that usually had a small tree and coffee table adorned with a modest array of decorations was now a distant memory. For the past few months, Junior, his younger brother, and mother have been sleeping on the living room floor of family friend.

Fortunately, Junior’s mother came to the attention of the school principal and SAY teacher, and we were able to help with some emergency assistance and referrals so that critical needs were met for food and clothing. SAY is also assisting with grant funds to help cover other basic expenses so that Junior’s mother can reach her goal to set aside part of each paycheck to cover the first month’s rent for her own apartment again. Some surprise gifts will also find their way to Junior and his family this week thanks to generous SAY Holiday Hopes donors.

SAY helps thousands of children like Junior every day. Whether it’s a gift for the holidays or support for our work throughout the year, your donations ensure that kids like Junior are not facing tragedy and challenges alone.

If you have already made a recent contribution to SAY San Diego, thank you very much again for making a difference. If you know of others who might want to help this holiday season and beyond, please share this story.

SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY to grow your gift now through January 26, 2020:

CLICK HERE to support critical SAY programs through Champions for Youth. Farmers Insurance will add funds to every dollar of your gift to SAY!


2019 Community Mentor Summit

By SAY staff Jacinda Abcarian

It’s not every day that you walk into a convention center and see former gang members greeting police officers with hugs, and teens on probation networking with prosecutors. Welcome to the Community Mentor Summit, where people from all walks of life come together to show their commitment to a new way of tackling juvenile delinquency in San Diego, California.

This annual 2-day event took place October 16 – 17, 2019, and highlighted the legitimacy of the “credible messenger” model which San Diego has recently adopted as a best practice for working with youth who have come to the attention of law enforcement. This model allows those with real life experience in the criminal justice system to serve as inspirational mentors to youth on probation.

SAY San Diego, through a grant from the County of San Diego’s Probation Department, is currently working with credible messengers including  Arthur Soriano of Youth Empowerment and Reginald Washington of Project AWARE to bring hope, life skills, and emotional literacy to San Diego youth who are system-involved. Soriano and Washington were featured speakers at the Community Mentor Summit.

A heartfelt Soriano looked into the audience and stated, “I’m here to support the community that I once destroyed.” Raised in City Heights, Soriano fell into the pitfalls of drugs, gangs, juvenile hall, and ultimately 23 years in prison. Since his release just 6 years ago, Soriano has made impressive strides in improving relations between his community and the various systems he was in. He is now recognized by law enforcement, probation, juvenile judges, principals, and non-profit organizations as an advocate for community change and example of life transformation.

Reginald Washington

Reginald Washington of Project AWARE also spoke to the power of lived experience when mentoring youth who have been in and out of juvenile hall. “What’s incredible is the fact that these mentors have been able to overcome hard times and are still be able to speak and reach these individuals in the streets. It does mean something when you have been there, and you can actually speak about it.” As a young man, Washington was involved in gangs without any awareness of alternative ways to deal with his anger. One night he got in an altercation and shot someone. This resulted in a 15-year prison sentence that would forever change his life. Washington is now a leader in the credible messenger movement and recognized by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and Probation Department for his contributions with their Youth Academy and promoting public safety.

According to Washington, youth need to see that success is not all about money and street cred – it is about changing your life and having peace of mind. And who better to deliver that message than someone who has been there? Washington said, “I like to show the youth, ‘this is what it looks like when you are successful. You could be at your lowest point in life, you could be entrenched in gangs, but this is what it looks like when you are really successful.’”

To the mixed audience of teens, social service providers, and youth advocates, San Diego’s elected officials also addressed the trailblazing work happening in in the county. County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar stated: “After decades of punishment and incarceration, our probation department took a long hard look at what it takes to keep kids out of juvenile hall and safely in their communities. This new community-based approach has developed through strong partnerships with our District Attorney Summer Stephan, our Probation Department Chief Gonzales, our Public Defender Randy Mise, our juvenile courts, various law enforcement agencies, and our community partners.”

Kristin Gaspar, Summer Stephan, Arthur Soriano and daughter, Nick Macchione (photo courtesy of A. Soriano)

“This new community-based approach … is a level of collaboration that has never been done before – not here in San Diego, not in the state of California, not anywhere across the country – we have a lot to be proud of.”– County Supervisor, Kristin Gaspar

San Diego has committed to making a difference in the lives of teens and young adults by launching several initiatives to improve criminal justice processes and reduce recidivism.

District Attorney Summer Stephan spoke passionately about her commitment to creating a climate of justice for all San Diegans, including those who have been in the system. “We want to give 2nd and 3rd chances, and we want to do it with accountability to the community we serve. We’ve done this by removing 1,500 marijuana felony convictions, without somebody asking us to. We did

it on our own because that’s what the law provides. We do this by offering expungement clinics. I was one of only two prosecutors in the state to support Assembly-member Ting’s bill that automatically expunges records of people that are entitled to that expungement. But we expect people to be lawyers and apply to get the collateral consequences removed that they are entitled to under the law! Being able to have our system do it automatically is the right way to do it.” These statements drew wide applause as Stephan went on to reiterate that community mentorship is critical to transforming lives. From her years serving women and children in the area of human trafficking, Stephan saw firsthand that victims were more likely to listen to those who had experienced similar struggles. “We know that when someone with lived experience displays the empathy of having walked in that person’s shoes, it makes a tremendous difference. And it makes a difference because they can see a path. They can see ‘this person had my journey and now has arrived to this other side, and they are the leaders.’”

“We need to work with community mentors – they are bringing their talents, their gifts, their energy, their dedication, and their commitment to making our communities as flourishing and as healthy as possible.  We came to realize that we don’t need to, nor can we, do this alone.” Jason Rasch, Supervising Probation Officer

The importance of preserving hope among young people was a strong theme that shaped the summit. Nick Macchione, Director of the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, came to show his support for community mentorship by telling a story from his childhood. “You see, I was one of those youth. By the graces of God, I didn’t end up in my juvenile detention facility in West New York and New Jersey where I grew up. But as an immigrant kid, a latch-key kid living above a liquor store in an urban area, I was probably one stone’s throw away from the juvenile delinquency card that

Planning Committee Top Row Left to Right: Marquitta Barnes (Project Aware), Erica Palmer (SAY San Diego), Arturo Soriano (Youth Empowerment), Joshlyn Turner (The Write Juice) Rashida Hameed (Epiphany Women In Focus), Leticia Bombadier (Youth Empowerment & Transformative Centered Solutions), Jason Druxman (San Diego County Probation Department); Shlyn Guarian, MSW (HHSA, Central Region); Robert Ontiveros (iPayLo); Dana Brown (Youth Voice & Learn4Life) Bottom Row Left to Right: Pastor Jesus Sandoval (Commission on Gang Prevention & Intervention), Jason Rasch (San Diego County Probation Department) Reginald Washington (Project A.W.A.R.E.); Daniel Orth (Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, USD)

most of my buddies got – it’s because I had Big John. John was a retired veteran that worked in the liquor store, and he would talk to me every day afterschool, about music, about life, and he’d let me dust the bottles with the feathers…he was always there for me. Although we did not call it community mentoring at the time, Big John was just that. I was fortunate.”

The Community Mentor Summit provided a safe space for a diverse group of stakeholders to delve into San Diego’s complex issues related to juvenile delinquency, the criminal justice system, and new approaches to improving community wellness. It was a platform for young people and police officers alike to share their perspectives on why community mentoring matters.





To learn more about SAY San Diego’s Community Mentoring Program, visit:

To learn more about SAY San Diego’s Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Development Programs, visit:


A Snapshot of Our Impact

SAY San Diego creates positive change in the lives of youth, adults, and families by engaging the community and partnering with schools, law enforcement, local government, community leaders, the military, businesses, and individuals. SAY San Diego meets diverse needs at more than 40 schools and six community resource centers. Our dedicated staff provide critical support in areas such as youth development, family strengthening, child abuse prevention, foster family support, substance abuse prevention, mental health counseling, and juvenile delinquency prevention.

Click here to view our brand new agency video, which provides a snapshot of our impact in the community.


Early Childhood Center Ribbon Cutting

SAY San Diego’s showcase workplace-based Early Childhood Center is officially open! We are grateful to everyone who attended our ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, November 15. Special thank you to County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, City Councilmember Chris Cate, City Councilmember Chris Ward, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Director, Nick Macchione, and President & CEO of The San Diego Foundation, Mark Stuart, for your support, vision and partnership.

Click here for KUSI news coverage
Click here for CBS8 news coverage


November is Military Family Appreciation Month

Imagine leaving behind a successful career and a loving family to move 7,000 miles away. The language is new, the culture is vastly different, and the only person you know is your spouse. For Maureen, a military wife born and raised in the Philippines, this is her reality.

For many military spouses, feelings of loneliness and isolation are common, but as someone brand new to the United States, Maureen had to overcome additional challenges. “At home in the Philippines, I was very independent. I provided for my family and looked out for everyone else. Here in the United States, I’ve had to learn to accept help from others.” A critical source of help and support is SAY San Diego’s Healthy Start Military Family Resource Center (MFRC) and First 5 First Steps program.

Maureen learned about SAY’s programs through the Balboa Naval Medical Center when she was pregnant with her daughter, Amelia. She was connected to her case manager Debbie, who became an immediate source of support and guidance. “For the first two years, Debbie visited me at my home every week. She was my only confidant. She checked on Amelia’s development, provided me with resources, and helped me to get to know the area and what was available to me.”

These days you can find Maureen at the MFRC every week. She brings Amelia to playgroup so she can interact with other children, and Maureen participates in yoga classes taught at the center by volunteers. For Maureen, the MFRC is a safe space where she is supported by SAY staff and a community of military wives who she can lean on.

Appreciation for our military extends beyond those in uniform. Military spouses also make sacrifices in service to our country, often parenting children solo and managing frequent moves that keep them far from familiar support networks.

SAY San Diego is proud to support military families through a variety of services and a place to connect with others. The MFRC serves active duty, transitioning, and veteran military personnel and the families. Located in Murphy Canyon, which has one of the largest collections of off-base US military population in the world, the MFRC strengthens families and communities by offering connections to resources such as food, housing, counseling, financial assistance, parenting classes, support groups, and more.

The Rice Family Foundation Supports Two SAY Projects

SAY San Diego is thrilled to announce that The Rice Family Foundation recently awarded a grant to SAY San Diego for two exciting projects – Girls Circle and a Middle School Youth Sports League!

To address the needs of vulnerable students, SAY will launch Girls Circle, an evidence-based program that employs a strengths-based approach rooted in relational-cultural and resiliency theory. The Girls Circle curriculum is comprised of thirteen guides including topics such as friendships, relationships, setting boundaries, coping skills, effects of drug use, reaching goals and self-care. Girls Circle will take place at SAY’s Serra Real Connections (SRC), a thriving family resource center on the Serra High School campus in San Diego that collaborates with community stakeholders to serve over 1,000 youth and their families annually through mentoring, academic support, youth leadership and development programs, workshops, and parent education and engagement. Girls Circle groups will be facilitated by highly qualified female Healthy Start program staff and co-facilitated by social work interns from partnering universities.

In order to provide youth enrolled in our Prime Time after school care with the chance to experience teamwork and fun during the critical “tween” years, SAY San Diego will launch a Middle School Youth Sports League for 150+ students so they can play their peers in team sports such as flag football, soccer, basketball, and more. The majority of youth enrolled are with us from 2:00 – 6:00pm each school day, or 20+ hours per week, while their parents work. We want their significant time with us to be fun and impactful. Unfortunately, intramural sports leagues are simply not an option for most children of low-income, working class, and single-parent families due to the financial- and time-demands that come with securing uniforms, taking off work to drive the youth to games, providing snacks for the team, and so on. Now our youth don’t have to miss out on the transformative experience of joining a formal team!

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